DAWN Center for Independent Living, Inc. is a grassroots, consumer-driven and consumer-controlled nonprofit organization promoting self-direction in order to create, expand, and implement equal-access opportunities by and for people with disabilities. DAWN is one of 11 Centers for Independent Living (CILs) in NJ emerging from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and one of nearly 500 CILs nationwide. The CILs emerged as a result of the Independent Living Movement and the Civil Rights and Disability Rights Movements of the late 1960s/early 1970s under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. They were established to advance the Independent Living Philosophy by changing attitudes and beliefs which perpetuate dependence. DAWN has been in operation since 1997 and currently serves over 3,000 people a year.
DAWN is a spin-off organization of DIAL, Inc. (Disabled, Information, Awareness, and Living). In 1989, DIAL secured permanent funding from the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (NJDVRS) to establish DIAL Northwest. In the summer of 1996, the consumers of DIAL Northwest in Morris, Sussex and Warren counties came to feel their localities’ suburban and rural needs were not being adequately addressed by a large organization serving a primarily urban area. Through strong advocacy efforts of the consumers and approval by the Board of Directors of DIAL, Inc., the NJ Statewide Independent Living Council, NJDVRS, and the Rehabilitation Services Administration, a new Center for Independent Living was formed to support their specific needs. In December of 1996, DAWN was incorporated and in June of 1997, DAWN received its 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service. On October 1, 1997, DAWN officially opened its doors and began serving people with disabilities, their families, and the community-at-large. In 2005, the Board of Directors strategically voted to change the agency name from Disabled Advocates Working for Northwest, Inc. to DAWN Center for Independent Living, Inc. A formal name change was approved by the State of New Jersey in October of 2005.
Over time, DAWN, in partnership with the NJ Statewide Independent Living Council (NJSILC) and the NJ Association of CILs (NJACIL), identified the need for additional resources to effectively serve the more rural Sussex and Warren counties. In 2010, through a competitive bid process, DAWN secured funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to establish a new branch office. Services provided through the new branch office are now funded under a contract with the Rehabilitative Services Administration (RSA) and are provided in an office in Hackettstown, located on the border of Warren and Sussex counties. This physical separation has provided DAWN with the opportunity to maximize resources through this contract and increase its volume of services specific to each of the counties it serves.
DAWN’s comprehensive services are a critical part of the support network that enables people with disabilities residing in Morris, Sussex, and Warren counties to live independently in their communities. DAWN partners with the Morris County and Warren County Departments of Human Services, the United Way of Northern NJ, and statewide with the Departments of Human Services and Health, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Education – Office of Special Education Services, the Division of Developmental Disabilities, and at the federal level, with the Rehabilitation Services and Social Security Administrations, as well as other collaborators. Among similar organizations serving Morris, Warren and Sussex counties, only DAWN serves individuals will all types of disabilities and addresses entire lifespan needs.