Meet Our Subject Matter Experts

Linda Taylor

Executive Director

Read Linda's Bio Here

For some people you wind up exactly where you’re supposed to be. For Linda Taylor, being the Executive Director at the Center for Independence is that place.

She was born in Kansas City Kansas to a family who came from Georgia and Minnesota. Both sets of Grandparents moved from rural agriculture to an industrial Midwestern city to work themselves into the middle class for their children. They valued hard work and education. They withstood WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, and the shift to the age of computers. The Boomer generation was the realization of the dreams of millions to deliver a better life to their children. It was their job to honor that work and never take their sacrifices for granted.

She completed most of her formal education in 6 years graduating from the University of Kansas with a BA in Psychology and a MS in Rehabilitation Counseling from Emporia Kansas State College. She was in college when the 1974 Rehabilitation Act was passed. She had a front row seat to the Vietnam war returning veterans in various levels of disability and the government response to rehabilitating them. Counselors were in such demand that she went to Grad School on a full scholarship grant from Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

After stints in the State of Missouri Division of Child Abuse in inner city KCMO and with the State of Kansas Services for the Blind, she packed up all her worldly possessions and moved to Denver with her two best girlfriends to start a new adventure. She was 27 years old. She was able to build her career through a succession of jobs that each taught her about service delivery in education (Colorado Mountain College), employment services (Colorado Job Service), developmental disabilities (Horizons, Inc. in Steamboat Springs), adaptive recreation (Colorado Discover Ability), health care (Marillac Clinic and Community Hospital), and chronic disease (National MS Society). She was introduced to all forms of contracts and governmental compliance during those years.

Her introduction to Independent Living started in 1991 when she was appointed to the Statewide Independent Living Council by Gov. Roy Romer. She was reappointed by Gov. Owens, Gov. Ritter, and Gov. Hickenlooper. She joined task groups as IL regulations were rewritten and as new Centers were in development. By the late 90’s she knew she wanted to move beyond case management and enrolled in the University of Colorado at Denver’s Masters in Public Administration program. She was 12 credits into this study when she was hired as the Executive Director at the Center for Independence (CFI). She continued for another 2 terms before the workload was too great and the work she was doing was her University.

Since 2005, Linda has shaped the growth and expansion of CFI from a small service in Mesa County to the 4 offices that exist today. CFI has weathered all forms of crisis from a leaking roof on the 1939 building that was purchased in 2006 to the economic crash in 2008. The 18 months of the COVID pandemic exposed gaps in who was carried along with attention and support and who was left behind to find help as best they could. CFI is transitioning to the hybrid workforce of the future that will be working in all manner of arrangements for ADA accommodation to traveling case management services in rural communities.

The challenge for the disability community is to find their voice and clearly state what they need to be fully engaged and to put words into action by personal effort to use the avenues presented to us. Nothing can be given to a person with a disability; only opportunities for self-improvement can be made available. This is no small task as the barriers for accessibility, communication, learning methods, access to technology, and preparing teachers to use these tools are all lacking. Each actor in this Shakespearean drama has their part to play. She is grateful for the opportunity and life’s work to have made her time at CFI so meaningful. She is very proud that it is standing for other actors to play their parts too.

 

 

Billy S. Allen

Director of Programs & Operations

Read Billy's Bio Here

Billy joined CFI in December 2020. He may be new at CFI, but certainly not new in IL centers. Billy is our Director of Programs & Operations at CFI. He has been actively involved in IL centers one way or another since 1992. Born deaf, Billy acquired language and spoke his first sentence at age 9 years old and grew up in a special education environment. His true personal comfort zone is in ASL with friends, family, and social gatherings. 

Billy has a BA in Social Work, minor in Government Law from Gallaudet University. He holds a dual Masters in Social Work/Administration Policy & Planning from Rutgers University.

Billy is the first Deaf National Certified ADA Coordinator. Sometimes he can be seen teaching ASL or Social Work at a local college. He is a lifelong advocate for all cross-disabilities and their family members.

He enjoys time with his wife (a deaf and 5th generation Coloradan) along with their two hearing boys doing outdoor and family activities, and just cruising around taking in the majestic sceneries of Colorado.

Katherine Lopez

Communications/Marketing Manager

Read Katherine's Bio Here

Katherine is a native of Bolton Landing, New York, located in the Adirondack Mountains. In 1976, she moved to Boulder, Colorado. She has always been an artist at heart, but specifically a graphic designer and photographer since 1988, working in printing, signage and newspaper environments.

She earned an Associate Degree in Advertising Design from The Colorado Institute of Art, Denver. After graduation she moved to Waukegan, Illinois and launched her career as a graphic designer and client liaison for Haapanen/Burkett, Inc., creating various projects for clients ranging from small businesses and local governments to Abbott Laboratories and Baxter Healthcare. Missing Colorado, she returned in 1993 and soon began a Western Slope experience as a designer at the Eagle Valley Enterprise newspaper in Eagle. After moving to the Grand Valley in 2002 she accepted a design position at the Grand Junction Free Press. In 2006 she joined The Daily Sentinel, becoming lead designer in 2008.

Her design expertise is behind the branding for the Dalton Trumbo sculpture in Downtown Grand Junction, as well as for the collection of nine sculptures commissioned by Legends of the Grand Valley, part of Art on the Corner. She also created the branding for local bands; Stray Grass, The Doubious Brothers and Tune Weavers Collective. She joined the amazing team at Center for Independence in October 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 to help reshape branding, communications, outreach, resource development and advocacy for people with disabilities within the communities CFI serves.

Katherine is an avid hiker and enjoys camping, southwest native cultures, live music, art, spending time with her partner, Pete, and being immersed in the marvels of western Colorado and eastern Utah landscapes. She has two married sons, one in the Navy, as well as four beautiful granddaughters who are the light of her life.

~ Grand Junction Office: Serving Mesa & Delta Counties ~
Mary Moore

Housing Coordinator & Youth Services

Read Mary's Bio Here

Mary Moore was born with Cerebral Palsy which meant that she walked with crutches for most of her life. She now uses a manual wheel chair or a scooter to get around. She has been blessed with a service dog named Tarka trained by Canine Companions for Independence to assist her with aspects of her daily life.

Youth coordinator and housing advocate at the Center for Independence in Grand Junction, Colorado, Mary has been with CFI for more than twenty years. She loves teaching life skills to youth with disabilities, wanting to encourage them to dream, to try, to develop a strong sense of self, and to be empowered and engaged citizens in their community. The unique voices and perspectives of youth matter.

Mary assists people with disabilities in finding and securing housing. She has helped people transition from nursing homes back to their communities. She teaches classes on service animals, emotional support animals, fair housing, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is gratifying for Mary to assist others with disabilities working toward enhancing the quality of their life. Mary feels honored to be an employee of CFI working alongside coworkers who are amazing people and believe deeply in our mission.

Originally from Louisiana, Mary loves southern food, is a serious fisherman, as well as a diehard New Orleans Saints fan. She attended the University of Southern California and graduated with divisional honors with a degree in Critical Studies in Cinema Television and has a Master in Library Science with an emphasis in Archives from Simmons College in Boston.

She has a wonderful family whose love and support inspire her every day.

Tracy Morton

Disability Benefits Case Manager/CPWIC

Read Tracy's Bio Here

A native of Grand Junction, Tracy started working at age 19 as a CNA and then moved up to Medical Assistant. She spent time as an Assistant Director of the Oasis House for Mind Springs. Beginning her tenure at Center for Independence as an AmeriCorps volunteer as a way to pay down my student loans, Tracy has worked at CFI since August 2012 and has worked in vocational and direct services.

She worked in the Montrose office for 5 years at which time she was also doing housing advocacy. She earned her Community Work Incentive Counselor (CWIC) certificate in 2018 and now she does Benefits Counseling.

In her off time she loves spending time with her family and being outdoors.

Amy Johnson

Records Management Assistant/Receptionist

Read Amy's Bio Here

Amy Johnson has over 20 years of front office experience which has helped her excel in her many positions. She joined the CFI team back in 2019 and quickly expanded her position from receptionist to include records management. She very much enjoys the work she does and looks forward to being part of the CFI team for a long time. Amy loves to read and enjoys time with her daughter and feline family member, Jack.

Ruby Martinez

Disability Benefits Case Manager

Read Ruby's Bio Here

Originally from New Mexico, Ruby Martinez has called Colorado home for over thirty years. She has two grown children, a son and daughter, as well as five wonderful grandkids ages two to thirteen.

Ruby has a degree in Information Systems Management and is a Nationally Certified Non-Attorney Representative. She came to work for Center for Independence in 2016 as a Disability Benefits Case Manager.  Her passion and calling is to serve and help others. She found a “home” at CFI where she is able to pursue her calling. She enjoys working with the diverse population that CFI serves, working side-by-side with very knowledgeable colleagues.

Ruby has worked in nonprofits her whole career and enjoys it very much.  Before her role at CFI she was a Family Advocate for many years and switched over to the technology side of nonprofit.  After doing this line of work for several years she moved back over to do the work she loves the best, and that is helping others.

Tami Walter

Records Manager/Ticket to Work Administrator

Read Tami's Bio Here

A native of Colorado, Tami was born in Southwest Colorado and moved to Grand Junction at a young age. After graduating high school she began her yearning for travel by moving to Anchorage, Alaska and exploring. She then moved back to Aspen, Colorado for 3 years. In 1986 the yearning for a change took her to Sebastopol, California and she developed a passion for wine while working in the industry there. In 1999, Tami moved back to Colorado to be near her family and the slower pace of Grand Junction.

Her career at the Center for Independence began in 2014 and has evolved over time from Administrative to her current position of Records Manager and Ticket to Work Administrator. Her responsibilities include monitoring the company’s records to ensure compliance with State and Federal guidelines. She states, “Working with people with disabilities has been very rewarding. Seeing them smile is what makes it all worthwhile.”

She spends time creating art, gardening, enjoying time with family, and her two fluffy felines

Frank Rivas

Community Transition Services & Housing Coordinator

Read Frank's Bio Here

Frank Rivas is an accomplished Baccalaureate in Social Work (BSW) and alumni of Colorado State University—Pueblo (2008) with an emphasis in Psychology and a minor in Nonprofit Administration. Frank is a medically discharged, disabled Army veteran of over 15 years with extensive training in the medical field and multiple military identifiers. Frank was also a Level III, Spanish Interpreter for the Army. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 2001.

While advancing his degree, Frank was able to work in his field first as an EMT and certified Spanish Medical Interpreter for Memorial Hospital Colorado Springs, and then moved on to The Resource Exchange where he worked with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for over two years.

Upon graduation, Frank moved to South Florida for a personal family care plan and started to work and go to school at University of Miami Medical Campus. However, all the while in Miami, Frank’s heart always longed to return to Colorado. His first break came and he packed up and moved to Grand Junction and started working for Mind Springs Health as a Mental Health Clinician for over 5 years.

Eventually, Frank wanted to move on to other opportunities and he began working for Center for Independence as a Nursing Home Transitions Coordinator Supervisor. Concurrent duties allowed him to also work in Housing Coordination, assisting individuals with housing applications and finding appropriate and accessible housing for CFI consumers.

Morgan Robb

Vocational & Youth Case Manager, Marketing Assistant

Read Morgan's Bio Here

Morgan started her journey with CFI back in 2017 as a student intern through Colorado Mesa University’s Social Work program. She quickly fell in love with working with this community and realized she’d found where she wants to spend her career. After being hired as an offical employee she began learning all she can to best help the community.

She currently works as a Vocational and Youth case manager, helping community members learn valuable job and life skills in order for them to live as independently as possible. When not working with consumers though you can find her behind the scenes on the website or in marketing, putting her computer knowledge to use. 

When not working Morgan enjoys downtime at home with her family and pets playing video games, board games or exploring the Great Outdoors. She grew up in Detroit, Michigan and feels most at home when surronded by water so it is not uncommon to find her out on the lakes on a paddleboard when the weather permits. 

Mona Gordon

Business Manger

Read Mona's Bio Here

Mona Gordon began working part-time at PDQ Bookkeeping in 2008, which was CFI’s bookkeeping service at that time. In 2016, when her colleague semi-retired, she was offered a position at CFI. It began as a part-time position and quickly grew into a full-time position.

Her background was mainly in the hospitality field prior to CFI, so learning about the non-profit world has been both exciting and stressful, however she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Her motto: “It’s important to learn something new every day and at CFI that’s a given.” When she is not at CFI, she can be found enjoying time with family or in the garden (weather permitting

Lehua Delong, RID-NIC

ASL Interpreting Services/Deaf Services Program Manager

Read Lehua's Bio Here

Lehua DeLong has been employed with the Center for Independence since 2017 as the Deaf Services Program Manager. As a nationally certified interpreter she has worked in various settings providing communication access for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals. With nine years of experience as a certified interpreter she has worked in multiple areas throughout the community including medical environments, university interpreting and theater. Currently, in addition to interpreting, she is coordinating interpreting services for the counties that the Center for Independence serves.
She enjoys hiking, camping and playing with her two young kids. Anytime she has the chance to get outside with her family, she is grateful.
For ASL interpreting services email: [email protected] or call VP: 970-812-1746/Call: 970-852-2036.

Joanne Stamp

Low Vision & Senior Program Specialist

Read Joanne's Bio Here

Joanne Stamp is the Low Vision & Senior Program Specialist at CFI based in the Grand Junction office. Imported from Great Britain over 22 years ago, she adds additional elements to CFI’s diverse culture. When she was younger and still living across the ‘Pond’, her degree in childcare led to jobs in hospitals, schools, the private sector, and social services.

Life in the USA began for Joanne in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she eventually went back to college to study for a degree in Mental Health & Certification as a Mental Health Technician. After 13 years of living in Las Vegas, Joanne moved to Grand Junction and became a student intern at CFI to complete the capstone project and practicum part of her studies. Joanne’s experience as a student intern and then as a volunteer at CFI included working within the low vision, vocational, recreational and youth programs. Her first post at CFI was part-time as the Low Vision Program Coordinator, later transitioning to full-time working as the Program Manager. Joanne’s favorite part of her job at CFI is working with her consumers in a practical setting and using technology to solve problems and make life easier and more fun.

To the consumers in the CFI Low Vision Program and the Western Slope Visionaries Peer support group Joanne is known for her British accent causing her to “talk funny,” and as the person who has ideas and solutions to help them overcome some of the daily challenges of low vision.

Joanne is the mother of two grown children in their 30’s and she has one granddaughter. She likes gardening, cooking, and is an avid dog lover.

Caroline Wehrmann

Receptionist

Read Caroline's Bio Here

Caroline just recently joined CFI.  She and her husband Mike moved to Grand Junction 2 ½ years ago from Colorado Springs.

Prior to working at CFI, Caroline worked for Strive at the Botanical Gardens and Uniquely Yours helping individuals with learning disabilities.

While living in Colorado Springs, she worked in the dental field for 30 + years as a dental assistant, Patient Coordinator and as an Insurance coordinator.

She has two grown daughters  and 3 beautiful grandchildren. In her spare time Caroline loves to craft and really enjoys camping and kayaking with her husband.

Joe Lopez

Maintenance Director

Read Joe's Bio Here

Joe has been leading the maintenance department at Center for Independence since 2009. He keeps CFI a safe, clean and productive environment for employees and consumers in the main office in Grand Junction, as well as overseeing upkeep on the satellite offices.

He enjoys the opportunity to work with such a great staff, witnessing all the assistance and support that consumers receive through CFI’s case managers to improve their ability to live independently. He is also honored to drive the CFI bus to take consumers on outings and adventures, such as the Low Vision group. He receives great pleasure in witnessing how people with disabilities are always willing to share their knowledge and help others.

Randy Summy

Maintenance Support

Read Randy's Bio Here

Randy has been with CFI since 2018. Randy helps keep CFI clean, safe and things working properly at the headquarters office and satellite offices. Randy is a very kind man who makes it a priority to make people laugh though sometimes he might tease you in good fun.

Randy was born & raised in Iowa and graduated from Iowa School for the Deaf (ISD) in 1976. Randy has an AA degree in Automotive Technology from Des Moines Community College. Some of Randy’s past employments has been with moving companies doing shipping & receiving work and warehouse management. He moved to Colorado from Utah in 2015.

Randy is a wonderful father of 6 kids. He has been married to his wife Carol since 1985. Randy loves to ride his bicycle to work and spend time with his wife going weekend trips. During his free time he loves to fix and make things especially woodworking. He has even done a few projects for CFI, such as our Spin-to-Win wheel for events. 

~ Glenwood Springs Office: Serving Eagle, Pitkin & Garfield Counties ~

Coleen Graves

Disability Benefits Case Managert

Read Coleen's Bio Here

Coleen Graves is a disability benefits case manager, low vision coordinator, and Colorado transitions coordinator for our Glenwood Springs office. 

Coleen started her college education at Metropolitan State College—Denver, where she studied jewelry design/metalsmithing and business. Coleen moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1989 for a summer and fell in love with the area. While working and raising a family, Coleen returned to college in 2003, and graduated from the University of Phoenix in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. 

Coleen has worked for several local nonprofit organizations, where she found her passion working with individuals with disabilities, helping individuals access their communities, and making sure all people have a voice. 

When not at work, you can find Coleen metalsmithing in her home studio, or out enjoying the beautiful mountains of Colorado with her family and dogs.

Julie Hart

Disability Benefits Case Manager

Read Julie's Bio Here

With a masters level education in both Gerontology and Counseling Psychology, Julie has worked with people across the spectrum of people—adjudicated girls, preschoolers in Head Start, elders, people with mental illness, and now, people who live with disabilities who are finding their best lives by availing themselves of all the services CFI offers.

For fun one summer, Julie got certified as a Wilderness First Responder so she would have a better chance of getting hired as a river guide in Moab, Utah. She spent three months rowing 6 days a week for Tag-A-Long.

A decade later, she decided she wanted to stop thinking about what it might be like to work her passion and instead, Do It.  Within four months of getting clear on what she wanted: a dance business, she had moved to Glenwood Springs and was teaching dance at the community college, hot springs, a local yoga studio, and the rec center.

Now, she is passing the time as Mommy to Max, awaiting the day he graduates so she can move to the sea…

~ Montrose Office: Serving Montrose, Ouray & San Miguel Counties ~

Candis Coca

Regional Program Manager

Read Candis's Bio Here

Candis joined the Center for Independence (CFI) in 2018 as a Benefits Case Manager and later became the Montrose Regional Program Manager.

Prior to joining CFI she was working for Haven House (HH), a transitional housing program for families and singles experiencing homelessness. While at HH she was volunteering, then was assigned a small caseload, and within a year became the sole Case Manager for the entire facility, all the while working on her college degree! She facilitated a summer youth group program, homework help club for the youth, and an enrichment program (self-improvement, budgeting, parenting, boundaries, seeking resources) for the adults. Helping others realize and obtain their goals lit the spark that led to her fire! 

During her time with HH she was recruited by CFI to case manage individuals with disabilities. Having a son with Autism, she recognized the many challenges that people with disabilities face as an individual and within their community. Helping advocate for people with disabilities by removing barriers, teaching life skills, and remaining independent is something she holds close to her heart. 

Outside of CFI you can find Candis in the mountains fishing, hunting, camping, and hanging out with her family.

~ Salida Office: Serving Chaffee, Gunnison, Hinsdale & Lake Counties ~

Tobie Thurman

Regional Program Manager

Read Tobie's Bio Here

Tobie has been with Center for Independence since 2013. After the successful launching of the Glenwood Springs office, she accepted the challenge to open the Salida satellite office in November of 2019.

“We operate as a team not only within our organization but with other organizations and the individuals in our surrounding communities. To be a leader, you must be a continuous learner. No matter how difficult things may seem, keep both hands on both oars and keep rowing forward.”

Professional Background:

Sr. Executive Claims Hearing Specialist with experience in managing Fraudulent, Workers’ Compensation. Program Management and Project Management including implementation of Investigative Training skills for Fraudulent Claim Departments resulting in prevention of premium increases to policy holders.

She launched a well-received settlement negotiation program, trained staff members in AOE/COE Investigative interviewing techniques, mentored and coached employees in 10 satellite offices throughout California resulting in a reduction in legal costs, and increased productivity and workflow procedures.

Educated in both statutory and judicial Workers’ Compensation Law she was instrumental in lobbying and implementing changes in Workers’ Compensation legal proceedings including the stimulation of felony prosecution for fraudulent claims. Her history of representation before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, interaction with medical and legal professionals, assigning vocational rehabilitation referrals, gathering evidence and preparing suitable defenses for contested cases, and developing return to work (RTW) plans for injured employees gave her excellent training for the position she now holds with Center for Independence.

Interests: Traveling abroad while promoting environmental and humanitarian awareness, alpine skiing, golf, tennis, pickle ball, skeet shooting, fly fishing, and practicing gratitude.

Amber Jacobs

Case Manager

Read Amber's Bio Here

Amber graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in Art and Special Needs Education. She went on to teach art at a middle school but quickly realized her passion when working alongside students with disabilities and shifted into teaching special education after her first year. Ever since she has been working with people with disabilities in some capacity including teaching yoga specifically to individuals with limited mobility/cognitive ability, job training for special needs high school students transitioning into the work force, and teaching life skills and planning field trips for individuals living in a group home.

For fun Amber likes to bike around Salida with her dog Bell, practice yoga, read, ski, roller skate, and get on the river as much as possible. She has taken a seat on the board for the Ark Valley High Rollers Quad Club as well as a spot on the AVHR roller derby team. Amber is enjoying becoming integrated into the vibrant community of Salida and promoting the Center for Independence in order to develop solutions and empower individuals with disabilities.