People First Chapters
Self-Advocates across the state are organizing to learn and practice advocacy, serve our communities, and have some fun! Click here to find your local People First chapter.
Click here for information on advocacy, how to organize a chapter and run a meeting, self-determination, inclusion, person-centered planning, advisor training, and PFN documents and self-advocacy products.
Our annual convention is legendary! Click here for information about our next convention and pictures from past conventions.
People First of Nebraska Elects New Officers
Four new officers were elected in 2021 to the People First of Nebraska State Board of Directors.
Renee Harp was elected President. Renee previously served as the Vice President of PFN for 4 years. She has been a member of People First of Grand Island for 7 years and a member of Strong Americans before that. She has participated in Special Olympics bowling, basketball, and track. She works at a day care center and loves the toddlers. She attended the Self Advocates Becoming Empowered conference in Birmingham, Alabama, the SACK conference in Kansas, and many other self-advocacy training workshops. Renee will serve a 3-year term.
Jennifer James, from People First of Lincoln, was elected Vice President. She has been a member of People First for 5 years and works at the Statewide Independent Living Council as a receptionist and clerk. Jennifer serves on the Executive Board of the Arc of Nebraska, as the President of the Aktion Club in Lincoln, and was a PFN Policy Specialist in 2019. She also attended the Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered conference in Birmingham, Alabama and the SOAR regional self-advocacy conference in Missouri. Jennifer will serve as Vice President for one year to complete the term left open by Renee Harp.
Erin Phillips was elected as Sargent-At-Arms. She has been a member of People First of Lincoln for 5 years. She is also a member of Aktion Club, 4-H, and Special Olympics. Erin served as the PFN Disability Policy specialist in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Erin testified on legislation in front of Senate committees and attended the national Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, DC. She has worked at the Southeast Community Program, the Journal Star, Hy-Vee, and at Super Saver for the last 11 years. Erin will serve a 3-year term.
Marty Wheeler, from People First of Grand Island, was elected Treasurer. He has been a member of People First for 8 years. He lives independently and has worked at Super Saver and Skaggs Grocery for more than 30 years. He is a member of the Arc of Central Nebraska and participates in Special Olympics. He is also a member and Officer of the Elks Lodge of Grand Island. Marty also represented PFN at the national Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, DC. Marty will serve a 3-year term.
Elections will be held at the 2022 People First of Nebraska Convention for Vice President and Secretary. Anyone who has been a People First member for at least a year can be nominated. Nominations are due on Thursday, September 1, 2022. For more information about the duties of officers and our elections, go to our Officers & Elections page.
Disability Champions Awarded at PFN 2021 Convention
The People First of Nebraska Service Awards recognize individuals and chapters that have made exceptional contributions to our organization in the last year. Here are the 2021 Award winners from our annual convention:
Ray Loomis Self-Advocate of the Year
Pam Balderston, People First of Grand Island
Professional of the Year
Jan Zurcher, People First of Columbus
and the Arc of Platte County
Shirley Dean Chapter of the Year
People First of Norfolk
Sharon Howes Volunteer of the Year
Carolynne LaFrenz, People First of Grand Island
Is there someone you would like to nominate for a People First of Nebraska Service Award?
Nominations are due by Tursday, September 1, 2022
Click Here for more information and to submit a nomination on-line or via e-mail.
Nebraska Disability Advocacy Network:
People First of Nebraska is part of the Nebraska Disability Advocacy Network. This group of disability organizations and agencies is developing on-line training and events. Check out the videos of recent Zoom events on our YouTube Channel "Nebraskans with Disabilities" and subscribe so you don't miss new videos.
T o be added to our contact list for upcoming events, e-mail the network at NebraskansWithDisabilities@gmail.com
T o be added to our contact list for upcoming events, e-mail the network at NebraskansWithDisabilities@gmail.com
Disability Policy Specialists Bring the Voices of People With Disabilities to Elected Officials
For the legislative year, people with disabilities are working as Disability Policy Specialists at our state capitol and in Washington DC. People First members and other people with disabilities are paid to get training and mentoring to become effective disability policy advocates. Specialists learn the following:
- How to analyze laws and legislation
- Understanding the Legislative process
- How to develop relationships with lawmakers
- How to collaborate with other organizations with shared interests
- How to prepare and deliver testimony
- How to mentor others with disabilities to advocate for themselves
Collaboration Makes it Happen! The success of this program lies in the strong partnerships between several disability organizations in Nebraska: People First of Nebraska provides financial support for 2 Disability Policy Specialists from the ranks of their membership, including mileage. This funding is made possible through a grant from the Nebraska Developmental Disabilities Council. People First of Nebraska also selects priority legislation for the legislative session.
Nebraska LEND provides FTE of their Training Director and Self-Advocate Faculty to coordinate the program and supervise the trainees. A sub-contract with Disability Rights Nebraska provides supervision and funding for 2 additional Disability Policy Specialists, both of whom are college students with disabilities. Additional mentoring is provided by the Executive Directors of The Arc of Nebraska and the Nebraska Statewide Independent Living Council. These agencies also provide in-kind office space for the trainees.
My Home Is Where My Heart Lives
Policy Advocacy In Action: A Disability Policy Specialist and a People First of Nebraska member attended the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. for the first time and spoke with an aide to Congressman Fortenberry and Senators Fisher and Sasse about voting rights and employment barriers for people with disabilities. Disability Policy Specialist were invited speakers at the 2019 Women’s March on a very cold day in Lincoln, Nebraska. They spoke impromptu about physical barriers encountered by people with disabilities when they were faced with inaccessible steps to the speaker’s podium. They also educated the march about the penalties people with disabilities experience if they choose to marry. DPS successfully educated senators about the need for children two have two hearing aides if needed, not just the one covered by insurance.
Long Distance Policy Advocacy: In 2020, PFN chose a DPS from Scottsbluff, Nebraska, about 450 miles west of our state capitol. She participated in training activities via video conference and occasional trips to the state capitol and is producing videos and social media to show individuals with disabilities and their families how to be effective policy advocates no matter where they live.
How Can YOU become a Disability Policy Advocate? People First begins recruiting for the next year's Disability Policy Specialists every fall. Work starts in December, before the legislative session begins. Any person with a disability is qualified to apply. This is a contract position that pays $12.50 per hour and lasts the length of the legislative session (4-6 months). You do NOT have to live in Lincoln to be a DPS! Funding is available pay for transportation/telecommunting. For more information, e-mail Kellie Ellerbusch or call 402-559-4892 or e-mail Mary Angus .
2nd Annual PF of Beatrice Mini-Conference Draws Bigger Crowd, New Presenters
People First of Beatrice hosted it's Second Annual Mini-Conference on May 5, 2018. Attendees from several PFN chapters and the Beatrice area heard presentations on telling their stories, using the public library, dressing for success, the history of Cinco DeMayo, following your interests, and talking to policymakers. Later in the afternoon, attendees enjoyed fun networking activities and a dance.
Check out this great newspaper article from the Beatrice Daily Sun about the event
"Beatrice Police Officer Anthony Chisano was on hand with police dog Toro to give a glimpse into a K-9 Unit in law enforcement. Much to the delight of Toro, the presentation was followed by getting to be pet by all attendees.
'Our main goal of this is for all of our people that are here to learn more about how to speak up for themselves and become more independent,' said Donna Meyers who worked to organize the event. 'But we also want them to have fun.'
Mary Kosch came to the People First Mini-Convention from Columbus, traveling down with a group of six other members. She said her favorite parts were learning more about libraries and meeting Toro. 'You always learn something every time,' Kosch said. 'My husband and I have been going to the conventions in Kearney going on 17 or 18 years.'
There were also a gaggle of therapy dogs on hand during the dance, ready to make new friends. An Irish setter named Murphy showed off his dancing skills while the other four dogs sat outside in the shade, happily being pet by attendees.
Renee Harp, who came to the convention from Grand Island, is the vice president of People First Nebraska and will be representing the group at the national People First convention in Alabama in June. She was just picked to attend at the most recent board meeting and said she’s proud to represent Nebraska on a national level. 'I want them to know all over the country about People First of Nebraska,' Harp said. 'We're special people who can advocate for themselves.' "
PFN President Featured in Local Newspaper
Check out this great newspaper article about PFN President Travis Schaffer and his path to finding employment and self-determination.
Discovering Our Leadership Skills and Developing our Vision for the Future
EVERYONE HAS LEADERSHIP SKILLS!! Current and emerging leaders within People First of Nebraska attended a leadership development retreat on July 14. Erin Stoll and Alisa Hoffman from Special Olympics presented on the 10 types of leadership skills. Everyone took a survey that identified their three strongest leadership skills and learned how to use those skills to advocate and to build their local chapters and state People First organization.
In the afternoon, Stephanie Sanford from the Self Advocate Coalition of Kansas helped the team envision what we would like Nebraska to look like in 5 years. We then voted on what we thought were the five most important issues and developed the following vision statement:
"We envision a Nebraska where self-advocates speak for themselves; where the public and educational systems are more aware of disability self advocacy; where no one uses the "R" word; and where accessible public transportation is readily available."
Once we had our vision developed, we broke into three teams to brainstorm about how to 1) Educate and Raise Awareness, Build new Chapters, and 3) Promote Advocacy through Leadership and Teamwork.
PFN Education & Awareness Workgroup
PFN Community Engagement Workgroup
PFN Advocacy Workgroup
Platte River Valley Chapter Hosts Nutrition Conference
On April 8, 2017, PF members from Fremont, Blair, Wahoo, and Omaha attended a one-day nutrition conference hosted by the Platte River Valley People First chapter. About 20 people learned about the importance of eating healthy, natural foods and how to plan our meals. Nutritionist Paula Sewell and Nancy Heller presented.
People First of Nebraska attended the Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas Conference
With funds provided by the Nebraska Planning Council on DD and matching funds provided by PFN, 25 self-advocates and staff attended the SACK conference in Topeka, Kansas. We enjoyed learning about how our partners to the south run their state organization, their conference, and their officer elections. We met lots of new self-advocates and got great ideas for the future of People First of Nebraska!
This web site is developed and maintained through the generous support of the
Nebraska Council on Developmental Disabilities
and by the
Leadership Education in Neruodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Program
University Center on Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)