TRIPL announces merger with Erie disabilities organization

Brad Hundt

Transitional Paths to Independent Living (TRPIL), the Washington-based social service agency, announced Thursday it will be merging with the Erie organization Voices for Independence.

Both agencies provide services to people with disabilities. It is anticipated the merger will become effective in January, and when that happens, TRPIL will shed its name and go under the moniker Voices for Independence.

Kathleen Kleinmann, the retiring chief executive officer of TRPIL, said the two organizations will have reduced overhead as a result of the merger.

“It will be more efficient and cost-effective,” she said. All told, the combined organization will serve 27 counties in the western part of the commonwealth.

The union will occur at about the same time the first phase of renovation is completed at the organization’s new facility at 42 W. Maiden St. in Washington. The 90-year-old, former YWCA building will be the local headquarters for Voices for Independence, while its main office will be in Erie. Shona Eakin, currently the CEO for Voices for Independence, will fulfill that role for the combined organization.

Eakin said the refurbished building has a “tremendous future.”

“The space will enable us to have all kinds of activities,” Eakin said. “There can be group activities and all those kinds of things.”

The merged organizations will maintain or expand existing staffing levels, and increase programming options and services. Planning for the merger has been happening for about two years. Eakin also said it’s harder for small, independent nonprofits to sustain themselves in the current health care environment.

TRPIL and Voices for Independence will be “much stronger” when they combine, Eakin said.

Kleinmann will take on a consulting role during the merger of TRIPL and Voices for Independence. Both organizations are dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities receive assistance and training in independent living, help them find a place in the workforce and also assist in areas like home modifications.