2020 Legislators’ Breakfast Recap
We can’t believe this years’ Legislators’ Breakfast was already almost a month ago! A huge thank you to all those who joined us on Friday, February 7. It was an impactful morning with over 40 attendees discussing the matters affecting our community. For those that couldn’t make it, here’s what you missed, including legislative updates and info on how KAC is growing.
First, we’d like to extend a special thank you to our panelists, State Representatives Samantha Kerkman, Tip McGuire, Tod Ohnstad and Robert Wittke as well as Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and Kenosha County Executive Jennie Tunkieicz. Thank you for providing insights into today’s conversations.
Kenosha Achievement Center is impacted through all government sectors: city, county, state and federal, which is why this event holds such importance. Our State Representatives covered a lot of valuable information, including:
- Representative Samantha Kerkman (61st District) drew attention to an upcoming bill which will address guardianship training.
- Representative Robert Wittke (62nd District) is currently working on a bill to help visually impaired individuals.
- Representative Tip McGuire (64th District) is currently focusing on two bills — Buy American and Low Interest Rate Loans — with the goal of helping to build up the shoreline.
- Representative Tod Ohnstad (65th District) serves on the Labor and Integrated Employment Committee and spoke to how while integration in the community is the goal, sheltered employment still holds an important role.
Updates also included information regarding redevelopment locally in Kenosha.
Kenosha Achievement Center has been a leader of change in our community since the 1960’s. We are constantly evaluating what we can do to improve our services and programs. Here’s a glimpse into how our organization is operating and growing today across four of our service categories:
Adult Services: One of KAC’s goals is to empower individuals to become independent to the point of no longer needing our services. While it might sound contradictory, we do want our clients to become successful, active members in our community. That’s why a big part of what we do is help teach the soft and technical skills needed to do just that.
Recently, we’ve received more referrals from young adults who are not just looking to join the workforce but also to have fun with their peers. KAC’s Voyage Program helps build confidence through various recreational experiences out in the community, such as trips to museums, volunteer opportunities, visits to favorite local restaurants and much more.
Elderly & Disability Benefit Services: KAC manages the elderly and disability benefit programs at the Kenosha Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). Our team works with individuals to provide in-depth, personalized assistance to make sure their needs are met, as well as offering Medicare workshops and enrollment sessions. One serious issue our staff witness regularly is related to the benefits cliff. This is when individuals or families struggle to get out of the poverty level due to benefits being taken away once a certain income threshold is met. Although a new income level is met, taking away their support system too soon increases their vulnerability. Other areas have combatted this with tier systems which gradually adjust benefit access; we are asking our legislators to take the time to find a solution that fits best.
Transportation: Accessible transportation ensures everybody in our community can get to where they need to go. Just last year, KAC’s specialized transportation provided over 100 thousand trips to two thousand riders. The youngest rider was 16 while the oldest was 102! Our strong partnerships with the City of Kenosha and Kenosha County help make this possible, and where funding is considered, we continue to identify accessible transportation as high-priority.
Children Services: One priority of KAC’s Children’s Services is to connect families with the resources needed to succeed together. Our service offering includes: Early Head Start (EHS) which is designated for families with children three years old and younger, Early Intervention Program (EIP) which is for children with a 25 percent delay residing in Kenosha County and SPROUTS which is a free community playgroup. In each program, parents can connect in an environment that is safe and free of judgement to support each other through different milestones.
At the event, we also met and heard from a couple families that have benefited directly from KAC’s services. The Vargas family shared their personal story regarding their involvement with EIP. When their son was diagnosed with Down syndrome, they weren’t sure where to turn. Through the Birth to 3 module, our team helped them navigate the community resources they can lean on. The family specifically noted KAC’s physical therapy and sign language assistance as a great help in getting them to where they are today.
Autumn, a mother who became her son’s greatest advocate with the help of EHS, also shared her story. She first worked closely with our benefit services team to ensure her family had access to all the right resources. Despite the challenges, she kept pushing, and with KAC by her side, she has built up the courage to not only provide for but also to stand up for her family.
One challenge families often face is transitioning to the public school system. While right now KAC’s programs are available up until a child’s third birthday, we continue to look for ways we can provide greater support to children and their families as they grow.
To learn more about KAC and hear more individual stories, you can watch our service videos online at the following links:
Across our organization, our partnerships help ensure our success. We look forward to coming together again next year to continue the conversation on how we can work together to empower individuals of all abilities.