The Community4All project is part of the Center on Human Policy, in the School of Education at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. A group of four working with the Community-4All project made a stop in Fairbury, Nebraska on April 10 and 11 as part of their national thinktank project. The group is in the third year of a five-year project that involves making a series of six different toolkits for people with intellectual disabilities. The topics of the toolkits range from Community Living, Self-Advocacy, Community Participation, Digital Access, Post-Secondary Education and Support for Families. The toolkit that Region V was chosen to be a part of is the toolkit for Community Participation according to Pam Walker who was in Fairbury with the group and has worked at the Center on Human Policy for many years. “We wanted to find out what it means to people to be part of their communities, what helps with being part of the community, and what are the barriers,” stated Walker.
Walker discussed how and why Fairbury was selected for this project, “Staff from the Center on Human Policy had visited Region V in Fairbury 30 years ago and written about innovative supports for community living. So, we thought it would be interesting to return to Region V and to learn about being part of the community for people with intellectual disabilities.” The visit began on Monday morning with a thinktank that included members of the Community4All group, staff from both Region V Fairbury and Hebron, members of the communities and persons supported by Region V.
Lisa Meyer, Area Director for Region V Fairbury/Hebron, spoke with the group about Region V’s strengths with community involvement, which includes several job placements along with the continual encouragement of further community engrossment from staff. Meyer also spoke on some of the barriers Region V experiences with community involvement, one of which is not always knowing about where to go to find out about area events and activities. Walker echoed Meyer’s comments on barriers, adding that special accessible transportation and opportunities for young adults to socialize in rural areas may be limited.
“Being a part of the community, for the people we talked with involves taking part in community activities; but above and beyond that, it is not just about the activities, but about the connections and relationships that come with that,” Walker commented. “It helps that in Fairbury and the surrounding area, there are deep connections and a strong sense of community, and this extends to include community members with disabilities, who know and are known by many relatives, neighbors and other community members,” continued Walker.
On Tuesday, the group spent time with persons supported by Region V in their community, to see what they experience on a daily basis. Meyer took the group from New York around Fairbury during their visit and noted the group was enamored with the brick streets and the ‘Jeff Man’ mascot. The staff at Region V put together a ‘Fairbury/Nebraska’ basket for the group to take with them back to New York, which had local staples such as; Fairbury hotdogs, a variety of Westin products, Dorothy Lynch dressing, and more. Walker had praise for Region V, “We found Region V to be notable in its significant effort and focus on helping people be a part of their communities. Staff assists people to spend time in the community, make personal connections, make contributions to their community and be included in all aspects of community life.”
Walker concluded, “We deeply appreciate the time people took to speak with us and the tremendous hospitality of people at Region V. We learned a lot and enjoyed our visit to Fairbury.” Meyer also stated that the Region V staff was able to pick up several ideas. “I hope they learned from us and were able to take something back,” commented Meyer.
A .pdf of the newspaper article may be accessed here.