Auburn’s People First Organization Will Host a Coffee for Tony Fulton
Knowing how to dress, having self confidence, being able to interact with others and standing up for yourself may come naturally to most people, but for others it’s a learning process.
In People First-Auburn Chapter, SENDS clients learn how to be themselves, dress for work and other social skills. But, the most important thing they learn is how to speak up.
To be in the organization, said Beth Schmidt, all a member has to do is “Speak up for yourself and be able to tell people what you want and don’t want.”
Member Dana Shaw added, “You have to be responsible and help others speak up.”
The Auburn chapter began in February of 1999. The organization has grown from a few members to its current 28. Members attend meetings across the state and country. Shaw has been to the national People First conventions in California, New York and Georgia.
Through People First, the members also learn people skills. Member Beth Schmidt said she has learned how to stand up for herself through the organization. She said it has made her more responsible.
Shaw said the group has taught her how to have a good attitude and how to respect others. Shaw is a founding member of the Auburn group.
Shaw has had a lot of success through the organization. She has received the Self Advocate of the Year award. She is a nationally known speaker and has served on several panels to advocate the awareness of people with developmental disabilities. She gives presentations to school students to help them understand what it is like to live with a disability. And, she has represented the state at the National Convention.
For member Holli Burgert, the organization has helped her in many ways, including being a productive citizen. Burgert is one of eight members who owns her own home.
“I get a lot out of it,” she said. “We share information and give useful ideas to each other.”
Shaw, who is employed with District #29 Schools, also said she has benefited a lot by being a member.
“I would be able to go out of town to meet people,” she said.
Burgert, Schmidt, who works at Pizza Hut, and Shaw all agreed the Auburn community is very accepting of people with disabilities.
“(The people) treat us well,” Shaw said. “They show respect and are very supportive with jobs.”
Burgert, who works at Sonic, added she would rather live in Auburn than in a large city because she feels more accepted.
“The smaller the city, the more people you know and you can get along better,” she said.
Auburn’s chapter meets on the first Monday of each month. Each meeting is different and often times public speakers will give presentations.
The members are also active in the community, including raising and giving money to Nemaha County Gives Back, as well as serving as respectable employees among several local businesses.
And, they are deeply involved in the political process. Eleven of the members are registered voters and several politicians have spoken to the group, including former State Senator Floyd Vrtiska, Auburn Mayor Bob Engles, former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel and former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns, who is currently a U.S. Senator.
And, in honor of March being National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and as part of learning about politics, the group will be hosting a meet and greet coffee from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday, March 22, at the Senior Center for State Senator Tony Fulton, who is running for State Treasurer. Fulton is a native of Auburn.
Shaw grew up next to Fulton in Auburn. She said they are hosting the coffee for him, not only because he is a native, but because, “He’s a very hard worker and an honest man.”