“I met some wonderful people at MDA camp, including a gal who worked at Westside CIL in Los Angeles. She talked about the philosophy of IL, and it was similar to my conclusions. It was 1980, and I felt like I was building independent living all on my own. She said there was a movement that exists. I got my degree and became a peer counselor at WCIL. June Kailes was my first boss.”

 

Gonzales moved to New Mexico in 1982 as the New Vistas CIL in Santa Fe was being formed and remained there until 1993. In 1987, she married her husband, Jerry. Gonzales began work as an outreach worker, driving her van across the nine easternmost counties in the state. Crisscrossing the rural areas in that section of New Mexico, she got a feel for the values and the cultural and religious issues that affected the people with disabilities who lived there.

She eventually became a counselor and then executive director at New Vistas CIL. In 1986, ILRU began looking at how rural CILs were doing and, with funds secured from a grant, brought together directors from 12 states for a three-day meeting in Houston.

“Twelve of us got together and fell in love with each other,” Gonzales said. “Each of us had been feeling like we were the only ones. We found out that so many of the things we experienced were similar: mileage reimbursement checks larger than our paychecks, huge catchment areas (the CILeligible population in that region), lower funding, isolation.”

More at Indpeendence Today: http://www.itodaynews.com/2013-issues/apr13/cover-Linda-Gonzales.htm

 

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