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Impacting Columbia, One Individual at a Time

Impact Support Services Experimenting In Classroom

If you haven’t heard much about Alternative Community Training (ACT) lately, that may be because you missed the organization’s big news. As of November 1, 2023, ACT is Impact Support Services — a rebrand that better reflects its role in providing a variety of services to individuals with disabilities in Columbia.

Impact Support Services was Missouri’s first provider of independent living services more than three decades ago. Even though there are now thousands of ISL providers in the state, Impact Support Services is still an industry leader. In fact, the Viewpoint project, which produces award-winning documentaries designed to inspire and educate, is producing a series about Impact Support Services and the work it does. Actor and host Dennis Quaid will tell Impact Support Services’ story far and wide when the documentary begins airing on public television partner stations this spring.

“We have always put individuals first, so we’ve never actively taken part in traditional marketing or promotion,” says Don Lafferty, executive director. “With the name change, our upcoming fiftieth anniversary, our expanding services, and all of the opportunities we’ve made available to our community, we are being more vocal about shining a light on our services. Every aspect of your life can and should include everyone regardless of ability. We actively make that a reality.”

The organization’s rebranding grew out of a strategic plan shepherded by Lafferty when he took over as executive director. The organization’s mission and its name needed to catch up and reflect its broadened scope of services.

“The services available to individuals utilizing Impact Support Services reflect everyday life,” Lafferty says. “We provide five essential services, including day services, youth services, career services, residential services, and in-home family services. Our mission is to connect people to meaningful experiences to live the life of their choosing.”

“Choice” is also an integral part of how the organization operates. 

“The individuals we serve tell us the services they want, when they want it, and where,” Lafferty says. “Our 225 staff don’t decide where to go for an outing. The individuals we serve make that choice and our team makes it happen.”

Heather McGee, director of marketing and development, says “connection” is another reason the organization embraces its new brand.

“We want to connect with more families, more people who want to live independently, more employers who have career opportunities to fill, and more of our expanding community,” McGee says. “That’s what it’s all about — creating an inclusive community where everyone belongs, participates, and is valued.”

More Resources to Respond to Growing Needs

Impact Support Services is funded by a combination of state and federal tax dollars, individuals’ Social Security Disability benefits, and some Vocational Rehabilitation and Boone County funding. It also receives grants from a variety of organizations partnering in its work, and donations from individuals, families, and businesses, via its website or through CoMoGives. Donations help pay for a long list of items, including assistive medical equipment, day trips, going to the movies or out to eat, eyeglasses, dental work, coats, work uniforms, transportation, and a lot more. Impact Support Services is focusing on growing donations to help the organization purchase much-needed housing that will help individuals maintain their independence. 

“There’s a big need for affordable and accessible housing in Columbia,” Lafferty says. “The individuals using our residential services often have to find long-term roommates to help pay the rent for a living space that’s clean and in good repair. There is such a need for housing that we’re committed to finding property, purchasing it, and making it accessible.”

A new brand, a YouTube channel, a commitment to quality affordable housing, and a documentary in production aren’t the only changes on the horizon. In early spring 2024, Impact Support Services’s management team and career services will move to 14,000 square feet of space currently under renovation at 1605 Chapel Hill Road. Day and youth services will remain in their current location at 2200 Burlington, opening up space to serve even more individuals. 

As the number of those it serves grows, so does Impact Support Services’s need for more employees who are passionate about working with individuals with disabilities. Its staff delivers tens of thousands of hours of service every year. And other Columbia businesses seeking employees should take note: In the last five years, Impact Support Services has connected individuals with employment opportunities in more than 125 companies as part of its career services. The organization is always on the lookout for more individuals seeking employment and for more businesses seeking great employees. 

Something to Celebrate

In September 2025, Impact Support Services will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. The organization has grown tremendously throughout its history, but its primary focus has remained constant. 

“We want to be a strong, local, vocal proponent for individuals with disabilities,” Lafferty says. “We want to educate others about the value of including individuals with disabilities in their lives.”

Impact Support Services
1605 Chapel Hill Road (as of spring 2024)

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