A beacon of compassion and empowerment
By Stephanie Lowry
KEWAUNEE COUNTY – Celebrating five decades of unwavering commitment, Empowering and Supporting Individuals (ESI) stands as a beacon of compassion and empowerment.
Founded in 1973, ESI was a collaboration of 10 parents who wanted a local resource to provide compassionate care for their children with disabilities.
Located in Algoma, ESI also serves Kewaunee, Door and Brown counties.
“The lives of people with disabilities, what they look like and expectations of where they are going, our agency has kind of evolved in that same pattern,” explained President of ESI Tracy Nelson. “When we were founded in the 1970s, that was a time that people with disabilities, lots of times, were living in institutions.”
ESI works with adults of all ages with disabilities, fostering an interactive community where they can acquire communication skills, form friendships and cultivate a sense of identity and purpose. Nelson emphasized,
“We are focused on helping people with disabilities become better advocates for themselves. Learning to be more independent, learning how to live safely in their communities and hopefully be a little bit less vulnerable amongst people who might want to take advantage of the situation that people with disabilities might be in when they’re living independently,” Nelson added.
ESI tailors unique service plans to meet the needs of each person, partnering with them to achieve their goals in facility-based and community-based formats.
These services are crafted to provide a structured environment that promotes independence and purpose, empowering clients to advocate for themselves.
Looking forward, Nelson aims to continue educating communities about the meaning of disability.
“Today, we’re trying to better educate our society, better expose people to all the different things that – ways people are different. That’s where our next phase of what we’re trying to do is,” she said. “And the next 50 years, I’m grateful that we’ve gotten to this point where that’s the discussion, you know, now we have people in their local communities. I think people with disabilities have those skills to be out in the community, now let’s take our community and meet them halfway so the community better understands when someone’s different.”
Expressing hope for even more opportunities in the future, Nelson envisions people living in their communities with increased support, patience, understanding and kindness.
“We were founded by the people in the community and our job is to continue to support the people in our community and people who need our services. We’re always looking at ‘Okay, how can we better reach people, where do we go to let them know?’ and we’re working with some of the schools and things like that,” she added.
With roots planted firmly in community support, ESI remains ready to meet the evolving needs of those it serves, ensuring a future where everyone, regardless of ability, can lead a fulfilling and empowered life.
To learn more about ESI, visit: https://esiempowers.com.