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Social Workers in the Ozarks: Kristi Dieleman Empowers People with Disabilities

This month is Social Work Awareness month. It’s a time to focus on the work done by social workers across the country. As the first part in our three part series, KSMU’s Brittany Donnellan features one woman who helps people with disabilities find their voice.

The Southwest Center for Independent Living is an advocacy and resource center for people with disabilities. Kristi Dieleman is a case manager at the center and empowers her clients to make their own life choices.

[Kristi being paged over the intercom]

Dieleman answers a client’s phone call regarding the Attendant Care Program, a service that she’s passionate about.  The program is offered by the Southwest Center for Independent Living. Through the program, Dieleman works with clients who have disabilities to make choices about who to help them perform daily tasks, like bathing, shopping or cooking.

Dieleman has worked at the center for twelve years and is enthusiastic about her career.

“I really like helping people. I think that pretty much everybody likes helping people but I’m fortunate enough to get to do it all the time,” Dieleman said.

SHe says her job is rewarding because she gets to see her clients’ progress.

“Social work is a great thing because you get to help people achieve their goals and be able to live independently in the community if they choose to, or just whatever they need. It’s really a great profession,” Dieleman said.


As she types out an email to one of her clients, she says she likes to stay in contact with them and build relationships.

Jason Eimer was one of Dieleman’s first clients in the Attendant Care Program, and has known her for nearly twelve years. He has cerebral palsy. He says that Dieleman has had a huge impact on his life.

“She’s a very positive influence. She’s more like, since I’ve known her for so long, she’s like a little sister to me that I never had. We communicate rather well and she knows about my needs and my concerns,” Eimer said.

Dieleman says she believes being a social worker is important for everyone in the community.

“All of us need to succeed. We just need those resources and someone to help work them through it. And it betters all of us to make sure that happens for people,” Dieleman said.

She’s been working here for 12 years, helping people in the Ozarks achieve goals, find a job, balance a checkbook and to live as fully as they possibly can.

For KSMU News, I’m Brittany Donnellan.