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Success Stories

Stories of Strength and Achievement

Welcome to our ‘Success Stories’ page, a collection of narratives that illuminate the incredible strength and accomplishments of individuals who have faced adversity head-on. These stories showcase the transformative power of the Ability1st in supporting and empowering our community members.

Turquoise Palmer

From Despair to Hope: A Journey to Stability and New Beginnings

Turquoise Palmer is excited for the future. The single mother of two, has stable housing for her and her two children, is enrolled in classes, and just got a new job with the City of Tallahassee.

But a few years back, she couldn’t think about the future because getting through each day was a struggle. She fled an abusive marriage and was living in a shelter for single women and unwed mothers. Her son had chronic health issues stemming from a ear infection and her daughter had witnessed her mother’s abuse. “I was trying to find a way to break this cycle of despair,” Palmer said.

It was while she was living at the shelter that Palmer met Dee Humose, Ability1st Housing Coordinator and Andrea Wiggins, Ability1st Family Housing Coordinator. They worked together to secure stable housing for Palmer and her children through the Ability1st A Place Called Home Program. Beyond supportive housing, they referred her to other programs that could enable Palmer to live independently in a stable environment.

Turquoise Palmer

Carrie Tyree

Undefeated Spirit: Regaining Independence with a Helping Hand

It is difficult to slow Carrie Tyree down. She has worked for 18 years at Big Bend 2-1-1 where she is currently a Phone Room Supervisor. However, when she fell and broke her hip in December 2017 she was forced to miss weeks of work and could not leave her house without assistance.

Tyree was already living with mobility issues from a partial spinal cord injury she experienced 25 years ago following a diving accident. The broken hip in addition to the spinal cord injury left her using a walker and essentially unable to leave her home.

On February 14, 2018 Ability1st partnered with friends and coworkers from Tyree’s office to install a ramp for her home. “The ramp is perfect,” she said “it’s so much safer than the stairs.”

Carrie Tyree

Wendy Strickland

Journey to Safety: Transforming Lives with Compassion and Practical Support

The walkway to Wendy Strickland’s front door was getting dangerous for her to maneuver. She is legally blind and uses a cane to get from the bus to her steps. When the concrete began cracking in the sidewalk, the trip to her front door became unsafe. Her ophthalmologist’s office suggested she contact Ability1st.

The Ability1st Nursing Home Diversion program and an organized group of volunteers joined forces to build a ramp to Strickland’s front door. She is now able to move safely in and out of her home. “I got off the bus and I was hot and tired from working with the Salvation Army all day. I saw the new ramp and my mood changed instantly. I was honeymoon happy and peacock proud,” said Strickland.

When asked about working Ability1st to get her ramp Strickland said, “Marquesas was excellent to work with. She was very sensitive to my feelings and addressed any concerns I had during the process.”

Wendy Strickland

Brenda Underhill

Adapt and Overcome: Navigating Life’s Challenges with Resilience and Support

Brenda Underhill knew she needed to do something. She was finding it difficult to safely live on her own because of her health issues. She has arthritis, breathes through a trach tube, and needs a wheelchair to get around her home. “I opened the phone book and saw Ability1st. The listing said independent living, so I called.” she say matter-of-factly.

Underhill spoke with Shelley Shaul, Ability1st Coordinator for the State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP), and the two began to make plans to make modifications to Underhill’s home. The goal was to make the changes necessary so she could remain mobile in her own home and continue to live independently. Unfortunately, those plans never came to fruition. Before construction could begin, Underhill became very ill and was hospitalized for two months. “When I was discharged, I couldn’t live by myself anymore. I moved in with my daughter,” she said.

Shaul and Underhill started their planning over, this time the plan was to make her daughter’s home accessible for Underhill. Working with a local contractor, the Ability1st home modification program through SHIP provided handrails in the bedroom so she can move from her wheelchair to her bed safely. Improvements were also made to her bathroom enabling her to shower on her own. Underhill says, “Shelley and her program help me live with all the things going on with my body.”

Brenda Underhill

Zachary Staubitz

Empowering Futures: From High School to Career with Confidence and Capability

A recent graduate of Lincoln High School, Zachary Ryan Staubitz says he is ready for his future. He is excited to move onto his next step, attending Tallahassee Community College, with a plan to transfer to Florida State University before his third year.

Staubitz, who has ADHD, participated in Ability1st’sHigh School High Tech (HSHT) program while attending Lincoln High School. HSHT prepare students with disabilities for life after high school through real-world experiences. The group has weekly meetings where they learn real-life skills such as how to write a resume and how to conduct job interviews.

When asked about his favorite experiences with the HSHT program, Staubitz said, “I really enjoyed the trip to the FAMU campus. We took a tour and learned about the college application process.” He also enjoyed a trip to Flight Line Inc., where the HSHT students were able to tour a private plane.

Staubitz plans to be a lighting designer, and is studying theatre and technology while in college. He also volunteers with a local church youth group working the sound board and lights during their theatre and musical productions.

Zachary Staubitz

Who Is Ability1st?

In short, we are a community-based organization offering support services, advocacy, and information to empower people with disabilities to live independently. Ability1st is operated and governed by people with disabilities for people with disabilities.

The goal of all Centers for Independent Living is to empower people with disabilities to take charge of their lives and guide their own destinies. We are a community-based non profit organization that provides services to people with varying disabilities in Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Gadsden, and Wakulla counties.

Our Mission

Ability1st, the Center for Independent Living of North Florida, is a community-based nonprofit organization that provides services to persons with varying disabilities. Our mission is to empower people with disabilities to live independently and enhance their quality of life.

Contact Us

1823 Buford Court
Tallahassee, Florida 32308
Phone: (850) 575-9621
Fax: (850) 575-5740
E-mail: contact@ability1st.info

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