Meet the Staff

Larry Wanger
Executive DirectorLarry
Larry Wanger began working with the Arizona Statewide Independent living Council (AZSILC) in September of 2013 and is the Executive Director of the organization. Under his leadership, the AZSILC seeks to promote the Independent Living philosophy across the state, develops, monitors and provides reports on the State Plan for Independent Living, and works in partnership with other organizations on a variety of projects and initiatives.

Larry began his work in Independent Living in 1997 with Disability Advocates, the center for independent living in Grand Rapids Michigan where he served as Business Services Coordinator for the organization. In this role, Larry provided information to individuals and businesses related to employment for persons who have disabilities, advocated for improved public transportation and worked closely with the local office of Michigan Rehabilitation Services. He was promoted to Program Director of the Center in 2000, a position he held until 2004. As Program Director he provided leadership and support for a number of the Center’s programs and worked closely with the Center’s Executive Director on a number of initiatives.

After moving to the Valley, Larry served as the Program Manager of Employment Services with the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living, a position he held for nine years. Larry was responsible for the day-to-day supervision of employment programs designed to help people who have disabilities to return to work and transition away from public benefits. These programs included the Ticket to Work, Benefit Offset National Demonstration Project (BOND), and services for individuals who have disabilities and were receiving TANF benefits.

Outside of work, Larry enjoys travel, reading, running and watching both hockey and baseball. He has a life-long visual impairment but will tell you his only limitation or challenge is the environment around him that often lacks accessibility and universal design.


Melissa Ann Santora
Director of Administration and Youth Initiatives 

Melissa
Melissa Ann Santora is presently the Director of Administration at Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council, and Coordinator of Arizona Youth Leadership Forum (AZYLF) for Students and Transitioning Young Adults Who Have Disabilities. Melissa’s human service career began in 1990, when she was blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime to work at a group home for adults who have developmental disabilities. This position crystalized her calling, and became the catalyst for opportunities to serve people who have disabilities of all ages, in additional residential, vocational, educational, and recreational settings.

For a decade, Melissa served as the Founding Executive Director of Same Difference Inclusive Theatre Company, a disabilities awareness, advocacy, and empowerment troupe that performed in Montana, Texas, New York, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona, and in Canada. Melissa’s career also includes positions in corrections, addiction treatment, child protection, early intervention, child and family education, medical case management, strategic planning and results oriented meeting facilitation, domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy, rural services development, poverty alleviation, housing, and Veteran’s services.

Although Melissa has lived in the West throughout her adulthood, she is a native New Yorker, who continues to appreciate growing up in an Italian neighborhood, surrounded by rolling hills, autumn leaves, and the sun and swim of Lake Ontario. Melissa is the proud parent of two amazing adult children, an adorable grandson, and claims about a dozen other youth who call her “MamaLissa,” their “otha motha.” Melissa loves people, cooking, sports, entertaining, writing, Africa, and the 1980’s.


Sara Joehnk
Disability Integration Specialist

staff photo

Sara Joehnk is the most recent addition to the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council team. Having to balance a chronic autoimmune condition with regular work and family life, Sara feels a deep empathy to the unique and individual struggles faced by the disabled community. As a hobby, she has developed skills in website design and marketing that she got to apply as the Logistical Manager at Arizona Advocacy Network and before that as an intern with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Outside of work, Sara enjoys living in Chandler with her husband, a cat, and three dogs.

Sara is an Arizona native and she graduated from Arizona State University in political science. With her experience in nonprofit management, she strives to bridge the divide between the elected officials and their constituents. She volunteers on the board of Somos America, an immigrant rights organization and she founded an issue-based advocacy nonprofit called People Demanding Action Arizona. Civic engagement is a life-long passion, and she is looking most forward to work with the AZSILC’s Community Leadership Academy.

 

Mission Statement

The mission of AZSILC is to promote the equality, inclusion, and choice for people with disabilities through collaboration and public policy change.

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Contact AZSILC:

AZSILC
PO Box 46354
Phoenix AZ 85063
602-262-2900
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