SAUK RAPIDS -- Local nonprofit Independent Lifestyles is making sure individuals with disabilities aren’t short on essential items during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization, located in Sauk Rapids, is assembling and delivering care packages to individuals with physical or developmental disabilities throughout central Minnesota.

Shawn Reagan, Marketing and Development Manager, says Independent Lifestyles received $120,000 from the CARES Act to fund the care package effort.

“So, that’s sort of where the idea came from,” Reagan said. “We have a number of different areas we want to use the funding to help people, but the main one we wanted was something tangible that can help them today, providing them with things they definitely need.”

Reagan says the packages are assembled on the first floor of Independent Lifestyles' Sauk Rapids headquarters. Packages are put together in an assembly line by socially-distanced and masked volunteers. Each package contains around 25 essential household or personal hygiene items, Reagan says.

“We’ve been working with Costco for a lot of the supplies,” Reagan said. “We have staff picking up pallets-worth of products like laundry soap, garbage bags, hand soap, things like that. The items that we haven’t been able to get through Costco, or things we can’t find in bulk anywhere, like toilet paper, staff members have been sourcing out in the community.”

A core component of Independent Lifestyles’ mission is supporting individuals with disabilities who are living on their own. Reagan says the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a variety of social and financial complications.

“A lot of our programs are focused on independent living,” Reagan said. “Our Independent Living program is mainly people who, without our assistance, would not be living on their own. There have always been people who were a half-step away from difficulties with their independence, and now they are more socially isolated than ever and experiencing a lot of day-to-day difficulties.”

The first round of about 300 care packages went out earlier in May. Reagan says the next round, set to be delivered this week, will include many of the same items, with an added focus on individual needs of each recipient.

Reagan says they’re always in need of donated items or help tracking down hard-to-find supplies like toilet paper, tissues and masks, or volunteers to put packages together. To learn more, call Independent Lifestyles at 320-529-9000.

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