Last weekend I had the pleasure of working with Eric Enger and some other staff and volunteers at Communty Choices. I took some photos and talked to Eric about their projects. Take a look below.
Smile Politely: What is Community Choices?
Eric Enger: We are a non-profit/cooperative partnering with people with developmental disabilities and their families in Champaign County to achieve independence, opportunity and choice. We believe in building inclusive communities, where all of us are seen as valued contributors. Our membership is comprised of many stellar, bright and talented people with developmental disabilities who are moving that conversation forward. As an organization, our main function, I think, is to believe in people. It's really that simple.
SP: What is Open Champaign?
Enger: Open Champaign is a series of community building events put on by people with and without developmental disabilities. It is grant-funded, supported by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. We are fortunate to be partnering with some excellent groups and people. It is about people collaborating to create inclusive opportunities for the community as a whole to connect. It is about shared experiences. It is about everyone having an important voice. And it's about fun.\
SP: What did you hope to accomplish with the photo booth?
Enger: With the photo booth specifically, we were looking to create a unique experience for folks who happened to be out and about downtown. The idea was to have a photo booth where people could get their picture taken while a local poets read their work. We connected with C-U Poetry and held some writing workshops, where some of the poetry read was created. The poets who read were people with and disabilities, celebrating National Poetry Month in great form. Big Grove was an eager partner, believing in what we were doing and providing us with a great location. Ryan Groff lent his talents (and garage) to build the booth with us. And Mr. Sam Logan turned out to be not only a master photographer, but someone who clearly believes in people. And the part a lot of us enjoyed about our event was watching the reactions of people when their photo developed and they saw the secret punchline: they had each been photobombed.
SP: What does it mean to have these programs active in CU?
Enger: It is important to us that everyone has the opportunity to be visible and valued. The more we all get to know each other, the more we can connect and learn from one another. Everyone is valuable, so I think it's very important, especially right now in Illinois, that we support each other to thrive.
SP When is your next event?
Enger: Look out on May 14, for some more afternoon fun downtown. And May 15 there may just be something cool happening in a park. That's all I can share for now...
SP Where can we follow your events?
Enger: Pictures from previous events will be up soon at our website.