They call themselves the quiet company.
“We provide no services within buildings. Everything is customized for the individual,” said Gail Fanjoy, the executive director of KFI.
The non-profit was founded in the 1960’s as a private school for kids with intellectual disabilities, who at that time weren’t welcome in public schools.
“Beginning in the 1980’s, we began tearing it all down in favor of people working in jobs in the community at minimum wage, or better. People living and owning their own homes, and not living in anything that we hold the lease to, or that we own,” said Fanjoy.
With offices in Millinocket, Lincoln, Bangor, and Southern Maine, they are setting standards that aren’t the norm across the country, where the majority of people with intelectual and developmental disabilities are put in group homes and not expected to have jobs of their own.
Barbara Cyr is the vice president of operations at KFI. For her, it’s not just a job.
“I may not have understood the possibilities and the choices that a person can have and the way that they can live their life,” said Cyr.
KFI has given her daughter the life Cyr believes she was destined to have.
“Working for this organization has been wonderful because I have been able to watch my daughter from a young age grow up to an adult and see all the possibilities for her. Courtney is a 21-year-old woman who actually is having an awesome life. And the reason that her life is going so wonderful is because she has all the right supports around her, and people have really gotten to know Courtney and know the things that make her life fulfilling,” said Cyr.
She has a round the clock staff that doesn’t make decisions for her, but helps guide her life. She’s a home-owner and is now one of Millinocket’s newest business owners.
“Since she was a toddler, she has been obsessed with putting things in other things,” said Fanjoy.
Through KFI’s discovery process, they took that skill and her love for food and decided that Courtney would run a great vending machine business. With a big donation from a community member, everything came together.
“I never, ever had a doubt about Courtney. I think that she’s such a trailblazer for other people and that makes me proud for the part we’ve played in that accomplishment,” said Fanjoy.