In 1997 W. Kirt Toombs met with his advisor, Mary Lou Breslin, at the University of San Francisco to present his planned master’s dissertation. Toombs presented his plan for developing a center for independent living to promote the independent living philosophy in rural Eastern Oregon. After a long discussion of the pros and cons of this endeavor, he finally obtained Breslin's approval. She gave him the name of EOCIL’s first advisor, Lynnae Ruttledge, in Oregon. Toombs met with Ruttledge, and she recommended that EOCIL contact Tina Treasure, executive director of SPOKES, Inc., in Klamath Falls, Ore. Treasure mentored Toombs as he detailed his plan.
Over the next two years Toombs worked diligently with community members to form a board of directors, develop the company's policies and procedures, and develop and enhance community partnerships. At the same time EOCIL cultivated relationships with Oregon’s State Independent Living Council and the existing centers for independent living in Oregon.
EOCIL obtained its first grant from the Blanche Fischer Foundation for equipment in 1999 and began providing direct services in January 2000. The Toombs family provided initial operational funding by taking a mortgage on their family home in Idaho and cashing out a retirement account. EOCIL received its first grant from the Oregon Statewide Independent Living Council in 2000.
In 2000, EOCIL obtained office space with Malheur County Volunteer Services and moved into its own downtown office space in 2001. In 2003, EOCIL developed a relationship with the Murata family, a prominent farming family, which resulted in the family donating office space to the center in Ontario’s medical district.
EOCIL began providing direct services in 2000 to 10 Eastern Oregon counties. With only one office and one staff member located in Ontario, staff would travel throughout the service area to provide services. This made for long days: leaving the Ontario office at 5 a.m.; meeting with clients located in the service area furthest away from the Ontario office — Boardman; more appointments in each county served by EOCIL; returning to Ontario around 3 a.m. This exhausting pattern continued until funding was obtained to open a satellite office in Pendleton and hire staff.
EOCIL currently serves 13 counties and maintains three offices: a corporate office in Ontario, Ore., and satellite offices in Pendleton and The Dalles. The center employs 15 persons.