VALDOSTA -- At 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Leila Ellis Social Services Building, the Statewide Independent Living Council will sponsor a discussion regarding the establishment of a Center for Independent Living.

Pat Puckett, executive director of the council, said area residents with disabilities interested and willing to work toward the realization of a local center should attend.

"We still have a significant chunk of Georgia that has no Center for Independent Living," she added. "The closest one to Valdosta is in Bainbridge."

Centers for Independent Living are non-residential, community-based organizations, governed and staffed by people with disabilities, that offer a wide variety of services to people with disabilities and their families. The foundation of these services is a peer-to-peer relationship where people with disabilities act as mentors for other people with disabilities, showing them by example how to help themselves and to live independently.

Centers for Independent Living provide individual advocacy and systems advocacy, peer counseling, information and referral, and independent living skills training. Depending on the needs of the individual communities served, these centers may provide other services as needed.

The focus is on persons with significant disabilities of mobility and visual and hearing impairments.

There are currently eight centers serving 101 of the 159 counties in Georgia. They are located in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Bainbridge, Gainesville, Macon, Rome, and Savannah.

Centers for Independent Living are funded with monies provided by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Statewide Independent Living Council, state legislature, and local fundraising efforts.

The Statewide Independent Living Council's mission is to ensure equal participation of the disabled in their communities.

The Leila Ellis Social Services Building is located at 601 N. Lee St.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope,please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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