KFI is committed to assisting individuals with disabilities to exercise their choices resulting in growth and personal independence. We will assist each person to become productive and involved in the community in a way that satisfies and enriches both the individual and the community. The personal supports which make this possible will be provided in the most integrated, efficient, compassionate and least intrusive manner available.
KFI is an acronym for Katahdin Friends, Incorporated. Our original services and buildings were located in northern Penobscot County in the shadow of magnificent Mt. Katahdin. The agency has undergone a number of name changes throughout the years and is now most well-known by simply its initials, KFI.
Founded over 50 years ago as a school for the area’s children with intellectual disabilities, KFI has changed and expanded to become a regional provider of services to people with disabilities, recognized and awarded for excellence. Forty years ago the emphasis was keeping those with severe disabilities out of institutions; now the effort is in helping people with disabilities become active members of their communities, to live, work and socialize where and how other members of the community do. The transition has been a startling and even revolutionary shift of attitude and service delivery.
The first 20 years of KFI’s history concentrated on centralized services – transporting people to buildings owned by the organization. KFI’s experience over the last thirty years, however, goes in exactly the opposite direction – moving our services discretely into the community in which people with disabilities live. This dual approach – providing services in the community instead of in buildings and moving to people’s home community – means our job becomes less visible. For instance we now help people find work at a local business rather than provide work in a sheltered workshop, we help people live in their own apartments and homes rather than operating group homes and we assist people to use typical community resources and locations rather than duplicate those services ourselves or offer them only for people with disabilities.
KFI continues to offer citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities a full range of services including job development, supported and customized employment, community life engagement, and supported living. Today, the administrative offices for the agency are located in Millinocket, with branch offices in Lincoln, Bangor, and Portland. Our employment services continue to meet with great success through the placement of adults with a wide range of disabilities into community jobs throughout Penobscot county. And for people who once would have faced a bleak future in an institution or group home, they are moving into homes of their own – including home ownership.
The founders of KFI had the vision and knowledge that people with disabilities were also people with abilities. Their dreams for their own sons, daughters, and fellow citizens helped shape the lives of those served by KFI today.
Services to people with disabilities have undergone many changes also. From the early days of segregated schools that sheltered and protected to the current philosophy that calls for community participation and inclusion, KFI has kept pace with the trends – and as evidenced by our 1999 national “Full Community Inclusion Award” and 2008 national “Community Builder Award” – led the way with innovative services for people with disabilities in Maine.