Ben French – Founder, Innovative Independent Living Solutions
Ben French is the founder of Innovative Independent Living Solutions (IILS), a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering adults with disabilities, teaching them how to live independently and to ultimately become contributing members of society. Ben’s dream is to create an organization that teaches basic life skills to underserved adults, where they learn not just to “survive”, but to “thrive”.
Ben’s idea for the organization began after meeting a homeless autistic man named Dallas. Dallas was homeless because he lacked the basic skills to take care of himself, with no family to help. Ben took Dallas into his home, with the hope of teaching him independent living skills that would enable him to make a living and ultimately to live on his own. Ben says: “I saw the potential in Dallas to live a life in which he thrives. Initially, Dallas required reminders to brush his teeth, take a shower, eat, etc. Now, two and half years later, Dallas continues to push the ceiling of the potential I saw in him, despite his disability, and leads an independent life with minimal support, managing his own budget, schedule, social life, transportation, hygiene, grocery shopping, meal preparation, health, and currently holds two jobs.”
There are over 3500 adults in the Wichita area with disabilities like Dallas’ on a waiting list that need funding for government services. Innovative Independent Living Solutions is addressing these needs with a uniquely developed independent living skills curriculum to encompass all facets of life skills from hygiene, to vocational navigation, and everything in between. IILS is not a Community Developmental Disability Organization, and services are funded through private pay and fundraising efforts by the IILS. IILS finds members of the community willing to give of their time to be a live-in "Mentor" (roommate) to teach the IILS curriculum to those needing services. Through the support of sponsors, IILS provides both financial and spiritual support for its "Mentors." In so doing IILS strives to enhance the quality of life of both individuals affected by disabilities, and their family as a whole.