November 2021 Newsletter: Kat Gordon
Meet Kathelene “Kat” Gordon…
Kat Gordon is a LIFTT consumer and Renaissance woman of the 21st century. With degrees in microcomputer operations and graphic communications, she continues learning anything that catches her interest. “I Love to learn, and I love to teach,” she said, “but, I love to create even more!” Her work ranges from crystal dream catchers to jewelry, baskets, books, and much more.
Kat is a native of Montana and publishes novels for her father, an old west enthusiast. She ‘also discovered a “low content” market allowing her to slam out 110 journals of various sizes and themes in a matter of weeks. Some of these journals showcase her original artwork and are currently available on Amazon.com by typing in her full name, Kathelene Gordon
In addition to design and publishing, Kat also developed skills in alchemy. She brews colloidal silver and makes soap from scratch. Kat plans to open her own apothecary with her product line and labels. “I can design just about anything,” she said.
Kat also designs her life on her own terms. She inherited a genetic disorder in which her kneecaps violently dislocate. As a child, she had experimental surgeries, but the procedures failed. She said she could function, but throughout the years it became more difficult. In addition, Kat has metal in her back, a torn shoulder, advanced arthritis, COPD, and more. A few years ago, she was hospitalized and upon release was granted home care.
“It sucked the life out of me to keep up with everything, but thanks to LIFTT and a caring doctor, I am getting the help I need so I can finally enjoy being alive and staying productive in my own ways.”
Her goals to stay productive currently include tackling Middle Eastern cooking, distilling, and moccasin design. ‘“At the beginning of every year,” she said, I torture myself with a new list of things to learn and hopefully master.”
Kat has a charming self-deprecating manner with a no-nonsense outlook and a lust for learning. “My ambitions are always bigger than my pocketbook, but learning is FREE!” she said, “I am grateful for my education, but I also appreciate technology and the many ways it has changed the world.” ‘Being disabled 100 years ago would have been horrible and I often think about how lucky I am to be in this century!”
Kat’s positive outlook is due in part to The Secret, a philosophy that taught her how to focus on what she wants and the enormous power of gratitude. “It gave me the tools I needed even though it’s a slow process,” she said. Despite challenges, Kat seeks inspiration through a need to be greater than her disabilities, a desire to never stop learning, and a hunger for success.
Her advice to others living with disabilities is just as candid: “Don’t fake being ok because you’re trying to be ‘normal.’ If you leave the walker at home; you’ll only wear it on your face! People can see your pain and they interpret it as anger. Giving in to the embarrassment of using walking aids in public isn’t easy, but you’ll be treated better than with an angry face. Plus, you will be more comfortable and safer. Use your aids even if you feel the need to shop in the next town over. I get that and it’s ok!”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misspelled Ms. Gordon’s first name, it is in fact Kathelene. LIFTT regrets the error.
November 2021 Newsletter: Director’s Corner
I am proud to announce that on September 16, 2021, the board of directors approved a Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Accessibility (DIEA) Statement for LIFTT. Although DIEA has always been a priority of our team members and consumers, the events of 2020 inspired LIFTT to revisit these themes and remember why we exist. This statement symbolizes a renewal of LIFTT’s commitment to advance DIEA in its service area, among its team members and consumers, according to its mission and vision.
LIFTT provides independent living services in 18 counties located in the Southeast part of Montana. Its highly diverse and equitable team is prepared to meet and relate to the diversity of the population of the service area, allowing them to have equal access to the possibilities and opportunities of the 21st century.
Based on its new DIEA Statement, LIFTT is seeking new ways to engage and enhance the DIEA experience of its team members and consumers. LIFTT wants to create more equity and create equal opportunity in Southeast Montana around gender, generation, nationality and ethnicity, LGBTQ+, and not only disabilities.
For the time being, I will be both LIFTT’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO). Please take time to review LIFTT’s DIEA statement and do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have any comments and suggestions related to LIFTT’s DIEA Statement .
I wish our consumers, partners, and team members happy holidays.
LIFTT Executive Director
The November 2021 LIFTT Connection Newsletter is now available!LIFTT-Connection-11.2021
In this Issue:
- LIFTT Praises Billings Clinic for response to hearing impaired paitents
- Join LIFTT on its adventure in 2022
- Weekly Online Peer Support Group
- Director’s Corner : DIversity, Equity Acessiblity & Inclusion
- Consumer Spotlight: Kat Gordon
- Support LIFTT in your year-end giving
You can request that we mail you a paper copy by sending your name and address to email@example.com
November 2021 Newsletter: LIFTT praises Billings Clinic for response to hearing impaired patients
The outbreak of the Coronavirus has dramatically affected peoples’ lives and relationships. Along with countless tragedies, there have been many stories on unexpected positive aspects. The story below is just one example of the positive experiences fostered by Covid-19.
Imagine being unable to communicate painful symptoms and crippling fears while you are in the throes of Covid-19 infection. That happened to Carlos Ramalho, 60, a robust and energetic executive director of the Billings nonprofit organization Living Independently for Today and Tomorrow (LIFTT), which serves Montanans living with disabilities in eighteen counties in the southeastern portion of the state.
Carlos lost his hearing and became deaf in 2006. Even though he uses hearing aids, Carlos relies on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate. He is fluent in lip-reading and is so skilled at communicating with people that many are shocked to learn of his deafness.
In November 2020, what Carlos thought was just a cold exploded into a full-blown respiratory attack that showed symptoms of Covid-19. He reluctantly followed his doctor’s order to get to the Billings Clinic emergency department ASAP.
To his dismay, per hospital safety precautions regarding potential Covid-19 cases, the ED staff were unable to remove their masks to communicate with Carlos. “It was impossible to describe what I was going through, he said. “It was frightening and frustrating. “Carlos added the inability to communicate was far worse than coping with Covid -19.
Eventually, one of the nurses pulled out a pen and pad and wrote out her triage questions, allowing Carlos to fully describe his symptoms. Carlos tested positive, and he spent two weeks recuperating at home. He said recovery was eased thanks to the online care via the What’s App platform from Dr. Pedro M Quintana Diez, an epidemiologist he met while living in Europe.
In 2021, now fully vaccinated, Carlos was in the Emergency Department again seeking treatment for a different health issue. To his surprise, after he disclosed his deafness at check-in, all ED staff members were wearing full clear protective shields, allowing him to effortlessly communicate with hospital staff.
“I was so happy I could see their faces, read their lips, and understand what they were saying,” he said, “The shields eliminated the barrier that was preventing us from communicating and helped me focus on receiving the health care I needed, instead of grappling with the frustration I felt for being deaf.”
It’s wonderful to know that Carlos is doing well,” said Brad Von Bergen, Billings Clinic Emergency Department Manager.
“The Emergency Department is an incredible learning environment and communication is critical. We have had to learn new ways to do this because of this pandemic to ensure our patients continue to get the care they need. Carlos’ experience provided the opportunity to gain experience how we could continue to improve communication for all of our patients.”
September 2021 Newsletter: Jeremiah Thompson on the track to success
18-year-old Jeremiah Thompson was afloat. He was a high school dropout with no job, no future on the horizon, and no place to go. “I didn’t know what to do,” he said, “and I really needed help!”
Jeremiah’s sister reached out to Independent Living Specialist Jen Hawkinson from the Glendive branch of LIFTT, hoping she could get Jeremiah back on track. Little did Jeremiah know that Hawkinson was a powerhouse of ideas and a relentless advocate. “Jen is super persistent, “said Jeremiah, “she was on me 24/7, no slacking’.”
Jen met with Jeremiah and his family to discuss options that would help him obtain his high school diploma which included enrolling in the High School Equivalency Test (HISET) offered by both the Dawson Community College in Glendive, and the Job Corps program in Anaconda.
Jeremiah was drawn to Job Corps because it included occupational training courses and the High School Equivalency Test. Jen obtained the application papers from a Job Corps recruiter and helped Jeremiah fill them out. Unfortunately, there was a snag. Jeremiah was missing essential documents including his birth certificate, social security card, and school transcripts. He had no idea where they were, and neither did his family, but that didn’t stop Jen.
Undaunted, she told him to contact Action for Eastern Montana, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting education. Jeremiah had been enrolled at Action as a child and was able to retrieve the necessary government forms. She assisted him in getting a replacement for a lost Social Security card. Jen then invoked the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which provides public access to all federal agency records, allowing Jeremiah to take possession of his elementary and high school transcripts.
Once everything was in place, he submitted the Job Corps application and, shortly afterward, was accepted into the program. Despite the successful outcome, Jen wasn’t finished yet. She had recognized that Jeremiah’s’ disorganization was a barrier to his future and, through guidance and providing him with a personal lockbox, Jeremiah can now locate his important documents. “It is discouraging to keep losing things and be so disorganized.” he said, “but thanks to LIFTT and Jen, now I know where everything is!”
Today, Jeremiah’s future is bright. He owns a car and recently landed a maintenance job. He is considering returning to Job Corps at some point, but right now, Jeremiah is attending high school in Dickinson, North Dakota, working for his dad and keeping his life on track.
April 2021 Newsletter: LIFTT Partners with SPIRIT Club to offer consumers FREE online health & wellness
Living Independently for Today & Tomorrow (LIFTT) is excited to announce a partnership with SPIRIT Club to bring supportive inclusive virtual exercise and healthy lifestyle classes to people with disabilities free of charge across our 18 county service area.
Utilizing both live and on-demand video; SPIRIT Club offers exercise classes for people of all abilities including Zumba, Yoga, Boxing, Cardio Fitness, Strength Training, Balance & Flexibility, and Meditation. SPIRIT Club virtual exercise classes do not require participants to have any special fitness equipment.
SPIRIT Club virtual fitness classes are unique because they consist of multiple trainers demonstrating different versions of each exercise in various modified forms, including seated, standing, and progressed (see a video demonstration by clicking here). This structure makes SPIRIT Club classes meaningful and worthwhile for a wide range of ability levels so family members, housemates, staff, and peers can all participate together. These classes are available both live during the original broadcast and also on-demand so participants can access them any time.
In addition to the fitness classes, SPIRIT Club also offers a twice-a-month virtual healthy cooking class where participants are guided through the process of preparing an affordable, nutritious, and fun dish. Ingredients lists are posted ahead of time on the SPIRIT Club website so that participants can do their shopping. In addition to the live broadcasts, the healthy cooking classes are also available on-demand at any time.
“We are so excited for the opportunity to bring these fun and accessible SPIRIT Club classes to the people we serve across eastern Montana,” said LIFTT executive director Carlos Ramalho, “SPIRIT Club’s mantra of “Fitness for All” and their unique way of delivering their programs makes them an ideal strategic partner for LIFTT as we work towards advancing the independence of people with disabilities.”
For more information about how to access the full library of SPIRIT Club classes through LIFTT contact us today @ (406) 259-5181 or liftt.org/contact
April 2021 Newsletter: Raise your Voice with the MTCIL Action Alert System!
With the 2021 Montana legislature entering its final weeks and many vital items still under consideration, advocates are encouraged to pay attention to the Montana Association of Centers of Independent Living Action Alert system to keep abreast of the happenings in Helena.
The MTCILs Action Alert service notifies and provides links to action steps for advocates when legislation of importance to the independence of Montanans with Disabilities comes up. To sign up to receive Montana IL Action Alerts in your email, go to http://www.mtcil.org/become-an-advocate/
April 2021 Newsletter: An FAQ on LIFTT & Home Modifications
Every consumer at LIFTT has unique needs in terms of their disability and what they might require for them to live independently, including home modification. Here are a few questions and answers to help if you are considering a necessary change in your living arrangements.
How do you know if you qualify to receive the modifications?
Usually, your doctor can provide written support for the need, and then LIFTT can help you with the application process to receive one of these modifications.
Is there financial help available for home modification?
Clients can either pay for their own modifications, obtain a low-interest loan (Montana Assistive Technology Loan), or you can ask LIFTT to help you apply for grant funding.
How long does it take to complete a modification project?
The completion time can take a couple of months to as many as six months depending on the type or size of the project and if an application for grant funding is needed.
Who do I contact to learn more about accessibility modifications services?
Call 406-259-5181 and speak with the receptionist. She will record your information and put your request through a short protocol, and you will receive a return call from an Independent Living Specialist within two business days.
April 2021 Newsletter: Director’s Corner
At LIFTT, we tell consumers that when we deal with difficult moments, it is important to keep fighting and remembering that any challenge can be overcome if we do not give up!
It feels good to defeat challenges such as sickness, distress, sadness, and disabilities, by moving forward. We have seen it happen at LIFTT. I have personally faced many challenges. including illness, distress, sadness, and disabilities.
However, I persevered, moved forward, and did not allow my disabilities to prevent me from living, getting up in the morning to go to work, drive, and communicate.
All of us at LIFTT understand the importance of perseverance.
Recently, I was infected with COVID-19 and suffered complications from the virus.
It was a difficult recovery. My life was at risk because of underlying health issues. However, after a few weeks, I recovered, returned to work, and succeeded in preventing COVID-19 from breaking me.
What helped my recovery was remembering what we tell LIFTT’s consumers:” If we fall, we have to get back up, keep walking, and moving forward, one step at a time.” This is how we successfully reach our destination. LIFTT is here to get back up and keep walking with anyone who is dealing with any types of disabilities.
Our compassionate team of highly qualified specialists, facilitators, and peers will share with you their experiences, and inspire you to overcome challenges, sickness, distress, sadness, and disabilities.
Give us a chance to help you find a new direction for your future.
Carlos Ramalho, Executive Director
April 2021 Newsletter: Larry Ketchem I & R Specialist Living & Working Independently
When Larry Ketchem picks up the phone at LIFTT, he is armed with answers.
As the organization’s information and referral specialist, Larry is often the first point of contact with Montanans living with disabilities, many of whom are desperate for services and programs to enhance their lives. Larry makes the red tape necessary for services look easy, but it was not always that way. Growing up, Larry had to grapple with his own questions.
Born with retinitis pigmentosa, he lost most of his eyesight in high school. “My teen years were tough he said, “I should have been learning how to drive, but instead, at 16, I was learning how to be blind.” By the time Larry was 25, he could only see light and dark. Despite his dwindling vision, Larry refused to be held back: He was on the Billings Senior High School wrestling team, skied; and, as a third generation Broncos fan, faithfully followed his team. After high school graduation in 1988, Larry attended MSUB and accepted a job offer from LIFTT.
Except for a brief medical hiatus, Larry has assisted people with disabilities for a total of 12 years. He credits his accomplishments to his parents, who insisted he “pull himself up by his bootstraps,” and a blind vocational rehab counselor who held degrees in math and chemistry, drove a pickup around his farm outside of Billings, and frequently ran up the Airport Road using two canes as his eyes.
Passionate About Freedom
Larry believes living independently is a life well lived. He is passionate about helping others achieve the same sense of freedom, providing intake and referral information, fielding phone calls, conducting I&R research, and sharing his expertise with colleagues. He says the best thing about his job is seeing people with disabilities achieve their goals, “I enjoy helping people succeed,” he said, “they come to LIFTT beaten down and desperate for help and it’s great when they smile and say, “I can do this.”
In his free time, Larry unwinds by playing videogames, spending time with his wife of 22 years, and reading a good book through a talking book device courtesy of the State of Montana that can be downloaded and put on a thumb drive. Larry’s literary taste ranges from westerns to Sci-fi and horror.
Larry’s philosophy is to stay independent, try everything once, and laugh a lot. “If you can’t laugh” Larry said, “you’ll go nuts.”
Celebrating Independence Day
Once a year, Larry’s vision detects more than just light and dark. On July Fourth, Larry purchases the biggest fireworks he can find, and when they are ignited, he can see brilliant red, yellow, and orange explosions in the night sky, spotlighting both America’s freedom, and Larry’s independent lifestyle.