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SCIL nonprofit changes name amid brand confusion

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Southwest Center for Independent Living changed its name in an effort to remedy confusion surrounding its branding.

Shannon Porter, CEO of the disability advocacy nonprofit, said the organization is now doing business as empower: abilities.

“We usually start conversations communicating what we aren’t,” she said.

Porter said the words “independent living” have become confused with assisted living centers and others using similar language.

“We don’t provide housing. We are a disability resource center,” she said. “We wanted to come up with a name that evoked something in people. The word ‘empowerment’ is a very strong word.”

Porter added when the nonprofit started going by SCIL five years ago, nonprofit officials “really weren’t as successful as we would have liked to have been” at delineating the organization’s mission.

Southwest Center for Independent Living is still the official name of the organization for tax purposes. Empower: abilities was registered as a fictitious active organization late last month with the Missouri secretary of state.

The switch to empower: abilities was made quietly over the past couple of weeks, with the state filing and social media changes, Porter said. It will more publicly go live on Valentine’s Day, when the nonprofit is running a fundraiser delivering cupcakes and champagne.

Porter became the permanent CEO of empower: abilities in September, after she held the role in an interim capacity for six months. She succeeded Emilio Vela, who exited the nonprofit after two years to move back to Washington, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Empower: abilities recently ranked 15th on SBJ’s list of the area’s largest charitable nonprofits. The organization reported 48 employees — the ranking criteria on the list — and a 2019 operating budget of $8.2 million. The organization was founded in 1985.


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