Program Director (Independent Living)
Greetings! My name is Yolanda Ramirez and after a 2 ½ year absence, I am blessed and honored to be back working at CALIF as the Program Director under the direction and leadership of Ms. Lillibeth Navarro, Founder and Executive Director, and along side an awesome team of dedicated CALIF staff and volunteers.
I first learned about the independent movement, its history and philosophy in 1981 when I went to work for Community Rehabilitation Services, Inc. (CRS), the independent living center for Eastern Los Angeles and the West San Gabriel Valley areas, as the Saturday Recreation Program Coordinator. Then in 1983 I was hired as a full-time Housing/Benefits Coordinator and then several years later I became the Program Director until 2001 when I joined the staff at the Westside Center for Independent Living in Venice/Santa Monica as the Housing Coordinator.
Living with a disability is never easy. With all of life’s ups and downs sometimes it seems as if life has more downs than ups. But isn’t that just the way life is--disabled or not. From time to time, we all surrender a bit of our independence, but at the same time we need to be able to (taking a quote from the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr) “… accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can change, and wisdom to know the difference.”
My dear friend, and spiritual mentor, has taught me: life has many rewards (we just need to look for them), each of us has a purpose, we need to cherish and learn from both the good and the bad, we need to work together, and that if we want Justice we need to work for Peace! So, if you are a person experiencing a disability, or know someone who is, I encourage you to contact one of the twenty-eight independent living centers throughout California nearest to you and I bet that you’ll not only leave the center with a list of resources, but that you will leave the center with a sense of empowerment and purpose.
Lily Sanchez has been a part of the Independent Living (IL) community since her early twenties. She made her way into working for the Central Los Angeles office of the Community Rehabilitation Services where she worked as Peer Counselor and Job Developer. When the Independent Living contract was awarded to CALIF, she transferred over as a Benefits Advocate where she is doing very well as an expert on major government programs and services. With an impressive tract record of favorable Benefits appeals and applications, she has earned the respect of her colleagues and her community. CALIF is blessed and proud to have her on staff.
The services rendered by the Benefits Advocate are but not limited to:
· Assistance with Disability Benefits under the Social Security Administration;
· Representation for people who have difficulties with government agencies servicing the disabled community
· In Home Supportive Services application process and representing with appeals;
· Work Inclusion Programs;
· Medical and Medicare Insurance Health Coverage;
· General Relief and Food stamps information.
If you need further information about services please email
CALIF Program - Independent Living
Assistive Technology Coordinator
When Sergio Garibay was a little boy, he played all kinds of ball games: basketball, soccer, football—yes, even with his crutches. He had the confidence of little children who do not know the limits of disability. He would use his left little foot to kick the ball and run in the field like the other little boys. With basketball, his playmates would bring him the ball and he would shoot for the basket and often, he was the star shooter! His disability was not much to be embarrassed about and it was like that until he got to his teenage years when quite drastically, teenage questions of body image and self esteem assaulted him as temptations to embarrassment over his disability.
At age 15, he was advised to have his left knee operated at the Shriners Hospital—to make it even with the other leg. Unfortunately, that operation made it difficult to play sports anymore. Looks won over utility—a decision often made by professionals in the attempt to approximate the values of body beautiful.
Thankfully, Sergio signed up as a client of the Department of Rehabilitation. After high school, he went to the Daniel Freeman Occupational Center and through DOR got involved with a local independent living center and began to appreciate an entirely radical way of facing the disability experience. In 2002, Sergio was drafted as CALIF’s first Peer Counselor.