Our Stories

Glenn Milton
Glenn Milton

Glenn Milton

Glenn Milton is one of Atlantic CIL's newest consumers. He lives with Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Colitis, Anxiety and Depression. Glenn grew up in Atlantic County and loved playing street hockey and baseball in his youth. He was a pitcher and played for Linwood and the Babe Ruth League. He enjoyed working for Atlantic Chrysler for many years. He also comes from a close-knit family. Glenn was especially close with his Mother who sadly passed away in 2016. Since then he has experienced some health issues that have created challenges he is adapting to. Glenn has gone through multiple surgeries due to his Chronic Colitis. He is very thankful for the team at Cooper Hospital, Genesis Rehabilitation, and Barbara Kelly, his United Health Care case manager, for coordinating his care. The result of the surgeries requires Glenn to live with a colostomy bag. Glenn now uses a wheelchair and recently gave up driving. He has very supportive friends, Barry and Rose, who have helped him tremendously, but he wants to be more independent again. Glenn was connected with Atlantic CIL to work on his independent living goals. He works with Outreach and Activities Specialist, Jen Burke. Together they have set up Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program's to connect him with affordable cell phone and Wi-Fi services. This led Glenn to learning how to use the Shoprite App to order home delivery groceries and how to use Zoom to connect with ACIL's support groups. "I need to start thinking positively and stop thinking negative," he explained how he feels a positive difference in his physical health when his mental health is supported. Glenn shared, "It's been a good experience meeting new people through zoom and helpful to have Jen to call for support and to ask questions and explain things that come up." Glenn loves an eclectic variety of music including Iron Maiden, Queen, and Lizzo. He also has a goal to learn how to draw and is looking forward to developing his artistic skills.

Marcilena Link
Marcilena Link and her partner, Tim Daly

Marcilena Link

Marcilena Link and her partner Tim Daly both live with Multiple Sclerosis. The odds of a couple both living with the same disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord may seem unlikely, in fact they are considered the MS Society's first MS couple. Tim and Marci grew up in the same circles and were an instant love connection when they crossed paths years later. Tim had been diagnosed with MS before dating Marci and wanted to make sure she understood what his diagnosis could mean for their future together. Marci was not phased and would become his advocate, best friend, and life partner.
At that time, Marci was dealing with her own health issues related to a devastating car accident and subsequent neck surgery. Tim was supportive on many levels including becoming a caring figure in her daughter's life. "My Daughter taught me what love was, and I wanted to find someone who would love her as much as I do," Marci explained Tim was that person. They would continue to support each other through years of unexplained symptoms that Marci would experience. Doctors assumed they were related to her car accident.
Marci experienced numbness in her legs, feet and face. She would be working and when the tingling would begin, she would work through it. The symptoms would come and go until one night in 2016 she went to the emergency room mentally prepared to be told she needed spinal surgery. Testing would reveal she too, had Multiple Sclerosis.

"There is always something that can happen to change your life. MS changed my life," she explained. "Diet and exercise are important in managing our MS, how you treat your body, MS treats you back." Additionally, finding a specialist who treats many MS patients is important. Marci's road to finding her current doctor was long and full of confusion.
She would find most "specialists" have limited experience with actual MS patients. She suggests interviewing Doctors and asking specific questions, like how many MS patients they have worked with. "Get the numbers, don't let them be vague."

Marci believes having support can make you feel invincible, no matter what you are up against. She works with Atlantic CIL's Transition Specialist, Ana Then. "Ana lit our tunnel; I don't feel lost anymore. She has been amazing and made me feel comfortable to be upset." Together they are working on a number of things including making sure Marci has the insurance she needs to manage her MS. "MS is hard, but somehow we are making it work." Marci is planning to write a book about her story and has a long-term goal of starting a MS advocacy center for NJ.

David Luke
David Luke

David Luke

David Luke is one of the many Military Veterans in our country who live with PTSD. This specifically effects his sleep and leaves him often with a feeling of being jet-lagged. He has learned it is important to rely on his faith, pace himself, and focus on communication.

David also lives with a condition called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). This led him on a journey to find the right balance of activity in order to keep doing the things he loves like walking, riding his bike, and sharing the word of God as a volunteer chaplain. "I will not let the situation hold me hostage." As a man of faith, David explained his philosophy is, "whatever challenge we go through, it gives us the opportunity to rely on God more." This keeps him focused and persevering through his health challenges.

David works with ACIL Independent Living Specialist, Dawn Padick. She has assisted David in many different areas including communicating with neighbors, writing letters advocating for changes in the community, and connecting him with specific programs that assist Veterans. He described working with Dawn as a "blessing magnified to infinity and beyond," and deeply appreciates the support and encouragement she provides.

Gina Hart

Gina Hart is a proud Grandmother of three Grandchildren. She loves children and had a fulfilling career as a dedicated childcare provider before retiring.  She also lives with cerebral palsy. Two years ago, she began using a wheelchair fulltime. Her limited mobility was isolating, especially through the pandemic. Gina was connected with Atlantic CIL's Cares Act program and received a laptop. This helped her better connect with friends and family during the pandemic.

Since then, Gina has appreciated working with her Independent Living Specialist, Ana Then. Together they have identified Gina's goals and began to work towards them. Most recently they went through the process of applying for Lifeline assistance to reduce the cost of internet and cell phone services through the Affordable Connectivity Program. These programs help reduce monthly bills, help individuals save money, and often make living independently possible. Gina is excited to continue to work towards her goals.

Tammy White
Tammy White

Tammy White

Tammy White lives with depression, anxiety, and gender dysphoria. "Growing up we didn't know about gender dysphoria, I was told I was crazy, and that led to depression, anxiety, and confusion," Tammy explained. In the late 80's and early 90's things started shifting and now Tammy is being more open to engaging with things she identifies with. "It isn't easy, but support groups where I can talk with peers to get my feelings out, helps," she added.
The Cares Act led Tammy to connecting with Atlantic CIL. "So many agencies turned me away and said they couldn't help during that time, but Atlantic CIL interested me. They are very open and have been a big help." Receiving a laptop during the pandemic helped Tammy stay connected. She loves to cook and entertain friends and family, so it was an isolating time. She is happy to be hosting "Chat and Chews" again and attending LGBTQ+ mixers.
Recently, Tammy was in need of a new bedframe and through effort working with ACIL Independent Living Specialists, Ana Then and Dawn Padick, Tammy now sleeps better. She appreciates the follow up and support she receives from Ana on a monthly basis. "Ana is pleasant, attentive and listens to my needs," she explained, "Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart."

Yamiles Galvin
Yamiles and her daughter, Kimberly

Yamiles Galvin

Yamiles Galvin is a dedicated mother and consumer of Atlantic CIL. She lives with a learning disability and met Independent Living Specialist, Dawn Padick, when she was a senior in High School. Yamiles was getting ready to graduate and found having Dawn's support helpful as she transitioned into adult life.

Dawn helped her weigh her options between going to college and finding job training. Yamiles ultimately connected with a job coach through DVRS to find the right kind of job for her. Yamiles began working in food preparation for a very busy restaurant.

One day on her way to work, she was struck by a car while crossing the street. This was a devastating experience and Yamiles' leg was injured. Her recovery required a specialist and Dawn was able to help her connect with the right care. Yamiles has since recovered, is back to work, and playing with her daughter Kimberly. "My Daughter is my everything," Yamiles explained. Kimberly is 3 years old now and loves everything at this stage in her life. She is learning new things and loves playing outside.

Sean McDonald
Sean McDonald

Sean McDonald

Sean McDonald loves to make people happy. He is always telling jokes and wants to make you laugh. Sean lives with cerebral palsy and is also an autistic savant. If you tell him your birthday, he can tell you what day of the week you were born! He is also an active consumer at Atlantic Center for Independent Living, Inc. You will find Sean at many of our support groups and activities.

Sean grew up a friend of Donald Campbell, ACIL's Director, and a few years ago they reconnected through social media. "Donald is awesome! I love talking to him, he is such a great friend. I work on issues with my anxiety and frustration. I've learned to focus on things I love to do like swinging on a swing and listening to music, it also helps just to talk things out with Donald."

Sean is happy to be a consumer of ACIL because it has opened up new ways for him to meet friends. "All of the peers I meet in the groups are awesome and the staff are super supportive and patient with me," Sean explained. "They never put me down, always make me feel welcome and treat me with respect."

Bill Thompson
Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson is an artist who creates beautifully detailed pencil drawings. His work focuses on a variety of subjects that catch his eye. When he began making art, he developed his skills in a variety of mediums.

Later he had to overcome an obstacle. After a stroke he was not able to use his dominant hand to create art any longer. Bill was challenged by a friend to start drawing again. He persevered and taught himself how to draw with his other hand. He draws on a weekly basis and has created many works.
Atlantic CIL has provided Bill with emotional support and help finding utility and rental assistance as he continues to pursue his goals while living with a
disability.

If you are interested in learning more about Bill's work, please contact him at (609)568-6862.

Pencil drawing of sailboats by Bill Thompson.
More of Bill's drawings.
Karen Aydelotte
Sun setting over the Smithville Village by photographer Angela Campanale.

Karen Aydelotte

Karen Aydelotte has been a consumer of ACIL for a number of years. "People have disabilities, sometimes you see them, sometimes you can't - mine you can't see," Karen explained. She grew up in a military family where it was important to show strength outwardly. Talking about her disability doesn't come naturally so it has been beneficial to have a supportive, understanding, and patient person to confide in. Dawn Padick, Karen's Independent Living Specialist, is that person. Dawn calls regularly and provides her with peer support that has been helpful especially through the pandemic. Feeling isolated and not having the technology communicate virtually led Karen to apply for Cares Act Assistance for a laptop. Having a laptop opened a whole new world for Karen to connect with others. She recently attended ACIL's Computer Basics activity is excited to be learning new skills.

​Karen loves nature and photography of our surrounding area. Fall is her favorite season, and she is excited for fall festivals like Octoberfest.

NJ Register Ready
Marisa Douglas - Peer Support Specialist - Atlantic Center for Independent Living - Holding Pamphlets

NJ Register Ready

NJ Register Ready was created to help people with disabilities in times of emergency.

The information provided through the registry is shared with emergency response agencies so that responders will be better equipped to serve registrants in the event of an emergency or evacuation in their area.

Kelly Boyd has been a supporter of Register Ready since its inception and now oversees the registry in her position as Access and Functional Needs Planner for the State of New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. To keep this registry current, emergency managers make calls to those who are registered and update information. However, in recent years, another layer of outreach has been utilized.

Centers For Independent Living have become crucial in keeping the registry updated. Kelly was connected with CIL directors through the NJ Statewide Independent Living Council. ACIL Director, Donald Campbell was instrumental in supporting this effort and was asked to share ACIL's best practices with other CIL's who are willing to help. "I am so grateful for the ACIL staff who have been trained to make these important calls and thrilled that it has been a beneficial partnership to connect people with additional resources," Kelly explained.

NJ Register Ready was created to help people with disabilities in times of emergency.

The information provided through the registry is shared with emergency response agencies so that responders will be better equipped to serve registrants in the event of an emergency or evacuation in their area.

Learn more about this program and register online here.
Need help registering? Dial 2-1-1

Julio and Jorge Madrid
Julio Madrid

Julio and Jorge Madrid

Julio and Jorge Madrid are brothers and consumers of Atlantic CIL. Jorge was looking for help to support Julio in his job search.

Together with their Independent Living Specialist, Marisa Douglas, they have been able to connect Julio with DVRS services.

DVRS stands for the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Any individual with a physical, mental, cognitive, or other form of disability who has a substantial impediment to employment may qualify for the following services through DVRS. Their mission is to enable eligible individuals with disabilities to achieve an employment outcome consistent with their strengths, priorities, needs, abilities, and capabilities.

Jorge explained, ``It feels good to have the support and knowledge about the steps we need to take to reach our goals." Julio has work experience in the casino industry working as a Porter for many years. His disability led him to take a break for

some time but he misses earning a living and is dedicated to getting back to work. In his spare time, Julio likes to watch movies, especially comedies and musicals. He also loves to sing and dance.

Matthew D'Annunzio
Matthew D'Annunzio in his new chair on the beach.

Matthew D'Annunzio

Dear Atlantic CIL,

On behalf of our son Matthew, we want to thank you for all of your efforts regarding Matthew's Cares Act grant application. Your guidance, encouragement, and support were crucial to the successful outcome of our request of his adult stroller being approved.

We do not have adequate words to describe how much this stroller is going to change Matthew's life for the better. Having access to the outside world will open up so much more of life for him. Please accept our heartfelt gratitude.

​Sincerely, Gina & William D'Annunzio

​​While it is not possible to meet Matthew in person, five years ago, Gina, Matt's Mom, wrote an article for a contest called, "All About Love," and the story is of Matt's birth and subsequent years. If you would like to virtually meet Mathew here is the link to his story: GH Article

Bryan Madriaga
Brian Madriaga in his Phillies shirt.

Bryan Madriaga

Bryan Madriaga​ lives with high functioning autism. When he began school, it was clear that Bryan excelled. He had wonderful grades, could read from an early age, and enjoyed participating in the school spelling bee. Although learning came naturally, the social environment was difficult to navigate.

Bryan was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and began working with his school's child study team and speech therapist. This was a good support system and his socialization skills improved. He went on to graduate from Holy Spirit High School and achieved his Associate Degree in Business Management from Atlantic Cape Community College.

As Bryan transitioned from school into adulthood, he needed to find a way to socialize and make friends. He joined a bowling league and developed his love for the game and camaraderie with his bowling teammates. He also found a job and enjoyed working.

​When the Covid-19 pandemic hit many things changed for Bryan. He was no longer working, and bowling was on hold. They found their connection with Atlantic CIL to be a great resource through the pandemic. "Dawn has been great, she checks in on us, informs us about ACIL's activities and even helped us get our vaccinations," Bryan's mom, Raylyn, explained. Bryan is currently working on a plan to find a new job and return to school to earn his bachelor's degree. He is looking forward to getting back to bowling too!

Ricky Luke
Ricky Luke with a red and gold tree in the background.

Ricky Luke

Ricky Luke and his husband David were referred to ACIL through Veterans Services. They were connected with Dawn Padick when they were in need of assistance getting handicap parking where they live. Navigating a system to break down a barrier challenge is never easy. Having an advocate like Dawn gave them the support they needed to make sure they secured their handicap parking.

Since then, Ricky and Dawn have worked together on numerus goals Ricky can rely on Dawn for advice, a listening ear, or even help composing a letter. Most recently, Dawn helped Ricky get his vaccine appointment made. "Dawn is the best!" Ricky exclaimed, "throughout the years ACIL has been a wonderful safety net."

Kathleen and Kelly

Kathleen Slevin is a dedicated Mother of a consumer of ACIL. Kathleen's daughter Kelly has a spinal cord injury. After receiving physical therapy and being moved into a long term nursing home, Kathleen questioned what would be her daughter's next move? Through a referral from Bacharach Rehabilitation, Kathleen was connected with Donald Campbell at ACIL.

Over the next year Kathleen would work hand in hand with Donald securing long term medical insurance for her daughter, advocating at nursing home meetings and getting a second opinion on medical advice that would lead to Kelly once again receiving the therapy she needs. Working with ACIL has provided Kathleen with the support system she needs to navigate her daughter's care. "Donald has helped me with everything, he is a wonderful person with such a heart," said Kathleen, "Kelly wants to be home living independently and we now see a path forward to make that happen."

Ronnie Polnerow

Ronnie Polnerow is a kind-hearted and creative consumer of Atlantic CIL. She grew up in a family that encouraged education and she became a science teacher with a passion for the arts. She loves crafts of all kinds and making gift baskets that she wraps in unique ways adorned with handmade bows. Ronnie also lives with a variety of physical disabilities. She endures chronic pain that can be overwhelming and distracting. Atlantic CIL has helped Ronnie stay focused on what she needs to accomplish to maintain her independence. Having an Independent Living Specialist to work with one on one has been vital to her sustained effort to reach her goals. Ronnie works with Jennifer Burke, ACIL's Outreach and Activities Specialist. They have worked on securing lifeline and emergency broadband services, rental assistance through the DCA and legal services. Ronnie explained, "I appreciate Jennifer's help, she goes the extra mile and doesn't give up. She is compassionate and stays of top of what we are working on until we get it done." Together they are looking forward to what they can accomplish in the new year.

Regina Brown

Regina Brown

Regina Brown was looking for resources for her daughter Jasmine when she was connected with Atlantic CIL through the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County. "Dawn is a wonderful person, she always reaches out to both of us. Jasmine has Autism and doesn't typically want to talk on the phone but she knows Dawn and always wants to talk to Dawn. She makes us feel relaxed and gives us the support we need."

Regina is a dog lover and when she sadly lost her German Shepard T-Bone in 2019 she wasn't sure if she was ready to find another. During the pandemic many people have felt isolated and lonely, Regina confided in Dawn and talked through the idea of getting a new dog.

​Regina and Jasmine welcomed Lo-Jack into their family in March of 2020. Jasmine had an instant connection with Lo-Jack and he provides them both with emotional support, friendship, and protection.

Kathleen Metskus
Patches and Garfield

Kathleen Metskus

Kathleen Metskus became a consumer of Atlantic CIL when she needed help figuring out a discrepancy over her rental assistance payments with her Landlord. Rental payments were being made automatically and unknown to her, the payments were short by a small amount each month. Late fees were adding up.
By the time her landlord brought the issue to her attention the fees were more than she was prepared to handle. Kathleen had questions, How could this happen? Was there a mistake made? Should she be responsible for late fees? Working with Atlantic CIL on this issue, she was able to answer these questions and get the issue resolved. "I was impressed with Donald's knowledge, he listened and advocated for me," Kathleen explained. Currently they are working on finding Kathleen a part time job and getting her cats Garfield, Patches, Sweet Pea and Onyx certified as emotional support animals.

Edwin Fisher

Edwin Fisher

Edwin Fisher grew up in a close-knit supportive family. They took family trips, were active in their church. Edwin loved playing basketball; his Dad was even his coach. As he got older and changed schools, he started meeting new friends and was exposed to a different lifestyle. "I started hanging with people who experimented with drugs, and this was not their fault, but before I knew it, I got caught up in it," Edwin explained.



Edwin would go on to live with substance use issues, mental, and emotional disabilities. His experience would be exacerbated by post-traumatic stress related to witnessing his Dad's passing. He had trouble staying in school, would experience homelessness and the revolving door of the justice system. Five years ago, Edwin decided to get clean. With the support of his Mom, he had a place to stay and together they were connected with Independent Living Specialist, Dawn Padick at Atlantic CIL.



"Meeting Dawn was a blessing, '' Edwin explained. She would provide much needed peer support, keep him accountable for making it to therapy and other appointments. One of their biggest revelations was finding out that Edwin was supposed to have received social security benefits after his dad's passing. The work it took, not only to uncover this mistake, and then correct it, required consistent pressure, and follow up. Eventually, Edwin received 13 years back pay. This was huge for Edwin and his Mom because they were able to buy a house.



Today Edwin is thriving. He describes, "Everything has changed for the better, life is hard enough without drugs and the trouble that comes along with that. I am back in contact with family who disowned me, I have their support and that means so much to me."

Arthur English-Ward

Arthur English-Ward

Arthur English-Ward was born and raised in South Jersey. He lives with a developmental disability but that has not held him back from achieving his goals. He had a positive experience growing up with a good support system throughout elementary, middle, and high school.

Arthur graduated from Absegami High School and went on to study culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University, College of Culinary Arts. He began working as a cook at Chickee and Pete's in Egg Harbor Township. His next goal was to transition into living independently. His mom came across a flyer about Atlantic CIL. He began participating in group activities and worked one on one with his Independent Living Specialist, Dawn. Together they began the search for housing. Arthur remembers the day he stood in line on a special application day to get into his apartment complex. "The line wrapped around the building, Ms. Dawn was most helpful making sure I had my documents ready, I got accepted and have been living on my own for 3 years now," he explained.

In his free time Arthur loves to spend time with his Nephew Jeff. They both like to play video games. He is also a proud member of Mainland Baptist Church and would like to give a shout out to them for being a second family throughout the years.

Becky McGill, PT

Becky McGill, PT

Becky McGill, PT, is the Spinal Cord Injury Program Coordinator at

Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in Galloway. She specializes in Spinal Cord Injury and runs a Spinal Cord Injury Support Group that meets Monthly. This group is based in South Jersey but is open to anyone. They are a trusted source for support, receiving referrals from the Christopher Reeves Foundation and United Spinal Association.

Atlantic CIL is proud know a dedicated and compassionate professional like Becky. For more information about the South Jersey

Spinal Cord Injury Support Group, you can email Becky at rmcgill@bacharach.org.