Proviso Township awarded a $25,000 grant to Forest Park’s Progress Center for Independent Living on Monday. This money will be used to help Proviso Township resident with disabilities retrofit their homes with wheelchair ramps, widened doorways and other modifications.
The $25,000 is not being doled out as a lump sum: Instead, the money will be available for individual projects pending the approval of Proviso Township President Mike Corrigan and Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian, said John Jansa, Progress Center’s program director.
“The overall $25,000 grant will help those folks that have accessibility issues in their homes,” said Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone.
“Per individual, there is a cap of $1,500. I hope that this grant will help folks with disabilities in Proviso Township. For those who have accessibility issues in their homes who could not otherwise afford home modifications, we are hoping these funds will be advantageous to them to navigate through their accessibility issues.”
“Without these meaningful relationships, without a relationship between the village and the Progress Center, we simply wouldn’t make progress,” Calderone said.
The grant will last for one year.
The Progress Center has been headquartered in Forest Park, at 7521 Madison St., since 1996; it opened in Oak Park in 1988.
The organization works to provide information, advocacy, support, and independent living skills for people with disabilities.
Jansa said the money will help provide opportunities for residents with disabilities.
“There are a lot of home modifications for that amount of money,” Jansa said.
“You can widen doorways for wheelchair access – most doorways are 32 inches, and for wheelchairs, they need to be 36 inches. You can install grab bars in bathrooms to get from a wheelchair to the toilet, or to help people get in and out of the shower or bathtub. For people with low vision, you can add extra lighting in a kitchen or office.”
For community organizer Samuel Knight, the grant money was the realization of a dream he had worked on for over four years.
“When we met with Proviso Township four years ago to talk about this, they weren’t even in a handicap-accessible building – it was hard for our people to get into the building to talk about the issue,” Knight said.
“I live in Forest Park, so it is gratifying to come to fruition. For people with disabilities, this is something tangible that gives you the belief that if you bring an issue to elected officials, something can be done. It’s rewarding.”
Horacio Esparza, the center’s executive director, said the grant will be able to help people become more independent.
“This grant will make big changes in the lives of people in this township,” Esparza said.
“For those who have accessibility issues in their homes, they will be able to become more independent.”
Nick Moroni contributed to this article