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The unified mission of Wispact and the Wispact Foundation is to improve the quality of lives of persons with disabilities in Wisconsin.

Foundation Newsletter – February 2022

A Wispact Beneficiary, Mike’s Story

Although many think of Wispact as a non-profit that manages special needs trusts, we are continually reminded that we come to work every day to improve the lives of people with disabilities. It’s the individual stories of the people we serve that motivate, challenge and ultimately reward us for what we do.

 “Everybody with a disability has a unique situation and a lot of people need a place like Wispact.”

To add a voice to the people we serve, we thought we’d share a recent interview with one of our beneficiaries, Mike.

While on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Mike inherited some assets from a close family member. Retaining his SSI was not only important financially, Mike also reported that the regular income helped him feel more secure.

According to Mike, “It’s not like [the inheritance] made me rich or anything but being able to put that money away and still stay on disability was very important to me. I would highly recommend looking into
Wispact. . .it’s one of the best, if not the best, options.”

Aside from providing ongoing SSI benefits, the creation of a Wispact special needs trust also helps assure that the resources available to the beneficiary are used to provide them more choices, more opportunities and a better quality of life.

“Everybody’s different and everybody has a different individual path. But especially when you’re dealing with mental health and having a lot of money at your disposal, at least more than you need, is not always the best thing. Everybody with a disability has a unique situation and a lot of people need a place like Wispact that prevents people from taking advantage of them,” Mike said.

“My time with Wispact may be coming to a close because I started working again a few years ago and I’m making enough money and felt comfortable getting off of disability. But I just got laid off during the pandemic. It’s always something, especially if you struggle with a disability. But with Wispact there’s that security and it’s something worth having,” Mike concluded.

Wispact is continuing to support Mike on his journey.

Attorney Feature, Angela Canellos

In each issue of this newsletter we will feature an attorney and share their experience and relationship with Wispact. If you’d like to be featured, or know an attorney we should feature, please reach out to us.

This issue we have the distinct pleasure of interviewing Angela Canellos, Angela Canellos Law, Wauwatosa, WI., a two-time board member and one of several attorneys who helped create Wispact which has served those with disabilities in Wisconsin for nearly 20 years.

“It’s a rather amazing law that Congress passed to help people with disabilities; there’s no limit on what you can put in the trust, so you can put a lot of money in there and still stay on welfare,”

Angela graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1975 and started her career at the U.W. Law School as the assistant dean. She then took a position at Legal Action of Wisconsin which kicked off her extensive career in public benefits. After starting a private practice in 1983, she began getting referrals for special needs, Medicaid, Social Security and nursing home issues.

“It was the federal Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA ‘93) that created the exemption allowing people to get Medicaid if they put their assets into a trust. The requirement is that at their death the remaining assets in the trust need to be used to repay the state for the Medicaid benefits the person received. However, if the assets are transferred to the retained fund no repayment is required.

“Not all states allow this 100% retention. It is something that we successfully argued for and is allowed by federal law. It’s a rather amazing law that Congress passed to help people with disabilities; there’s no limit on what you can put in the trust, so you can put a lot of money in there and still stay on welfare,” Canellos said.

The pooled trust, which contains a retained fund, was the vital part of the OBRA ’93 law, it allows people to enhance their lifestyle because public benefits are important but may not be sufficient. For example, some people require 24-hour care that isn’t paid for by Medicaid and they need the extra money in the trust for proper care.

Shortly after the passage of OBRA ‘93, Canellos and a group of dedicated attorneys embarked on creating a statewide trust. “We wanted it to be something that every lawyer could tie into even those who weren’t experts in this area,” Canellos added.

The team’s first responsibility was to establish a board. One priority was to assure a diverse range of people with disabilities were served thus a cross-section of service groups was consulted. A non-profit structure was created because under federal law, the trust had to be managed by a non-profit organization.

“For inspiration we looked at every trust nationwide including special needs, pooled, etc. I think we put together a great structure. We didn’t rush it. Because we were literally a Wisconsin Pooled and Community Trust — the name Wispact was created,” Canellos said.

“Wispact is unique in a couple of ways. One is they will pay attorney fees out of the retained fund. Wispact was the only one that was doing that, and that really helps people who don’t have much money. Secondly, Wispact has a trained staff who has a deep understanding of public benefits.”

Wispact has come a long way in our nearly 40 year history, and according to Canellos, “Everybody who goes into a Wispact trust could use extra help, anything that is put into it can be used to help them have a better lifestyle, either medically or socially. It’s a great benefit to people with disabilities.

Looking at Wispact today, Canellos said, “I think it’s the best it’s ever been. They’re responsive and good to work with. Yeah, I think they’re in a good place. I like how it’s evolved.”

It’s with deep respect that we acknowledge Angela and all the other dedicated people who have helped create and evolve Wispact into what it is today.

Interested in Learning More

Want to learn more or would you like us to present to a group? We’re always happy to share our story (live or online) and help others benefit from Wispact special needs trusts. Contact James Giese, Director of Outreach, Phone: 608.268.6006 ext 209, 

Wispact Inc., Foundation: Legacy Grant Recipient Profile – The Ability Center

To enhance the lives of people with disabilities across Wisconsin, in 2021 the Wispact Foundation awarded Legacy Grants totaling $168,098 to 22 non-profit organizations.

We’re proud to profile one of our grant winners, The Ability Center, Wauwatosa, WI. The Mission of The Ability Center (TAC) is to provide people impacted by disABILITIES with a daily opportunity to be fit, active, healthy and to play. From adaptive ice skating at Red Arrow Park, to making Bradford Beach the most accessible in America. From hosting inclusive adaptive open gyms and wheelchair basketball programs to inclusive education in schools, TAC is expanding opportunities to recreate in a “different pair of shoes” throughout greater Milwaukee.

 ” It’s a partnership as good as Mac & Cheese”

This $5,000 grant provided by the Wispact Foundation will help support The Ability Center’s Adaptive Open Gym Program. TAC: Open Gym program began in 2015, and in June of 2021, TAC introduced Open Gym in the Outdoors, following fifteen months of program suspensions due to the Pandemic. TAC: Open Gym in the Outdoors uses an outdoor basketball court provided by our partner, Wauwatosa Recreation. Depending on the distance to the TAC: Open Gym Location, equipment and site fee expenses, the total cost for an Open Gym is between $1,000-1,500. The Legacy Grant provided by Wispact Foundation would help pay for up to 5 Open Gym events per year.

The goals of our Open Gym program include:

  • Introduce adaptive sports to the community in an inclusive, non-competitive, friendly
  • Provide a welcoming, comfortable and inclusive environment for people with disabilities to play together with their family and friends.
  • Create a fun-filled evening of activities and games for friends, families, peers and/or
    colleagues to play in a “Different Pair of Shoes.”

“We couldn’t be more grateful for the support of the Wispact Foundation, this grant will enable us to add an additional location and partner, which means more friends and families of ALL abilities will be able to play together. It’s a partnership as good as Mac & Cheese, said Damian Buchman, Founder, Executive Director, & Adaptive Athlete himself.

In summary, The Ability Center makes it possible for everyBODY to play TOGETHER and complements Wispact’s mission and we are honored to help support this impactful organization.

About Wispact
Wispact’s mission is to improve the lives of people of all ages with disabilities across Wisconsin through the management of special needs trusts to provide more choice, more opportunities, and a better quality of life.

Our special needs trusts are created to help preserve the assets of people with disabilities without endangering their eligibility for public benefits or placement on waiting lists.

About the Wispact Foundation
The Wispact Inc. Foundation was established in 2021 in recognition of its dedication to provide a broader scope of service and create more opportunities for improving the lives of persons with disabilities across Wisconsin.

As an agency endowment fund established by Wispact Inc. and managed by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the organization endeavors to make lasting community impacts through grants to organizations that serve persons with disabilities.

Phone 608-268-6006
Toll Free 833-653-6503
Fax 608-252-8449
Toll Free Fax 855-588-2200

Editor’s Note: You are receiving this email because you have expressed an interest in Wispact news and getting information about the Wispact Foundation and grant opportunities – if you do not want to receive please “unsubscribe” in the link in the email or contact James Giese, Director of Outreach, Phone: 608.268.6006 ext 209,