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Empty Stocking Fund

For nearly 55 years, The Resource Exchange has helped build independence for thousands of community residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. TRE, an Empty Stocking Fund recipient for five years, works to improve people’s quality of life, whether they’re newborns or seniors.

Residents with autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy typically lack three things, developmental director Sheila Ferguson says.

Those are support between ages 3 to 8, access to high-quality health care and employment opportunities.

“Because we serve 5,000 people, our collaborations and partnerships in the community are so important,” Ferguson says. “We have over 80 partner agencies,” including the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, school districts, hospitals and library districts.

Potential clients “tell us what their support needs are and what their dreams and what their aspirations and hopes are,” she says. “And we have to know enough and have good relationships in the community to connect them to things that will help them be successful.”

TRE, with a staff of about 360, is one of the biggest nonprofits in Colorado Springs.

“A little bit of everything we do is unique, because we are serving a unique population,” Ferguson says.

The Break Time program takes disabled children from their families for four hours twice a month, to give the caregivers a break. The kids are matched with a volunteer, and professionals are trained to work with those with disabilities.

The Early Childhood Services program, to which Empty Stocking Fund money is designated, serves children ages 3 to 8, and it has a waiting list.

The Early Intervention program has been a major success, with 30 percent of its patrons graduating at age 3 with no need for further support.

“We have 5,000 wonderful stories,” Ferguson says of their successes.

TRE and Peak Vista Community Health Centers, another Empty Stocking Fund recipient, in 2011 opened the Developmental Disabilities Health Center, providing primary health care, behavioral health and psychiatric services and referrals to specialists.

Ferguson says she remembers one client especially. The wheelchair-bound woman, in her 20s, wanted to get a job and get married. She underwent physical therapy, and her health improved. She eventually realized her goals with TRE’s help and walked down the aisle to be wed. Her story is an example of clients’ major achievements through individualized help from TRE.

Says Marketing Director Camille Blakely, “We try to really look at person-centered care, where we really uphold the dignity of the people we serve. Our goal is to walk beside them to help them accomplish their goals and fulfill their dreams.”

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