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Civic Impact

$8 million Achieva campaign begins to improve lives of people with disabilities


The needs are greater than ever for local residents with disabilities, says Achieva President and CEO Marsha Blanco. "There are really some pressing needs," she says. "While we of course have had a great deal of government funding coming in, government tends to fund very traditional things. Achieva believes in innovation and we do not believe that models that were current 25 years ago are the way to do things today."
 
That's why the 62-year-old organization, southwestern Pennsylvania’s largest comprehensive service provider for people with disabilities and their families, has announced a new $8 million capital campaign called Innovation in Support of People with Disabilities -- their largest campaign ever.
 
"Pennsylvania has lengthy waiting lists for services," Blanco adds. "In fact, it is a national problem." Those with Medicaid waivers can get support from state and federal programs, she explains, but those on the long waiting list for such waivers receive very little support. Many families of those with disabilities, however, are able to provide some level of assistance themselves. Combined with government funding, this may let their adult son or daughter become more independent -- perhaps leaving home for the first time.
 
Among the service additions Achieva hopes to institute are 118 new living spaces for those with disabilities. Blanco says money raised by the capital campaign, combined with continued family assistance, will create new living arrangements in rented apartments or family homes, while Achieva will also help provide staffing and other aids to make this possible.
 
Achieva also hopes to expand the number of employees with disabilities at its pallet-manufacturing plant in Bridgeville, where currently those with and without disabilities work side by side to serve about 90 customers. The organization wishes also to expand the reach of the Achieva Trust, which manages $62 million for more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities. Funds placed in the Trust do not count as official assets of contributors -- assets that otherwise might disqualify potential Medicaid funding recipients.
 
A final goal of the capital campaign is to give Achieva better energy efficiency in its 100-plus homes and other facilities in Allegheny County, reducing its costs and making Achieva an even better neighbor.
 
It is a three-year campaign, Blanco says, "but we believe we will actually be able to wrap up the campaign earlier than that." Among contributions already secured for the campaign are $1 million from the PNC Foundation, $750,000 from the Edith L. Trees Charitable Foundation and $475,000 from the Heinz Endowments.
 
"The community is just showing strong, strong support for the campaign," she reports. "We feel blessed."
 
Do Good:
Looking for more ways to help those with disabilities locally? Contact Allegheny County's Disability Connection.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Marsha Blanco, Achieva
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