In 2012, Pralid, or People Rebuilding and Living in Dignity, merged with the Epilepsy Foundation of Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton. It was then that the real growth began, said President and CEO Jeff Sinsebox, who had joined Pralid in 2005.
“Things have been exploding,” Sinsebox said. “I was running a relatively small nonprofit and it’s gradually been getting bigger. My job keeps morphing.”
It is that growth and morphing that has given the nonprofit a reason to rebrand to Empowering People’s Independence, or EPI. But while the initials remain the same, the new name better describes what the agency does in the community.
“It helps if you’re looking for something on the epilepsy side. People can easily find us,” Sinsebox said of the Epilepsy-Pralid moniker. “But for developmental disabilities or brain injury or for some of the other services we provide, our name didn’t make a lot of sense. We were so busy growing we didn’t have time to address the name.”
The pandemic gave the organization the perfect excuse to sit down and decide how it would tell the world who it was and what it did.
Pralid was founded to serve individuals with brain injury and also served those with developmental disabilities. The Epilepsy Foundation, an agency that was a bit smaller than Pralid, was founded around serving people with epilepsy, but brain injury and developmental disabilities were added later on.
The Epilepsy Foundation in 2011 found itself struggling following a management change, and it was then that Pralid stepped in to partner with the organization. The two nonprofits discovered that their approach and styles were similar, and the partnership would be one of equals.
“In services we have group homes and day programs and we have a lot of community-based services,” Sinsebox said. “The approach and style of how we provide service is to really listen to what an individual wants. What are they looking for in life? And then we help tailor a customized solution to meet those objectives for people.”
He said you learn a couple of things using that approach.
“What you learn is while the brick and mortar are completely necessary and needed for some people, they’re expensive. And people that participate heavily in those options, it’s really hard to address individual choice,” Sinsebox explained. “If you’ve got 50 or 100 people in a day program, how do you say to every one of them, what do you want to do today with the limited resources? But if you’re serving an individual in a community-based setting, you’re really letting them write the script of how they get the service.”
And that makes people both happier and healthier, he said.
“What we’ve been doing as an agency over the past seven or eight years since we merged is trying to find new and more and different creative ways of custom tailoring services and supports to meet people’s needs,” Sinsebox said. “So we’re moving away from the brick and mortar — although we still operate them — and we’re moving into self-directed services.”
For its rebranding and website relaunch, EPI used the services of Forward Branding and Mason Digital.
“We liked having those initials, EPI, but we played with all these different names, went through a really involved process and came up with the name of Empowering People’s Independence,” Sinsebox recalled. “It’s a name that tells you who we are and what we do and our approach to service. And it’s true whether we’re serving a person that has epilepsy or a brain injury or a developmental disability. It gives people an idea of what they might be in for when they connect with us.”
In addition to the rebranding, EPI will be consolidating its two Rochester offices into one office on the Al Sigl Community of Agencies property at 1650 South Ave. The organization also plans to refresh its mission and vision statements this year and just kicked off a strategic planning process.
“We’ve taken an opportunity in this pandemic where it’s hard to aggressively grow and reach those needs to rethink how we want to tell the world who we are,” Sinsebox said.
In addition to the new umbrella name, EPI’s epilepsy services are now under the auspices of the Epilepsy Alliance of West Central New York. EPI was a founding member of the Epilepsy Alliance of America — Sinsebox serves as board chairman of the alliance — so EPI’s epilepsy services will be branded under that.
“There are some really great services we provide there,” Sinsebox said. “We have an overnight camp for kids with epilepsy that we have neurologists and nurses from University of Rochester Medicine stay there overnight.”
The camp is one of eight in the country and the only one in New York state where a child with epilepsy can stay at summer camp.
Though funding and sustainability have been very real issues during COVID-19, Sinsebox said that the agency has kept its head above water because it is a fairly autonomous, nimble organization.
“We’ve been kind of a secret,” Sinsebox said. “We’re not a well-known entity to most people in this town and I think it’s time for us to become a little more known.”
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