It's been almost 4 years and 11 months since we last posted notes here. To be honest, we didn't think anyone was bothering to read posts to our page and our focus turned to Facebook. But with all the challenges of COVID 19 and the chaotic social and political world, we decided that perhaps we should be capturing what's happening, at least in our little world. One of the advantages of being in a rural area is that social distancing is a normal part of our lives. That doesn't mean that the virus isn't spreading in our rural areas, but not as fast as cities around us. Masks are often viewed as a political tool rather than a medical tool which makes us sad. For the folks we work with, it makes them anxious. They rely on others to provide assistance and services and that means worrying about their caregivers and family members health as much as their own. 3Rivers has over 500 dedicated workers across NE Kansas. So that tired old phrase, "if your scared, just stay home" really just doesn't work for us. Help us out by masking up in public and asking your family and friends to do the same. If you truly don't care about yourself, think about all these people who live in your community that "literally" care for others .
And if you need a mask - we have them available. Thanks everyone.
With so much attention paid to Donald Trump, Hillary's emails and the speculation on whether or not Joe Biden will run for President - the media seems to have forgotten that October 1st is right around the corner and once again, congress has failed to pass a budget. Why? same excuse that's been used for how many years now??? No Compromise! Logical elected officials insist that we stay within our budget but neither side can agree on what programs to cut.
And so, not surprising, services to individuals with disabilities remains on the chopping block. The President's budget proposal includes a 5million dollar increase (which is still below funding levels prior to the sequestration). The House bill provides flat funding (keeping us at 2010 funding levels). And the Senate proposes a 5 Million dollar cut! Unless we rally together and make our voices heard, it's quite likely our funding will be cut again.
At a time when requests for services are at their highest level AND Centers for Independent LIving have new service mandates under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), we have to take action to maintain funding at acceptable levels.
Your action is needed. By contacting your elected officials and letting them know the importance of funding for Centers for Independent Living, we can make a difference.
You can share this information with family and friends and ask them to call or write letters of support. Grassroots action is what we do best and now is the time!
Yesterday we saw the disparate views in politics and life on the front page of our papers. Governor Nixon in Missouri proudly signed an executive order directing all state departments, boards, agencies and commissions in the executive branch to take any steps necessary to comply with the Supreme Court decision extablishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. At the same time, Kansas Governor Brownback signed an executive order directing state government not to take any action that violates the belief by clergy and religious leaders and organizations that "marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman". The Governor further states that "it is important that all Kansans be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve".
The irony of this statement appears to be totally missed by the Governor. How can we treat everyone with dignity when you just signed an order allowing individuals to discriminate based on their religious belief?
My freshman year in college I took a class on evolving human rights. The first lesson I learned has stayed with me ever since; my rights extend until the point my fist touches my neighbors nose. This basic statement is incredibly profound and should be a determining factor in most decisions we make in life. At what point does my excercising my right negatively impact someone else. If I ask an individual to do something that is "profoundly" (def. acutely, painfully, from the bottom of the heart) against their religious belief, did my fist just hit their nose - possibly? But when we take a step back and insert other profound beliefs, this argument gets watered down. For example - I have a profound (from the the bottom of my heart) belief that no one should smoke. Yet, many of my friends smoke (which from the bottom of my heart I don't want them to do!), I have to acknowledge it doesn't negatively impact me. So if someone's violation of my profound non-religious belief doesn't negatively affect me, can violation of a religious based profound belief negatively affect me? I guess the answer to this lies within each of us.
However, being the operator of a business that accepts State and Federal funding, I am obligated to maintain a "no discrimination" clause. We sign an agreement that states we won't discriminate against individuals based on a variety of factors. This very agreement requires a business operator to step back from their personal beliefs and agree to abide by certain guidelines. By signing the latest Executive Order, the Governor has created a mechanism allowing discrimination.. Now, non profit, religious based organizations that receive State funds have written authorization to decline services to certain individuals based solely on religious beliefs.
Did the Governor's fist just hit our face?
Elections might be over but it is still critical that you maintain involvement with your elected officials. There are numerous important issues happening both in the State and at the National level. To quote the incomparable Justin Dart - get involved in politics as if your life depended on it; because it does. If you are uncomfortable calling your officials, send them a note via mail or email. Keep it short, respectful and briefly let them know why the issue is important to you. The more they hear from you, they more they know you are paying attention to what they do. One of the key issues facing Kansas legislators right now is the fact they KNOW they are going to have to raise taxes to take care of the budget crisis. But they are all afraid that key organizations with lots of money are going to go after them when elections roll around again. These organizations aren't even local people! Don't let their voices be heard over yours. Get involved today!
Last month i started seeing a flashing light in my right eye - it reminded me of one of those decorative spinners you hang on your porch to spin in the wind. A visit to my eye doctor explained this can be a normal part of aging and should fade away in a few weeks. However, a closer exam showed spots at the back of my eye that he'd never seen before. Since then i've had a whirlwind of visits to a retina specialist, lots of eye scans and have been died yellow twice for angiograms. In between all of these visits, i've had a lot of time to reflect on how bravely several of my friends have handled their loss of eyesight over the years. If i hadn't experienced their transition and witnessed them move forward with successful careers and raising children, i'm not sure how i would have handled the fear of going blind.
As it turns out, my vision problems are improving and i should have a full recovery; for this i am thankful. But i'm more thankfull for my friends and their support. It's hard not to fear the unknown; it's hard not to let your self have moments of panic, or pity. i've faced mobility limitations, every day i deal with the problems of being a short person in a world that's getting taller.... but facing the loss of vision was scarier. So, thanks to all my friends who traveled that road and gave me strength.
I just returned from what my staff call "the APRIL conference in October". In this case, APRIL refers to the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living. I try to make sure that at least one of our 3Rivers team makes it to this conference every year. For new staff, it opens up a world of peer mentoring, literally; for "old geezers" like me, it's a time for renewal. A chance to see old friends, meet new friends, and renew my energy, focus and mission. This year was no different. Well, except that everyone kept asking that dreaded question.. what the heck is going on in Kansas. I have no answer for that one folks. But i can answer what's right in the Independent Living world. The youth portion of the conference was high energy, the geezers maybe finally realized that technology is their friend and a powerful tool and, perhaps best of all, our overall focus was how to train individuals in the Disability Community to become leaders in their communities. This is a big deal! I'll keep you posted on the new training and ideas as we get ready to roll them out.
Here's this year's conference attendees... Jeanie; our Independent Living Specialist (ILS) for our Native American IL program, Molly; ILS in our Wamego office, me and Erica Christie, Director of our Community Services Department. Till next time...... Audrey Schremmer, Exec. Director.
As many of you have heard me comment, over the last few years the state administration has frowned on Centers for Independent Living "advocating" for funding or services or right of individuals with disabilities; at least when the State is the entity we are appealing to. This has caused so frustration, and even despair for individuals who have spent a lifetime having to advocate for basic rights given to others. This past week a local newspaper ran an article chastising people for demanding jobs and health care, in other words, for Advocating for basic needs. To quote my younger staff; "Seriously??" It's wrong to want basic needs, i though having a job was a good thing. Having access to health care in the most advanced country on the planet is bad??
If any one has thoughts on this, i'd love to hear from you. Advocates clearly need a new plan in this era of blaming the poor, disabled and jobless of our nation.
With our local school going back into session this week it's a sign that summer is nearly over. Our wheat harvest is past and garden produce is starting to slow. It's a time that parents rejoice, but local restaurant owners notice a definite decline as families change their focus from summer fun to school supplies. It reflects the ups and downs of our world and cycle of the seasons. Growing up in an agriculture based family, this time of year has always been family focused. We pull together to make sure the harvest comes in on time, working ridiculous hours in stressful conditions; and throw in the biting flies, burning sun and Kansas winds that are as hot as a wildfire and you wonder why you chose this lifestyle! And then harvest is over; good or bad, you rest, relax, take a vacation, and enjoy family time. And then you say to yourself, why would anyone chose a different lifestyle?
For those whose world isn't based on the cycle of nature, this is something they probably can't begin to understand. Whatever your background, once thing we all understand is that meaningful employment leads to a meaningful life. For individuals with disabilities, access to meaningful employment may have just become a little easier with the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. This update of the old workforce act passed in 1998 increases opportunities by investing in the connection between education and career preparation. I'm always skeptical about ideas shifting from legislation to real action, but just like the wheat we harvested, it starts with a tiny seed. Planted in the right environment, it results in a successful harvest. If we can all be good stewards of these ideas, it will lead to success. I look forward to this particular harvest season more than most!
Sincerely, Audrey Schremmer, Executive Director.
After years of work, ok, decades of work, it appears the Rehabilitation Act will soon be reauthorized. As reminded by Kansas Native and current President of the National Council on Disabilities, Lou Ann Kibbee, it's time to celebrate! Take a moment to thank your US Senator and remind your US Representative to vote yes on the Bipartisan and Bicameral Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. (WIOA). Apparently really long names is what gets important legislation to pass. But it does show that all parties came together on this one, finally. It's also a message to the Independent Living Community to never give up the pursuit of rights for persons with disabilities. By celebrating our success, we renew our energy and mission. So this Fourth of July while celebrating our Nations Independence, take a moment to reflect on all that means...
till next time; Audrey
Audrey Schremmer is the Executive Director of Three Rivers Inc. She considers it a blessing to be surrounded by great team members, her peers around the state and country and of course her four legged friends that come with her to work everyday.
Audrey Schremmer-Philip, Executive Director