A place for people with disabilities, and their buddies

Nonprofit leader works to create ‘inclusion center’

BRATTLEBORO — Residents may have a new place to gather, thanks to the work of several committed community members.

Julie Tamler, founder of Brattleboro Center for People with Disabilities, a recently established nonprofit, hopes to create what she's calling “an inclusion center,” a safe and accessible environment for all members of the community.

Tamler says she sees the space as a drop-in center for those with and without disabilities to gather, take classes, and host community events.

In the next few months, the group aims to find a steady space, secure grants and build out staff, and collaborate with fellow community members.

Tamler has also spoken with Brattleboro's Gibson-Aiken Center about hosting classes there later this year.

The Brattleboro Center for People with Disabilities brings together 30 people representing the community at large, social service providers, and those with disabilities - or those supporting friends and family with disabilities.

According to Tamler, meetings are held twice monthly, with one meeting featuring an ASL interpreter. Notes are posted online on the group's personal Google group account for the benefit of those who aren't able to attend either meeting.

At recent meetings, participants discussed what they'd like to see such an inclusion center provide: “The idea of the center is that it is participant-led,” Tamler explained, adding that participants' vision for the group drives the possibilities for the space.

Of interest so far: adding skills and job training, offering accessible sports, from wheelchair soccer to wheelchair basketball, and providing “just a space to sit around and tell jokes,” Tamler said.

Forging connections

Tamler added that her goal has been to collaborate with other area nonprofits to extend the center's reach.

Promisingly, she's connected with Cassandra Holloway, a graduate student in Marlboro College's managing mission-driven organizations program, whose capstone project involves exploring the feasibility of a community resource center for local agencies and nonprofits in Brattleboro.

She's also connected with Jim Nicholson, coordinator of Brattleboro's annual “Buddy Walk,” who says he's impressed with the Brattleboro Center for People with Disabilities' ambitions - and is able to offer some immediate help.

Buddy Walk (, a day-long event featuring a mile-long walk through Brattleboro's downtown, also offers games, music, raffle prizes, and local vendors, and seeks to promote awareness of Down syndrome. Each Buddy Walk serves as a fundraiser for nonprofits working on awareness issues.

This year's Buddy Walk, set for Oct. 5, is directing all its proceeds towards helping fund the center. The funds will be used at the center's discretion.

Nicholson said the reminder of proceeds from last year's Buddy Walk supported securing nonprofit status for the Brattleboro Center for People With Disabilities. Helping fund Tamler's center remains a natural fit for his group, Nicholson said.

Nicholson said he believes that Tamler's center could take the goal of awareness “a step further” by providing a place for education and collaboration.

Tamler said she represents so many who are grateful for the Buddy Walk's support, and said whatever money she receives from the fundraiser will go toward a plan to secure a permanent space in Brattleboro and hire full-time staff.

At the same time, Holloway has spent the past six months fleshing out an idea for a community resource center for those within the social services realm. She said she plans to develop a feasibility study and business plan and include other “community creators” in this vision between September and December as part of her capstone project.

She met Tamler earlier this year. The two quickly realized they could join forces: Holloway supports Tamler's vision of creating an inclusive center around disability, especially one that could provide space for community events and education.

“[Tamler's] group is farther ahead in its vision,” said Holloway, and added that she's looking forward to staying in touch for the benefit of both projects.

Holloway included both Tamler and Nicholson in her first bi-monthly Community Center Creators meeting, held July 8.

Holloway envisions her resource center as a way for nonprofits with compatible visions to share office space, resources, and ideas on development, promotions, communication, and collaboration - and dramatically help the people and causes depending on them to land vital resources.

Collaboration and an interest in expanding the target population of each nonprofit are integral to an effective community resource center, Holloway said.

Looking ahead, Nicholson shares a sense of enthusiasm about Holloway's project. “The key is to maintain momentum. I'm pretty hopeful the ingredients are there,” he said.

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