ARISE Cayuga/Seneca has moved into a new home to accommodate its growth and its clients. 

The nonprofit independent living center, which works with people who have disabilities, has packed up its Auburn location on Genesee Street and moved into 21 Lincoln St., also known as Lincoln South.

Regional Director Kate Budlong said it's an exciting time for the organization. Serving individuals since 1979, the Auburn branch of ARISE opened up about four years ago after merging with the former Options for Independence. The office serves about 2,000 people per year in both Cayuga and Seneca counties through individual services, advocacy and information referrals.

Budlong said plans began to percolate for the move about a year ago.

"Since that time, (we) realized we were running out of space," Budlong said. "So that's what led to the move, and we kept all the programs that Options had as they merged with ARISE, and what we've done over the past few years is really just identify what programs we really want to grow based on the community need, and then also what other programs does ARISE have in our other counties that we could replicate here."

Besides Cayuga and Seneca counties, ARISE serves people in Onondaga, Oswego and Madison counties. What makes ARISE unique, Budlong said, is that 50 percent of the staff and operating board have disabilities themselves. 

"We are people with disabilities servicing people with disabilities," she said. "It's not just a professional with a master's degree telling somebody how to run their life."

Budlong said the organization participates in the county's Community Services Board to see what programs are overloaded or in demand, so ARISE can help fill those gaps. One thing she's working to bolster locally, based on those discussions, is ARISE's community habilitation program.

That service helps individuals with disabilities work on life skills, Budlong said, like going to the grocery store or the bank. It helps improve independent living skills, too, like cooking and cleaning, taking care of personal hygiene, learning communication skills and volunteering, according to the organization's website.

Another program Budlong said is expanding is a payee program. With Social Security representatives, ARISE Cayuga/Seneca helps about 300 individuals manage their finances. They can help create a budget each month to ensure rent and bills are paid.

A program not new to ARISE, but somewhat new to the Cayuga/Seneca branch, is an employment services program for people with disabilities. The service covers many different aspects of work readiness, including job coaching, resume writing and practicing interview skills, all to help individuals become gainfully employed. 

Budlong and her colleagues are still settling into the new space. But it's beginning to feel like the branch's home, with artwork, made by people whom ARISE serves, adorning the walls throughout the office. Budlong is looking forward to its open house Dec. 4, when the public will be able to see the staff and the office, and ring in the holiday season. 

Staff writer Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (315) 282-2237 or gwendolyn.craig@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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County Government Reporter