My sister has been served at NCI Affiliates for the past seven years. She moved to California with my mother from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to live with me. While living in Oklahoma she was not afforded the opportunity to have sustainable employment and worked at a little restaurant down the street busing tables, making $20 total for the entire week. Her friends consisted of a few people on the block that she lived on, and she and her family did not have much of a social life.
Since the move and her becoming a part of the group at NCI Affiliates, I have watched my sister blossom. She makes her own money under sub-minimum wage and has made several close friends. She goes to the movies and the different activities like barbecues, dances, festivals, and Christmas floats that the NCI group puts on for the individuals. My sister is a part of NCI's client advisory group and even sat on the board of directors for two years. She has become an advocate for the things she wants and believes in and is not afraid to speak out for herself.
We are a close family, and we do everything together. We all contribute to family dinners and holiday celebrations. My sister loves the fact that she can contribute when we go shopping for holiday dinners and when she can buy a special gift for my mother on Christmas or for her birthday.
I believe in my heart if it were not for the work opportunities at NCI Affiliates, she would not find a place that she could work and be a contributing member of the community she lives in. My sister has a mental disability and with age has taken on some physical disabilities. She takes a while to complete certain things. My fear is that if sub-minimum wage is taken away, she will not have the financial or social outlets that have been available to her through this agency that clearly has her best interest at heart.
The Feb. 7 article published in New Times ("Equal Chances: Local families and advocates seek to improve job opportunities for adults with disabilities") was told on behalf of a family that for some reason is unhappy with NCI and does not see what a difference sub-minimum wage can make in a person's life. I am glad their family member was able to find a place where she could be happy, but that does not mean that the hundreds of other families, including mine, would like to see sub-minimum wage go away. Nor does it mean that we would like to see an article smearing the agency that has brought new life to our family member. There are always two sides to a story, and I do not believe for one moment that NCI Affiliates would do anything to hurt one of the individuals they serve. They have always treated my sister and our family with respect and have been very kind and understanding.
I am sending this to you in hopes that others do not make a decision regarding this agency based on one family's story and understand that there are several other families who do not want to see their family member go without this opportunity. Δ
Lameeka McClellan-Breland posted this as a comment in a thread responding to the Feb. 7 article on New Times' website. Type your opinion into a letter to the editor and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.