Valley Life for All (VLFA) is a grassroots movement created by concerned citizens throughout the Roaring Fork Valley who are empowered to build a bridge between people with and without disabilities, from Aspen to Parachute. This community of parents, self-advocates, community organizers, service providers, business owners, educators, professionals, and government organizations joined together in November, 2010 to work together to create awareness and opportunity.
Since that pivotal November meeting the group has created a formal organizational structure with a Board of Directors and a Community Builder (Executive Director) dedicated to actively engaging the community by connecting the current resources in place to facilitate more opportunities for our population of people with disabilities. Our 501c3 Application was approved in March, 2011.
Through our community gatherings and input from our stakeholder we have recognized and are working on the following issues:
- Attitudes and awareness
- Career and Recreational opportunities
- Housing and Transportation, Waiting List (for services), and
- Respite, Families in isolation that need support
Additionally in the last three years we have been awarded over $75,000 in grants from the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council to design and deliver Leadership Training to local self-advocates and family members with children with disabilities. We were recently awarded a $45,000 Community Participation Grant which will help us deliver to our mission to work with people who are isolated in our communities, and connect what we have, to create opportunities to participate and contribute to our Communities. We are also funded by Pitkin County, our local towns and cities, and individuals.
There are so many opportunities and such potential to create a positive change in our Valley. We know with the people we have in place, the passion we bring and the overriding community acknowledgment that VLFA is a needed and necessary organization for the future of our community, we will succeed and our neighborhoods will prosper.
Valley Life for All is based on the principles of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a methodology that seeks to uncover and utilize the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development. The basic tenet is that a capacities-focused approach is more likely to empower the community and therefore mobilize citizens to create positive and meaningful change from within. Instead of focusing on a community’s needs, deficiencies and problems, the ABCD approach helps them become stronger and more self-reliant by discovering, mapping and mobilizing all their local assets. Few people realize how many assets any community has, for example:
- Skills of its citizens, from youth to people with disabilities, from thriving professionals to starving artists
- Dedication of its citizens associations — churches, culture groups, clubs, neighborhood associations
- Resources of its formal institutions — businesses, schools, libraries, community colleges, hospitals, parks, social service agencies
By the late 1990s, communities around the country were mapping and using these resources in imaginative ways, bringing them out of the closet and into creative synergy with each other, with dramatic results. Asset-based community development has provided leaders and institutions in all sectors with an approach that is relatively cheap, effective and empowering that avoid paternalism and dependence — an approach that can be supported by all parts of the political spectrum and initiated at any level of civic life.
The first step in the process of community development is to assess the resources of a community through a capacity inventory or through another process of talking to the residents to determine what types of skills and experience are available to a community organization. The next step is to consult with the community and find out what improvements the residents would like to make. The final, and most challenging step, is to determine how the residents’ skills can be leveraged into achieving those goals.
Community development (CD) is both an occupation (such as a community development worker in a local authority) and a way of working with communities. Its key purpose is to build communities based on justice, equality and mutual respect.
Community development involves changing the relationships between ordinary people and people in positions of power, so that everyone can take part in the issues that affect their lives. It starts from the principle that within any community there is a wealth of knowledge and experience which, if used in creative ways, can be channeled into collective action to achieve the communities’ desired goals.
Community development practitioners work alongside people in communities to help build relationships with key people and organizations and to identify common concerns. They create opportunities for the community to learn new skills and, by enabling people to act together, community development practitioners help to foster social inclusion and equality.