Merged organizations for elderly, disabled showcase renovations

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COLUMBIA - For the first time in 20 years, Jeanette Burfield threaded a needle.

She did so with the help of a magnifying glass provided by Services for Independent Living (SIL), which merged with Boone County Council on Aging (BCCA) in January.

An open house Thursday showed of renovations in the building that houses the merged organization, which retains the name SIL.

The group gives seniors and individuals with disabilities access to programs and services that help people live independently.

Burfield, 74, suffered a brain aneurysm in 1995. She said knitting, sewing and cross-stitching have always been her favorite hobbies, but even her bifocals couldn't help her see her work.

"I moved here from Arkansas so my daughter could look after me. She works and has a family, so she can't be with me all the time, and it can get awfully lonely. But now with this magnifying glass, I can finally get back to keeping busy, doing something I love. I'm just so excited, I can't wait to get home now and cross-stitch," Burfield said with a smile on her face.

Heather Stewart, the director of marketing and strategic initiatives at SIL, said each organization complimented the other with what they brought to the table.

"BCCA had a strong volunteer program, and SIL focused on services like transportation and adaptive technology. A lot of our clients' needs overlap, so combined, we can help pretty much anybody with anything they want, or refer them to another organization if need be," she said.

Stewart said the group does not sell items like walkers, wheelchairs and magnifiers, but people can come in and try some out and get references on where to buy similar products. She said many clients who use such devices also have volunteers visit them for company, lawn work, or to do chores around the house.

Renovations showcased Thursday included new offices to accommodate the combined staff, and new spaces for clients to test out medical equipment. The kitchen will be updated to be universally accessible April 25. 

The new SIL currently has approximately 35 staff members and 750 volunteers, serving 1,500-2,000 clients per year.