The story of how WCIL got its start is well-worth telling.
The year was 1976. The place, Los Angeles, where a little band of driven, eager friends-all with disabilities-got together and with dogged determination swore to start an independent living center on the west side and did they move. The state Department of Rehabilitation started them off with a grant of $90,000 which required $10,000 in matching funds. Elated, the group leased storefront offices at National and Barrington. E. Sherman Clarke, a blind quadriplegic doctoral candidate at UCLA was selected as executive director.
Less than a year later E. Sherman Clarke had died and the leased office was destroyed by fire. To survive, they had to raise $10,000 to receive the $90,000 DR grant. By the end of 1976, WCIL had a new executive Director, Douglas A. Martin, and a board of directors who went straight to work. They quickly held a meeting with invited guests to discuss the enormous block facing this small but gutsy little nonprofit.
Helen Levin was one of the guests and soon after mailed a check for $10,000 to WCIL and, in essence, gave WCIL to the Westside, where for the first time, people with disabilities served people with disabilities-peer to peer.
In 1977, WCIL and its volunteer force moved into the refurbished National and Barrington offices. When the space could no longer accommodate staff, members and volunteers, Helen Levin, her husband Jack, with longtime friends, corporate entities, and the City of Los Angeles donated the building and funds to create the perfect accessible structure which remains our comfortable home today at the corner of Beethoven Street and Venice Boulevard. Known as the Phillips Levin Building it proudly carries the name of our greatest benefactors.
Today WCIL is never without members of all ages, people using chairs, canes, walkers, who are blind, Deaf, and have any disability you name come every weekday to WCIL for services and programs designed for people with disabilities.