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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

SCIL director is passionate about people

by Andrew Alonzo

For the past eight years Larry Grable has been doing what he loves as the executive director of the Service Center for Independent Life (SCIL) in Claremont—helping the disabled community tackle challenges that most of us take for granted every day.

One step into his office, and you can sense the passion Mr. Grable has about his work. While shower chairs and commodes rest against the rear wall of the room, a picture of him and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger shaking hands lends a personal touch to the space.

SCIL has been a silent player serving the disabled community in and around Claremont since being incorporated in 1980, by helping those who need assistance to get out of bed in the morning or use the restroom, or by installing grab bars or other independent living equipment in homes.

“Service Center for Independent Life is an independent living center,” said Mr. Grable. “We service people with disabilities and seniors to help them lead an independent and safe life.”

Currently, with the coronavirus pandemic still a concern and with no indoor, in-person gatherings, Mr. Grable and his team have experienced setbacks that have forced them to modify their services.

“A year ago because of the pandemic we had to shut down and work virtually from home and turn all of our classes and workshops into virtual ones,” Mr. Grable said. “And I think we’ll have to continue doing hybrid classes moving forward, but I can’t wait to get the community back in here. I love having the community together.”

Despite being hidden among businesses in the Spring Street Center, the work carried out daily by the SCIL team and Mr. Grable involves important services such as delivering shower benches, commodes and other independent living equipment to those who need assistance—all at no charge, Mr. Grable said. “Everything’s free.”

“When I take these parts here, the shower chair, the commode and the hoyer lift—we give it to them,” Mr. Grable explained. “Because you know people can’t afford it.”

Although SCIL has been serving the disabled community in and around Claremont for decades, not everyone seems to know who they are or what their capabilities include.

“You can ask anyone around here who SCIL is and they’ll tell you,” Mr. Grable said. “But if you go up two blocks, they’ll have never heard of us.”

So how did such a small center that used to host about 40 people suddenly acquire hundreds of doses of the Pfizer vaccine?

With California’s vaccination efforts being expanded, the SCIL in Claremont was temporarily transformed into a mobile COVID-19 vaccination center.

“Nobody would have ever thought we would have been doing this,” Mr. Grable said. “We said, we have the parking lot, let’s just set it up right here!”

But as Mr. Grable told the COURIER, it wasn’t as though SCIL ordered the vaccine and just received a shipment. The governor’s office actually reached out to Mr. Grable last month and SCIL got to work immediately setting up a mobile vaccination site.

“They called me on a Tuesday and we did it the following Monday,” Mr. Grable explained. “There was absolutely no question of doing it! The governor’s office figured this would be a good way to get the vaccine out to an area that’s underserved.”

On February 16, Mr. Grable got the call; however, it was not initially smooth sailing.

Two days later when using their special code on the myturn.ca.gov website to process and schedule appointments, only 30 participants were able to make a vaccine appointment before the website went down.

“So on that Thursday and Friday, we just decided that SCIL would have their own scheduling system,” Mr. Grable said. “So we called 252 people and we scheduled their vaccines.”

On Monday, March 15, the FEMA mobile vaccination site at SCIL reopened for those who received their first Pfizer vaccine dose there 21 days earlier.

“FEMA’s the one that is running these big sites, and because these vaccines came from the East LA City College site,” Mr. Grable said. “You saw how they set it up. FEMA came and then 45 minutes later—BOOM it was up and we kicked out 250 vaccines.”

Mr. Grable said the governor’s emergency services office picked two sites initially for their program, SCIL in Claremont and the Disability Community Resource Center in West Los Angeles.

“We’re the two guinea pigs but we hit our goal,” Mr. Grable said confidently.

“I do like big events, like the Disability Athletics Fair at Mt. SAC with their athletics department,” he said. “So it [managing the vaccine site] is kind of like doing it on that day ‘cause you’re on ‘GO’ the whole day,” Mr. Grable said.

With the help of FEMA and the Cal Fire Brigade, mobile vaccination sites have been able to vaccinate 1,183 people as of March 14. At SCIL, FEMA Division Supervisor Mariceli Cruz said the site was able to vaccinate their daily goal of 250 people on March 15.

“It’s really important people get the vaccinations so that they’ll feel more safe and be safer around their families and going out in the future,” Ms. Cruz said.

Though Mr. Grable and the SCIL team continue to provide tools for independence and well-being to the disabled community, he said the vaccine program was being put on hold after the second doses were administered because the governor’s office is still trying to figure out the most effective ways to get the vaccines out.

“We’ve been working on trying to do it again but for some reason, they put the pilot [program] on hold,” Mr. Grable said.

While there has been a pause in the vaccination program, Mr. Grable still wants to press play, advocating for SCIL and the county to go to mobile home parks with their mobile vaccine sites to administer vaccinations to residents at their homes.

“In Claremont you have a bunch of senior mobile home parks,” explained Mr. Grable. “And after talks with some senior mobile home managers, they have people who live there who can’t get out of their homes who need the vaccine.”

While SCIL is not currently offering vaccines, to schedule a vaccination elsewhere, visit myturn.ca.gov to find the closest vaccination site. For more information about the services offered to the disabled community by SCIL, contact them at (909)-621-6722

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