West Suburban Access News Association, a nonprofit in Oak Park that’s an information hub for people with disabilities, is again working with Chicago department store icon Carson Pirie Scott to raise money.

“We participated in Community Day last November and it turned out to be one of our biggest fundraising events. So we want to keep it up,” says Joel Sheffel, WSANA executive director, referring to a store promotion coming on Feb. 27.

At $5 each, Sheffel is selling booklets with Carson Pirie Scott coupons that can be used that Saturday for savings throughout the store. Each booklet includes one coupon for a $10 savings on a regularly priced or sale item of $10 or more, six coupons for 20 percent savings, and one Early Bird coupon for 30 percent savings on an item from 7 to 10 a.m. that day.

Sheffel said he hopes to sell at least 75 coupon booklets. WSANA keeps all the proceeds from sales of the coupon books.

The coupons will be valid at all Carson Pirie Scott stores only on Feb. 27, but Sheffel says the Norridge store, at Harlem Avenue and Irving Park Road, is offering related chances to save the week before. At that store, says Sheffel, customers who have bought a coupon booklet can put items aside Feb. 21-27 and pick them up Feb. 27 to March 1 with the savings applied.

Sheffel and his supporters will be at the Norridge store on Wednesday, Feb. 3, and Saturday, Feb. 13, selling booklets.

A community resource

WSANA, a go-to source for government and social service agency information for people with disabilities, provides an extensive range of literature and support throughout its Web site and Sheffel’s face-to-face community outreach.

“I started this organization with no experience, and people always tell me it’s a wonderful thing I’m doing,” says Sheffel. “But I always like to turn the coin and say, ‘Look at all the information that’s out there, that hasn’t been put out.'”

Sheffel, an Oak Parker who is 65, created WSANA in 2001 after leaving a nursing home he lived in for a year and a half. He had suffered from illnesses such as rheumatic fever and spinal meningitis as a child, as well as severe epilepsy in the 1990s. In 1997, with his seizures happening as frequently as 10 times a day, Sheffel entered the nursing home.

As he returned to the mainstream world, he was shocked, he says, at how little information was available for people with disabilities to either live independently or to reintegrate into a community.

“I had no idea where to go for help or what to do,” he says.

Sheffel began compiled information, sharing it through newsletters initially and, within two years, a Web site.

He says that more than 182,000 people have visited WSANA’s Web site since its launch in 2003. The site directs people to more than 550 pieces of information, from laws related to disabilities to listings of service providers for people with disabilities.

“I had no idea it was going to grow to where it is now. I just kept adding information,” Sheffel said. “I’ve been completely surprised by our ability to establish ourselves with other organizations who serve people with disabilities and gaining their respect and willingness to work with us.”

In November, Sheffel was awarded the Advocate of the Year Award by the Progress Center for Independent Living in Forest Park.

In Oak Park, he’s worked with village government to raise awareness about the needs of people with disabilities and he’s now training members of the police department in sensitivities to understand when responding to calls from people with disabilities.

“I do think we hold a special place in the community, because the work we’ve done has been amazing,” Sheffel says. “But the work is not done. Not at all.”

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