Speaking Up For Us of Maine
PO Box 1065
Gardiner, ME 04345
(207) 582-0005 (207) 760-8053 (207) 879-0847
July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2003
This year, the transition has continued for Speaking Up For Us. They continue to grow in membership numbers and in strength. Once again, the mailing list and call volume have increased beyond our imagination, but the calls and e-mails are just the surface; a sign of SUFU’s increased visibility and professionalism.
SUFU has received strong continued support from BDS and the DD Council, including funds to hire their Project Coordinator full time and to hire a grant writer and consultant.
This year, SUFU members presented at national conferences in Buffalo, NY and in Boston. As a result of sharing their ‘Voting Rights Story’, SUFU was chosen to receive a mini-grant and attend training in ‘Project VOTE’. They have been working hard to polish their training presentations by adding graphics, making Power Point slides, practicing their presentation skills and producing training booklets for workshops.
SUFU had a strong voice in the legislature this year, twice rallying to oppose budget cuts to BDS as well as offering support to the DD Council’s independent status. They have made it clear, they want to be more visible to legislators and have made themselves comfortable at the State House.
Perhaps SUFU’s greatest success this year has been in strengthening relationships. Working with Alpha One on ADA training has led to a strong connection to the Independent Living world and has added many valuable resources to SUFU’s work. Presenting at the Community Inclusion Conference led to an exciting opportunity to be a part of statewide Community Inclusion Teams with other organizations, agencies and community members.
Communication with BDS has increased all over the state through regional meetings and officers meetings where MR Services Director, Jane Gallivan, is a regular guest. SUFU has also entered into partnership with the DRC as regular members of their advisory committee, DDAC. The Disability Rights Center, the DD Council and the Center for Community Inclusion have made a commitment to SUFU to help Self-Advocacy groups become recognized as the ‘4th partner’, working together to affect positive change for people with developmental disabilities. SUFU is working with these 3 organizations on various projects, such as the Employment Alternatives Transition Council (EATC) which supports informed choice in employment and alternatives to sheltered workshops.
Lastly, as we close this fiscal year, SUFU members are well on their way to planning their 10th Anniversary Conference in Augusta. The coming year will be a time of reflection and celebration and a look ahead into a very busy and exciting future for self-advocacy in Maine.
Goal 1-SUFU will do outreach and training for individuals and organizations, including self-advocates, supporters, service providers, state and local agencies, the legislature, families, boards and committees about self-advocacy and other issues that are important to people who live with disabilities.
Objective 1-SUFU will design 4 trainings on the topics of ‘Self-Advocacy’, ‘PCP’, ‘ADA Rights’ and ‘Exploitation’ by June 2003.
Objective met. PCP training has been completed. Overheads, materials and resources are being distributed to each of the SUFU offices to allow self-advocates to be able to present in more areas of the state. The ADA training has also been completed and the members of this training committee are working on training packets and materials to distribute to each SUFU office. The FYI: Self-Advocacy training has been completed with graphics. The Center for Community Inclusion has generously offered to print the Self-Advocacy booklet for distribution. In northern Maine, work is nearly completed on the Exploitation project. SUFU is looking into options to produce training materials in alternative formats to be fully accessible to the people they teach.
Objective 2-SUFU will market their available training presentations by designing a brochure for training which includes a brief description about each training, cost, audience size, etc. SUFU will send out brochures to begin offering training on at least 2 of the topics listed above by January 2003.
Objective not met. A draft of the training brochure has been approved by the officers and the board. The brochure has not been printed due to some necessary changes to training descriptions and contact information. SUFU will also use the resources of its’ allies to get the word out to agencies, self-advocacy groups and other organizations throughout the state. We will use paper mailing, e-mail lists, phone contacts and fax to distribute the information. At least 4 agencies have expressed interest in having SUFU provide training for their staff and/or self-advocates. Printing and mailing is expected to take place in August 2003.
Objective 3-SUFU will conduct at least 10 training presentations on these and other topics (at least 5 for pay) by June 2003.
Objective met. As of last quarter, SUFU had conducted 11 trainings, 3 of which were for pay. In May, James Oldenburg went to Washington DC as a part of Project VOTE and presented the SUFU workshop on Voting Rights in Maine. Not only were his expenses covered by the Kennedy Foundation grant, SABE has since requested to purchase the right to share SUFU’s ‘Voting Rights Story from Maine’. Also in May, SUFU advisors presented Advisor/Supporter workshops in Portland and Orono to 18 people. In June, Laura Antranigian, SUFU Chair was supported to present to folks in Bath and Brunswick on how to get a self-advocacy group started.
Goal 2-SUFU will have the opportunity to learn about issues such as guardianship, transportation, the ADA, legal rights and other issues of importance to self-advocates.
Objective 1-SUFU will make materials from its’ Resource Library available to self-advocates by moving the library to the southern office in Gardiner by October ’02. SUFU will mail out a list of available materials as well as a lending procedure by December 2002.
Objective met. SUFU included a summary of available materials in its’ newsletter. This year, we have added some exciting materials to our resource library, including the PBS documentary, ‘Picture This’ featuring two SUFU members, and some wonderful books acquired at the TASH conference. The Resource Library operates out of the Gardiner office, but whenever possible, we try to get additional copies of materials to be available in the southern and northern parts of the state. This quarter, a number of people have requested materials about starting new self-advocacy groups and hiring advisors.
Objective 2- SUFU will organize at least 4 state-wide meetings to invite people to speak with self advocates about issues that affect our daily lives by May 2003.
Objective met. SUFU held 5 statewide meetings this fiscal year with many new self-advocates attending. In addition to the statewide conference, a holiday party in December and February’s meeting about the CAB Correspondent Training and BDS budget cuts, SUFU has held 2 more statewide meetings.
In April, SUFU member Chandra Murphy presented with Danni Wescott and Deb Parker-Wolfenden whom she worked with on the Olmstead committee. They spoke to nearly 40 people about what the plan is for Olmstead and they asked the group for ideas and feedback.
In June, Lenny Berry presented ‘Partners In Justice’ to a group of 50 self-advocates and supporters. Lenny spoke about how the criminal justice system works, how to access help from the system and what your rights are if you are arrested.
Objective 3-SUFU will help with fundraising and support to send at least 25 self-advocates and supporters to SABE national conference in Buffalo, NY in September 2002.
Objective not met. In the end, 15 self-advocates and supporters ‘shuffled off’ to Buffalo and with great success! SUFU members attended a number of workshops on leadership, relationships and self-determination. Six SUFU members presented 2 workshops in Buffalo and got excellent feedback.
Objective 4- SUFU will plan and hold a statewide conference to provide opportunities for networking and training for at least 350 self-advocates and supporters by October 2002.
Objective surpassed. Over 400 self-advocates and supporters from all over the state attended the conference held on October 9 & 10 at the Grand Summit Hotel in Bethel. Plans are underway for the 10th anniversary celebration conference which will be held in Augusta on September 30, October 1 & 2, 2003. In order to include as many people as possible in the planning, SUFU has held conference planning meetings this quarter in Bangor, Augusta and Houlton. This regional shift allowed nearly twice as many people to participate in conference planning.
Objective 5-SUFU will support members to attend at least 4 local, statewide, regional and national events to learn about what other groups are doing, present and share ideas.
Objective surpassed. This year, self-advocates all over the state have made efforts to get together. Regional gatherings took place in Portland, Biddeford, Presque Isle and Machias earlier in the year.
In early April, James Oldenburg and Judy Diemer attended a training with the support of advisor, Dixie Leavitt and Maine legislator, Arthur Lerman for the national Project VOTE in Oklahoma. In May, James also attended a meeting in Washington DC about voting rights for people under guardianship.
In April, SUFU members, Laura Antranigian, Sherry Howes, Maryann Preble and Marie Fearon attended the SABE Region 8 meeting in Sunapee, NH. This trip was supported, in part, by the Center for Community Inclusion. There was significant talk about the closing of institutions and sheltered workshops, the assault of a self-advocate in Connecticut and the state of Transportation for people with disabilities.
In June three self-advocates attended a 3-day workshop to become a part of Community Inclusion Technical Assistance Teams. They spent 3 days working with people from other organizations and agencies, families and community members to develop a plan for increasing inclusion in their areas.
Goal 3-SUFU will strengthen our organization and continue to build our network on the local, regional, state and national levels by encouraging self-advocates to organize and speak out on issues that are important to us.
Objective 1-SUFU will create and release 2 newsletters this year about what’s going on. The first will be mailed out by October 2002. The second will be mailed out by May 2003.
Objective not met. After a lot of work and logistical planning, a newsletter was released at the beginning of May. Work has already begun on the next newsletter, which will serve as a 10th anniversary issue scheduled for release in August.
Objective 2-SUFU will provide support and technical assistance to new and existing local groups and support local groups to organize at least 3 regional meetings where self-advocates can come together to share ideas, work together on projects and have fun by June 2003.
Objective surpassed. Self-advocates from the Gardiner area are continuing to lend support to the existing group from Sebastacook Farms to branch out and start a group in the Waterville area. SUFU’s Capitol area advisor continues to lend support to the local group at Uplift.
Gardiner’s local self-advocacy group worked with groups in Lewiston and St. Albans to pull off a huge self-advocacy celebration for Regions 3 & 4. Over 75 people attended this event at Uplift in Gardiner where they had a cookout (with local legislators working the grill) and a dance. They also welcomed self-advocacy speakers, Chandra Murphy and Emily Fish, who spoke on the topics of ‘How to Turn Anger Into Focusing on Getting What You Need’ and ‘Using Humor to Deal with Tough Situations’
The local group in Lewiston is looking for a new advisor. SUFU has shared resources with them and offered support in this process.
SUFU’s northern Maine advisor continues to lend support to the peer groups on projects, important issues and event planning. Recently, we learned that the funding for Northern Maine Peer Groups has been cut. Support has been offered to self-advocates from those groups to speak up about the impact of losing their local groups.
Board member, Brett Cowalis started a new group in Bath with some support from the SUFU Chair and Project Coordinator. The first meeting was held in June and Brett learned some tips on how to facilitate a meeting.
SUFU Chair and Project Coordinator also attended a local meeting in Brunswick to help their group get fired up and focused!
Support to Bath and Brunswick groups will continue on a quarterly basis.
Objective 3- SUFU will work with a grant writer to write a business plan, apply for 501(c)(3) status and apply for at least 10 grants to get funding to hire more advisors to help strengthen out network and increase involvement by providing transportation and support by June 2003.
Objective not met. Continued work toward the 501 (c)(3) application has been temporarily put on hold while we look into the legal and financial aspects of becoming an independent organization. A meeting has been scheduled with a lawyer from Volunteer Lawyers Project to look into this.
As of mid-February, the Business Plan had not been completed to the satisfaction of SUFU officers and advisors and no grant applications had been started. As a result, SUFU released the grant writer from service. The Project Coordinator is working to complete an organizational plan. SUFU has set 4 priority areas for grant writing and will continue looking into hiring another grant writer. Inquiries have been made with 2 grant writers who are both willing to work for SUFU.
Due to networking efforts, SUFU will be receiving a grant to train people in connection with Project VOTE. SUFU will receive a $3,000 mini-grant to cover training expenses and support, as well as pay a stipend to the trainers.
Objective 4-SUFU will work with at least five of our allies (such as BDS, DRC, MPF, MACSP) through meetings, letters, etc., to get transportation and support for more self advocates to get to local and statewide meetings to strengthen our organization by June 2003.
Objective surpassed. SUFU’s relationship with its’ allies is strengthening all the time. Several members of SUFU continue to attend DDAC meetings with the DRC. At the most recent DDAC meeting, topics discussed were: Ticket to Work program, benefits, sheltered workshops and the closing of Aroostook Residential Center.
In Northern Maine, local self-advocates have been working with a local Maine Parent Federation group, the Family Advisory Council on Transportation, to hold a forum. In Machias, Sherry Howes continues to work with the local MPF parent group to deliver PCP training in their area.
SUFU continues to work with Alpha One on ADA Rights and training and is working to expand their focus.
SUFU has held meetings with representatives from BDS, DRC, CCI and the DDC on a few different topics; the most prominent being sheltered workshops and community employment. As a result, SUFU has helped in the formation of EATC (Employment Alternatives Transition Council) with these other organizations. This group will work together to gather and share resources for self-advocates, families, businesses and agencies about employment and community opportunities for people with disabilities. The committee has formed a mission statement and is forming a plan for action to increase choice in community employment and involvement.
As mentioned earlier, 3 SUFU members have joined Community Inclusion Teams in partnership with BDS and Muskie Center for Learning. Through their work with these teams, they have made valuable connections to new allies such as Steve Hoad from Coastal Enterprises, people from spiritual communities, representatives from the YMCA and people from provider agencies.
Objective surpassed. In February, a public hearing was held regarding proposed budget cuts to BDS. With SUFU support, more than 25 self-advocates wrote letters in opposition to the significant budget cuts on the table. Nearly a dozen self-advocates read their testimony to the members of the Health and Human Services and Appropriations Committees. SUFU was joined and supported by allies such as MACSP, DRC and the DD Council.
Part of the budget proposal for BDS included the closing of Aroostook Residential Center in Presque Isle. SUFU has had extensive communication with BDS and other allies to assure support for the people who live at ARC to transition into homes of their choice.
In early April SUFU sent representatives to the legislature again for 3 bills. SUFU wrote a letter of support for the DD Council to become an independent organization. They also wrote a letter of support for a bill proposed by Arthur Lerman to provide funding for people with developmental disabilities who have been abused. In addition, SUFU officers prepared a letter opposing a bill regarding the permanent establishment of the CAB. In regard to the CAB, SUFU officers have decided to contact a CAB member to talk about the role of the CAB and the need for a class member to be a part of that board.
In May, self-advocates returned to the State House for Legislative Awareness Day. They passed out informational fliers to legislators and introduced themselves. Later, SUFU’s Secretary read a statement opposing the budget cuts. All of this was in addition to the participation of more than a dozen self-advocates in a rally, chanting ‘Enough is enough!’. The presence of SUFU and many allies was a positive one as the legislature repealed some of the proposed cuts in the second round.
On a regional level, self-advocates from Portland have established a regular connection to the BDS office. They meet once every 1-2 months with the Team Leader and Training Coordinator to keep each other informed and discuss ways to have the voice of the people receiving services be heard.
New relationships have been cultivated with BDS in the Augusta area and more regional meetings are scheduled in Lewiston and Bangor.
SUFU has experienced a year of intense activity and growth! They have made some invaluable connections within the system and the community. SUFU members are passionate about getting the word out and sharing their mission and goals and they are excited about their new connections as they realize they have a lot of support to accomplish their dreams.