Jim Hukill is moving his Lift Disability Network organization into a commercial space after operating out of his home for 13 years.
Lift Disability Network will finally have a home of its own after 13 years of operating out of executive director Jim Hukill’s house in Winter Garden.
Hukill and his wife, Rhonette, started the nonprofit organization 20 years ago in Hunters Creek and relocated it to West Orange County when they moved to Winter Garden in 2005. Lift Disability Network was created for “elevating life in the disability family.”
The new building — at 611 Business Park Blvd., Suite 105, Winter Garden — will allow Lift to provide even more opportunities to the community. Hukill calls it “Our Year to Emerge.”
“This new facility will help us enhance our programming to families that live with disability every day and will give us the ability to launch new programming and opportunities to this community,” Hukill said.
With 1,500 square feet of space, there is ample room for an office and community-collaboration areas for small classes and meetings, Hukill said. He wants to be able to share his space with others.
“For example, if we want to do a lunch for pastors to learn about disabilities in their church, we can do that,” he said. “Or we can bring in parents to learn about financial aid that’s out there. Or creating guardianships.”
Progressive Abilities Support Services is partnering with LDN and will periodically be at the office assessing people for job training and job placement
“It’s the first step in a long-term vision to create a one-stop shop for families with disabilities,” Hukill said. “Our five-year vision is to create a hub that’s 4,000-plus square feet of community activity space.”
Additionally, Lift has partnered with the Rotary Club of Winter Garden to house the Rotary Medical Equipment Bank.
Hukill said he’s excited about the Rotary partnership and the broadened opportunity to store even more rental medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers and tub seats, in the larger space.
At present, Hukill is the only full-time staff member. He has three part-timers on staff, including Buzz Vincent, marketing and development director, and several contractors he works with. He hopes to hire more staff when the budget allows.
“We’ve always had a vision that this will be a community-driven organization,” Hukill said. “Our roots are in the faith-based community, and so we want to see a lot of houses of worship get behind us and reach families with disabilities in the community.”
Lift Disability Network is a 501c3 organization, and donations can be made on the website, liftdisability.net.
BOOST FOR FAMILIES
Hukill hopes to add more programs as Lift expands. He just started Boost, a new monthly event for families with disabilities. The fun evening is free and includes a meal, activities and inspiration to elevate the lives of families who live with disability every day.
It is designed to give individuals and families an opportunity to escape from their day-to-day struggle and focus on being a family, building relationships and being inspired to discover a new future for their lives.
The Winter Garden Boost events will be held at 5:30 p.m. on the third Saturday of the month in the breakroom at The Crossings Church, 13105 W. Colonial Drive, Winter Garden. Lift board member Ginger Allen leads the program.
Family members of all ages are invited to participate. Individual adults with disabilities who can attend on their own are welcome, but Hukill asks that everyone be accompanied by a responsible buddy. He uses the term “family” loosely and said residents in group homes may attend as well.
Boost was created after families participating in the Lift summer camp programs wanted a chance to get together more than once a year.
To RSVP, go to liftdisability.net/boost.
LIVING BEYOND HIS WHEELCHAIR
Hukill was born with a neuromuscular disease and diagnosed when he was 20 months old. His parents were given a pretty dismal outlook, he said, and they were told he wouldn’t live to age 10. He got his first wheelchair when he was 6 with money raised from a change jar at a local florist.
“I had a family that believed that you don’t have to listen to everything you hear,” he said. “They gave me an opportunity to be in a family that gave you opportunities to success, even if you had a disability. My parents really gave me the ability to dream and to live beyond the armrest of my wheelchair.”
And that he did, graduating from high school, attending college and studying pastoral ministries. He traveled as a speaker and vocalist for about 15 years and met his wife, Rhonette, during that time in his life.
After they were married they were looking for resources to strengthen their relationship and discovered there weren’t many. That was the defining moment of their vision to create successful families when one member has a disability.
“We want to see families with disabilities flourish and grow,” Hukill said. “We want Lift to be in the center of that growth. We want an opportunity to provide a place for families with disabilities that is as dynamic as the community we live in. I personally am passionate about that.”
Contact Lift Disability Network at (407) 228-8343 or [email protected] for information.