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Author: Kala Wiederholt

Life Unlimited Announces Merger with MERIL, Strengthening Support for Individuals with Disabilities in Northwest Missouri

Contact: Emily Morgan

Life Unlimited and MERIL started working together a year ago to enhance the services provided to people with disabilities throughout Northwest Missouri. Today, we are thrilled to announce the next step in this partnership: the merger of Life Unlimited with MERIL.

This merger represents a monumental leap forward for both organizations, with the shared goal of enhancing services, providing better benefits and pay to employees, and introducing new much-needed services to our communities. Importantly, there will be no disruption to the services currently provided by MERIL.

Founded on the principle of collaboration to offer better support and services to people living with disabilities, Life Unlimited embodies this spirit through the merger with MERIL, aiming to amplify impact and extend reach in the communities served.

The organizations forming Life Unlimited include Immacolata Manor in Liberty, Mo., Concerned Care in North Kansas City, Mo., Open Options in Kansas City, Mo., and as of April 2024, MERIL in St. Joseph and Northwest Mo.

“We are incredibly excited about this merger and are committed to ensuring a smooth transition for everyone involved,” said Julie Edlund, CEO of Life Unlimited. “MERIL’s dedication and hard work have been instrumental in bringing us to this point, and we have no doubt that together with MERIL, we will have an even greater impact on the lives of individuals living with disabilities in our communities.”

About Life Unlimited, Inc.

Life Unlimited is a leading organization dedicated to supporting individuals with disabilities in Kansas City. Committed to advocacy, empowerment, and inclusion, Life Unlimited provides a range of services to support individuals in achieving their goals and living independently.

About MERIL

MERIL (Midland Empire Resources for Independent Living) is a renowned organization serving individuals with disabilities in St. Joseph, Maryville, and Northwest Missouri. Through innovative programs and community partnerships, MERIL strives to empower individuals, enhance their quality of life, and foster inclusivity and independence.

In Memory of Holly Hampton

Before joining Life Unlimited, Holly utilized day services through another disability service provider. However, after a life-saving surgery to treat a large intestine blockage, she was deemed too medically fragile to return to that program. Her case manager introduced her family to Life Unlimited’s My Day program as an alternative, and it ended up being a great fit for Holly and her family. Holly started attending My Day on her 28th birthday in November of 2018.

Ginger French, Holly’s mother said, “This was a real blessing for us.  Michael and I were more at ease with the staff at My Day and Holly sure took a liking to her main care provider, Kathy Cooper. Kathy was very attentive to Holly, talking to her and making her laugh often.”

Holly’s favorite activities included watching NASCAR races, Judge Judy, Thomas the Train, and Star Trek Voyager, and her favorite person to spend time with was her mother, of course!  She was able to attend a few NASCAR races at the Kansas Speedway, but was more content to watch the races on TV where she could hear the commentators better. 

Holly accumulated a small collection of autographs of NASCAR drivers that were proudly displayed on her bedroom wall. She met Kurt Busch and had her picture taken with Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, and Justin Allgier. Friends and family got her autographs of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Chase Elliott. From 2018 to 2020 she almost exclusively wore only NASCAR t-shirts to the My Day program.  

Holly had a black cat that she nicknamed Nonnie that she loved. He would lay on Holly’s bed next to her while she watched TV and slept, and would occasionally scratch her if she pet him too much. From Christmas of 2020 on, Holly wore almost exclusively cat shirts to the My Day program. Her favorites were the ones that had pictures of Nonnie on them.  

Because Holly also loved Thomas the Train, she had numerous train layouts she played with over the years. Holly would page through her Thomas storybook collection until she found just the story she wanted to hear, and loved to watch her mother act out the Thomas the Train stories on her railroad while she read the stories. 

Holly passed away in March, 2022, but her family remains in touch with Life Unlimited and we feel honored to have known her and helped care for her. Holly made a lasting impact on our My Day program and we are proud to share her story.

Emily Morgan

Emily Morgan, who has been serving as our Major Gifts Director, has been promoted to our Vice President of External Relations and will now lead our fundraising, legislative advocacy, and public relations initiatives. Previously, Emily was the Director of Advancement at Liberty Hospital Foundation and was responsible for spearheading a multimillion-dollar capital campaign for the Hospital’s Hospitality House, and campus renovations. Before her work with the Foundation, starting in 2007, she was a consultant for a variety of non-profit organizations, helping clients maximize funding opportunities to build meaningful programs positively impacting their communities. Her commitment to non-profit and community involvement is evident through her volunteer work with the FIRE Foundation and her local parish. In her spare time, Emily and her husband Sam, enjoy trying to keep up with their 9 year old, Jack, 7 year old, Pauly, and (everyone’s current favorite) 1 year old Cecelia. She stays active chasing around the kiddos and teaching at the local Y. Come take a 5am class next time you’re up early . . . she’ll save a spot for you!

Laura Hale

Laura Hale joined Life Unlimited in February of 2023, assuming the role of Vice President of Quality Assurance. Before joining LU, she worked at Cerner Corporation as the Vice President of Client Success, where she oversaw the management of the company’s Top 25 clients, focusing on enhancing client satisfaction and retention. With over 28 years of experience in the IT industry, Laura’s expertise spans from hands-on operations and support to IT operations and client success. Throughout her career, she has held various executive positions, excelling in developing and leading high-performing teams to achieve shared goals. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Laura is a devoted wellness enthusiast. She has pursued further education and holds certifications as a Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner, Reiki Master, and Yoga teacher. Outside of work, Laura cherishes spending time with her two children, Ava and Chuck, on their small farm. She actively supports her children’s interests in dance and sports, nurturing their passions along the way.

Mallorie Crane

Mallorie Crane, Vice President of Health Services, is a decade long Registered Nurse who has not only been driven to make an impact in the fast-paced environment of the Emergency Department but has also extended her influence and knowledge through teaching and leadership roles. Most recently she came from University Health Truman Medical Center but has worked at eight area hospitals. She has a passion for delivering exceptional patient care and strives to inspire those around her to do the same by providing the tools and support necessary. She is dedicated to continuous learning and is nearly finished with her master’s degree in nursing. At home she is busy with her husband, Eddie, and four step kids: Wyatt (16), Chloe (14), Wynfield (12), and Elias (8). The Crane’s also have four lively pets including two Maine Coon cats. She enjoys traveling to Scotland (second home), running half marathons, and maintaining her photography business on the side.

Christy McGuire

Christy McGuire began her journey with Life Unlimited in 2020, initially taking on the role of Director of Employment Services. Christy was promoted to the position of Vice President of Community Programs in 2022.  Starting in September 2023 she will continue in that role where she oversees our employment programs but will also begin to work with our partner organization, MERIL, to expand programs in the St. Joe community. Dedicating nearly two decades of experience in providing support to individuals with disabilities, Christy’s commitment to this field began at the age of 17 when she started her career as a Direct Support Professional. It was during this time that she realized her true calling lay in serving the disability community. As her career evolved, Christy played a pivotal role in the expansion and enhancement of programs focusing on Employment and residential services with a few different agencies in the Kansas City and St. Joseph area. Christy is not only dedicated to her professional pursuits but also is a wife and mother. She enjoys hiking and traveling with her husband, Erik, and their two children, Jackson and Maggie. Their furry family member, Henry the dog, adds an extra layer of joy to their lives. Deeply intertwined with the St. Joseph community, Christy finds fulfillment in her involvement by volunteering with several local organizations. She is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to introduce Life Unlimited’s innovative approach to disability services to her community, striving to make a meaningful difference.

Andrea Black

Originally from Manhattan, KS, Andrea Black, our Vice President of Day Services, is a proud member of a military family, roots that have deeply influenced and shaped her values. She attended Washburn University in Topeka, KS, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Service, with a focused emphasis on Developmental Disabilities. Spending 15 years with the Big Lakes Developmental Center, Andrea’s commitment to her profession was unwavering. She then took the role of Executive Director at Rescare in Parsons, KS, a position she held for 4 years. Throughout her career, her expertise has spanned across multiple states like Oklahoma, Ohio, and Texas. Her most recent role brought her to Kansas as the Regional Director for GoodLife Innovation, where she served Johnson, Douglas, and Wyandotte counties. A year ago, Andrea embarked on a new chapter, relocating to the Northland with her husband and three sons, the youngest being 6 years old. Thrilled to join LU, Andrea, armed with over two decades of experience, steps into Julie Turley’s shoes with enthusiasm. She is steadfast in her goals: to empower individuals, foster their pursuit of dignity and respect while helping them achieve their aspirations.

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