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Working through the fray

Gale Rose
Independent Living Specialist Chelsey Rose checks a file outside the Prairie Independent Living Resource Center in Pratt. Walk-in assistance at the PILR office has been discontinued because of  COVID-19 response guidelines, but Rose and her co-workers continue to assist consumers over the phone, online or with emails.

In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis, businesses are making tough decisions to keep their employees and the public safe but still provide service to the community.

At Prairie Independent Living Resource Center in Pratt, consumer needs didn't stop when the coronavirus took hold on the nation and the world.

PILAR assists those with disabilities of all kinds as they tackle the tasks necessary to function in every day life.

Like other businesses, a sign on the office door in downtown Pratt says the office is closed but all services are still available. Chelsey Rose, Independent Living Specialist, said not being able to allow consumers into the office has presented some special challenges.

Usually, consumers come to the office and they sit down next to the Rose and the other staff members to figure out what needs to be done. Rose much prefers to meet with consumers one-on-one.

"I'm more of a face-to-face person when I'm helping people," Rose said.

Being able to have the consumer sitting next to her makes Rose's job easier. Much of their work is done on a computer and its easier to explain what they are looking at on the screen than try to explain it over the telephone.

Helping people learn to apply for a job is especially challenging when the person has no access to the Internet. Rose gets on the phone and has to read what is on the computer screen.

"I have to break it down for them so they understand," Rose said.

But with COVID-19 to deal with, PILR has stopped all face to face meetings and stopped all travel. The staff has to do everything by phone or email. While this is a challenge, the staff is determined to continue to provide the necessary services, especially keeping consumers advised on the most current information about how to stay healthy during the crisis.

While COVID-19 has made PILR's job more challenging, it has not deterred them from doing their job and helping clients,

"We're still helping the best way we can," Rose said. "We're still working hard."

The PILR staff includes Rose, Pratt office Service Coordinator Linda Adelhardt and Tom Harrison who assists with Older Kansas Employment Grants.

To contact PILR, call 620-672-9600 or go online at www.pilr.org.

Prairie Independent Living Resource Center serves 15 counties in Kansas: Pratt, Ness, Hodgeman, Ford, Clark, Edwards, Kiowa, Comanche, Stafford, Barber, Reno, Kingman, Harper, McPherson and Harvey.

Finding affordable and accessible housing, filling out paperwork, acquiring funding, home organization, resume building, interview preparation, job searching, job coaching, assistance completing applications, job placement, balancing a checkbook, making a budget, creating emergency backup plans, locating and maintaining personal care services, locating assistive technology and providers, helping blind and low vision make appliances easier to use, household organization, evaluation of technology needs, training in use of equipment and software, working for community change to support full inclusion of people with disabilities, assisting youth with an individual education plan to transition from high school to post secondary life, transitioning from nursing institutions to living in the community of their choice are some of the tasks the PILR staff handles every day for their consumers.