By Susan Johnson
C.J. Campbell is a Rockford resident with cerebral palsy who will be making a personal contribution Aug. 1 by walking from Rockford to Evanston for Over the Rainbow, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing housing and job opportunities for the disabled. It was started in 1974, and the organization opened its first apartment building, the Belden building, in 1982 in Chicago.
C.J. Campbell talked to The Rock River Times in a personal interview, explaining about the organization’s history and how it was started.
Campbell: Currently, they have five buildings, all in the Illinois area. The newest one is here in Rockford. It was established in 2009. One of the goals of Over the Rainbow is to fill a need that isn’t being met by state and local governments. There are over 1.6 million adults between the ages of 18-64 that are disabled, confined to a wheelchair. Here in Illinois, I believe the waiting list is between two to five years long for accessible housing.
TRRT: How long have you been affiliated with Over the Rainbow?
Campbell: I moved in the first week of April 2011. The qualifications depend on your dependence range. If you are severely disabled and need long-term care, they cannot work with you. It is subsidized through HUD. For me personally, I really don’t need any assistance. One of my biggest issues that I run into is simply transportation. As far as being a Rockford resident, the bus system isn’t a very feasible option for me, and even using Paratransit, it’s out of my price range.
One of the biggest needs of Rockford is a better busing system. For me, being disabled and getting on the normal bus is possible for me. The problem is getting to the stops. Paratransit does door-to-door service, which is essential in the winter when it snows; however, Paratransit is $3 one way, and you have to set up your ride sometimes two weeks in advance. Usually, it’s a 24-hour notice. But I have a lot of meetings. If someone wants to meet with me at the Restoration Café on North Rockton within the next two hours, Paratransit isn’t an option. Most likely, I can’t really set up a time to get to a bus stop, so I have to call a friend or a relative and hope they can help.
Wednesday, Aug. 1, is the date I will be walking, barring a severe storm. I am planning to walk in the rain if I have to. I will be walking 7 miles a day. My friend, Eddie Yancey of Machesney Park, is going to drive a truck a mile up the path, and I will walk to it. He will be walking with me, and every mile I will stop and rest. Also, I will be using both my crutches and my wheelchair during the walk.
TRRT: How can people donate to Over the Rainbow?
Campbell: People have been donating funds. I have raised about $500 so far. They can give online at otrassn.org. After the “org/donate-now,” they can review the donation and put in special instructions, such as “C.J. Campbell.” I don’t really care if they do that or not because all the money is going to Over the Rainbow. If you do that [instruction], don’t put in my name, it’s still going to Over the Rainbow. That’s all I care about. What I want people to know is not just that we support Over the Rainbow, but be mindful of people with disabilities. The deeper story is, there is a larger story that we can all get involved in rejecting apathy and trying to make changes, whether in your personal life or your community.
C.J. Campbell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Aug. 1-7, 2012, issue