Ian Engle honored nationally for his work helping people find independence
Ian Engle goes to work every day hoping to help those with disabilities find a path to independence and, in the process, inspiring them with his own journey.
“So people with disabilities, because we have really unique skills and strengths and experiences, are more or less the vanguard of freedom driving through the bigotry of low expectations,” said Engle, who is the executive director at the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence.
“When you get that message out there, then it starts to resonate with people that ‘I don’t want to be assessed for what is wrong with me and told what to do. I want to be recognized for my strengths and skills. I want to be a part of the community, to be civically engaged and to participate in local economies,’” Engle explained. “People with disabilities want to thrive and be successful.”
Since arriving in Northwest Colorado, Engle has guided the Center for Independence to success, and he has been recognized at the state and national levels for his work.
Earlier this month, Engle added the Earl Walden Award to his list of accomplishments. The national honor is awarded by the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living. Engle also was recognized by the Colorado Department of Labor in November 2017 as a winner of the Shining Stars Award.
Engle said he shares both honors with his hardworking staff of 15 employees.
“I’m so proud of my crew here, ” Engle said. “We have everybody from the Marine Corps sergeant to the dread-lock hippie, and we are all locked in on this mission. I am really proud of the work they do, the work that we do and how tight we are. Everybody is working hard, because they don’t want to let the other person down.”
Engle said he was thrilled when he was named as a Shining Stars winner but this year’s honor is even more special.
“I won the award for having impacted the building of inclusive communities in rural regions of the nation,” Engle said. “But what really resonated with me was that it was an award from people who do this work, recognizing me for the impact that I have had.”
Engle said the Center for Independence has seen a lot of growth since he arrived in town five years ago. He worked at independent living centers in Boulder and Durango before that.
Under Engle’s leadership the Northwest Colorado staff has grown from four to 15 people, and his budget has increased from $275,000 to $1 million.
“I’ve been doing this for awhile, and it was nice to win a national award,” Engle said. “It’s cool when up here in Northwest Colorado we get recognized on a national level.”
The Northwest Colorado Center for Independence has offices in Granby, Steamboat Springs, Craig and Dillon where staff provide advocacy and peer support, teach independent living skills and hand out information and assistance. The Center for Independence also offers medical transportation for clients in Moffat and Routt counties and helps individuals who need to get to Denver, Boulder and Grand Junction for appointments.
“It is just a wonderful position to be in to be able to pay people to do good work — to provide tools, resources and opportunities for the folks in our communities to achieve a better quality of life for themselves,” Engle said. “We are not doing anything for anybody; we are giving people the tools and support to do it for themselves. That’s just a great feeling.”
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