Carlos began to work at LIFTT as Executive Director in October 2019. Before joining LIFTT he worked as an attorney and consultant, as well as a pastor. Carlos has been living in Billings, Montana since April 2006.
In addition to working at LIFTT, Carlos is part of the Montana Statewide Independent Living Council – MTSILC, the National Association of SILCS – NASILCS, and the Montana Association of Centers for Independent Living – MTCIL. His job is to overview the operations of LIFTT, compliance with state and federal policies, manage the grants, develop a resource plan and lead LIFTT’s team.
It is important to say that Carlos deals with several disabilities and is aware of what it means to live independently despite the difficulties posed by them.
Marilyn Gone is originally from the Fort Belknap reservation in North Central Montana. She grew up in the tiny town of Hays and attended St. Paul’s Mission School and boarding schools in Oklahoma and South Dakota, eventually graduating from Harlem High School, Harlem, Montana. After marrying and having two children, she attended MSU-Bozeman, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology with options in both Social Work and Social Justice. She spent many years working in the human services field in a variety of positions in both Montana and California.
After a period of retirement, Marilyn came to work at LIFTT as the front desk receptionist and has been at LIFTT for the past ten years. She has always enjoyed working with and advocating for people. Her role at LIFTT fits perfectly with her interests.
Marilyn is active in the Billings native community, participating in cultural activities and events throughout the year. She is also the representative of LIFTT in the ongoing planning and organizing to develop the Elk River Intertribal Center, which will be a multi-faceted community resource and cultural center for the Billings community.
Marilyn enjoys spending time with her family. Her three adult children and three of her grandchildren also live in Billings. She also has a very large extended family at Fort Belknap and enjoys going home to participate in cultural events and ceremonies.
Self Direct Personal Care Assistant Program
Freda joined the LIFTT office in October of 2003 as an Administrative Assistant and Medicaid Billing Specialist. She is now the PCA and IL Department supervisor and a member of the LIFTT Admin team. She is responsible for auditing, supervising staff, and ensuring that LIFTT consumers receive services that are custom-tailored to their situation.
Freda, a third generation Montanan, is a descendant of an early 1900s Montana pioneer family. Her grandparents homesteaded in Stillwater County in 1916. Her great-grand uncle founded the town of Rollins on Flathead Lake.
Freda is originally from the Yellowstone Valley but has lived all over the Treasure State, with most of her youth spent in Roundup, Livingston, and Butte. She returned to Billings in the spring of 1989. Freda is a graduate of Billings Skyview High School’s Class of 1991.
In her spare time, Freda enjoys barbecues with family, gardening, camping lakeside at Newlan Creek Reservoir, and online gaming with family and friends.
Lanette Brown joined LIFTT in 2008. Lanette brought a wide range of skills to her job as a PCA Program Facilitator. From her roots as a farm girl in Kansas to her medical and clerical education at Walla Walla University in Washington, and her 7 years as a foster parent, Lanette is well-versed in what it takes to provide care for others. When Lanette and her husband married in 1982, she came home with him to Montana to live on his family’s land in Bridger and has loved Montana ever since. She enjoys church, camping, crafts, cooking, and traveling. Lanette enjoys spending time with her husband and family, which includes a son who is serving in the Marine Corps, a beloved daughter-in-law, and 2 wonderful granddaughters.
Valerie is a Montana Native. She has had the opportunity to experience different employment opportunities in Wyoming, Eastern Montana, and New Mexico before returning home to Billings in 2014. Valerie has been at LIFTT for over a year working in the community first choice self-direct personal assistance program, helping consumers to remain in their home with assistance from a caregiver who provides them help with activities of daily living.
Valerie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation from Eastern Montana College (now MSU-Billings). Her career has been working with the developmental disability population across early intervention to aging and long-term care. Her emphasis has been providing person-centered services.
Valerie spends her free time hanging out with family and friends. A few things she enjoys include watching movies, game nights, travel, and taking day trips.
Kasey was born in Billings, Montana, and has resided in the suburbs of the Billings area since birth. She has recently joined LIFTT as a PCA Clerical Assistant and part-time receptionist, and she is very excited about the new opportunities working here. Kasey is a graduate of Laurel High School and is currently enrolled in classes for Veterinary Technician Certification. In the past, Kasey has worked with animals and has discovered she has a real passion for it and hopes this certification will result in an enriching lifelong career. When her face isn’t in books for class, Kasey appreciates a fun adventure, jumping at any chance to get out and explore the Treasure State with her fur babies.
Independent Living Program
Steve moved to Billings from the Midwest in 2002 and joined LIFTT in November 2009. He has worked as an Independent Living Specialist, and in other roles for short stretches. Since then he has officially retired from the ILS position in August of 2020 but still works at LIFTT as a Data Management/Quality Control Coordinator. This new position is a part-time one, so he considers himself basically semi-retired.
Steve graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa with a degree in Political Science. He worked for 23 ½ years at the Principal Financial Group then moved to the mountains of Montana. He enjoys trips to the mountains, watching his girlfriend’s grandkids play their various sports, playing golf, and working in the yard.
Steve is a grandfather to 6 which includes twins that were born near the end of 2020. He also looks forward to visiting with his own grandkids whenever he can get away for a few days.
Larry was originally born in Colorado but has been in the Billings area since he was 6, he has since been in Laurel for the last 20 years and considers this place his home. He is a retread with LIFTT having worked with them for in the past for 11 years and recently came back to us at the end of 2020. He has been working as an information and referral specialist but his experience brings a wealth of knowledge and familiarity to the table.
Larry has attended many training seminars over the years, and having dealt with physical disabilities his whole life, makes him well-versed in home modification and accessibility.
In his downtime, when he isn’t enjoying his time with his wife and two dogs, Larry tries to read as much as he can and is currently engaged in a series by Stewart Wood. But when football comes around, you best believe he is rooting for his Denver Broncos.
Jed has been with LIFTT since 2010 and is the Communication and Government Affairs Specialist. As a person with a couple of different disabilities, he finds it very rewarding to use his vast knowledge of history, journalism, government, politics, and the law to help our consumers achieve their personal goals, as well as work with colleagues across the state and nation as a disability community to achieve social and political change.
With a B.A. in History with a minor in Political Science from MSUB, Jed realized he had a knack for legislation and a passion for reporting and writing. So much so that during his time at MSUB he joined and was part of the editorial staff of the school paper, The Retort. In 2006 he was also a part of a state senator’s campaign.
Being a fan of athletics led Jed to work as a sports reporter for the Sidney Herald. Jed always enjoyed watching baseball, football, hockey, and golf, and this opportunity gave him the chance to combine two of his passions. In fact, he even enjoys hitting the links up when he gets a chance and taking his bike out when the weather permits.
Considered somewhat of an expert trivia player, Jed participated in College Bowl all five years he was at MSUB, and was on three teams that won the Northwest Regionals and earned a trip to the national finals. He has taken the online Jeopardy test several times, but so far has only gotten as far as an in-person audition in San Francisco a few years ago – as they used to say about the Brooklyn Dodgers “There is always next year!”.
Jen has lived in Eastern Montana most of her life. She has been with LIFTT for over a year and previously worked for LIFTT 10 years ago for a short time. Jen works in the Glendive office as an Independent Living Specialist, assisting people with disabilities to live as independently as possible.
Jen has over 20 years of experience working with a wide variety of people in a diverse setting. Jen has been immersed in the communities all over the east side of the Treasure State, through a variety of positions that she has worked. Jen is outgoing and not afraid to engage people to learn about resources that are available. She processes that info and breaks it down, so that she can help navigate consumers through the yellow tape, allowing them to become their own advocates.
When Jen is not at the office or traveling for LIFTT, she enjoys spending time with her husband, kids, family, and friends along with her 4 dogs.
My name is Tonnette Jensen, I was born and reared in Washington State. When I was 18, I felt like I needed to be elsewhere, and that is when I decided to make a big move to Eastern Montana. I have been a part of the LIFTT team for almost two years, and I am excited to be a part of the constant improvements and changes of LIFTT as well as the amazing team we have here. I love challenges and problem-solving. I hope to be able to assist you in getting to where you want to be in life!
Coming to LIFTT, I bring the knowledge of being a strong advocate for myself and others. Working with people who have disabilities has made me want to see change, address the tough issues, and provide a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one. When I hear the word “disability” I think of something beautiful, and strong, I want to help people with disabilities think that way about themself.
During my free time, I like to hang out with my husband as well as my three dogs and three cats at home. Nothing beats watching “Golden Girls” while being with the people and animals I love.
Tanya did most of her growing up in Wyoming, and moved to Billings in 2007. She has been working at LIFTT for over seven years. Tanya is the Assistant Peer Coordinator, which entails supporting and advocating for peer mentors through skills training and confidence-building to empower them to live successfully in the community.
Tanya attended college in Sheridan and comes to LIFTT with life experience in living and working independently, with visual impairment since birth.
When Tanya isn’t working she enjoys international travel, going to movies, and don’t get her started on descripted audio. Tanya also enjoys a good laugh with her friends but will never admit to the shenanigans.
My name is Tricia Cutright and I have been at LIFTT as a Peer Mentor since 2019. Peer mentors provide education, recreation, and support opportunities to individuals. The peer mentor may challenge the mentee with new ideas and encourage the mentee to move beyond the most comfortable things. Most peer mentors are picked for their sensibility, confidence, social skills, and reliability. Currently, I am training with Larry Ketchem to become an Independent Living (IL) specialist. He is blind and I am his reader.
I am a person with invisible disabilities. I have PTSD, Bipolar Disorder 1, and Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar type. These disabilities are challenging because most people do not understand Mental Health disabilities. I decided to share this information with you on this blog to encourage those who deal with invisible disabilities and let them know that we can live independently. I hope with my work through LIFTT and Mental Health Advocacy I can bring awareness to this issue.
Because of my disabilities, I became involved in the Butte-Silver Bow Mental Health Local Advisory Council in 2016. I was a part of the committee that worked with Montana’s Peer Network to bring the Certified Peer support pilot program to work with Butte’s police department and Mental Health providers.
I moved back to Billings in 2018 and contacted the local Mental Health Advisory Board to continue my involvement with Mental Health Advocacy. I met the board chair who happened to work at LIFTT. He got to know me and interviewed me for the Peer Mentor program. I have been involved with the council now known as the Yellowstone County Behavioral Health Local Advisory Council and LIFTT ever since.
I have an extensive background in Computers, and I hope to someday complete my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I only need 5 classes to finish but funding is currently my roadblock. While I am not able at this time to work in the demanding field of technology, I am able to use the skills that I learned in previous work experience to help support staff at LIFTT. I love helping people and making their life easier.
I crochet hats for the homeless and paint pictures for my own enjoyment.
I would encourage anyone with a disability across our service area who wants to help people to please consider becoming a Peer Mentor at LIFTT and we will be able to work together for the advancement of the independent living cause.