People First of Oregon

People First of Oregon Takes a Break

People First of Oregon is over 30 years old. Many of us have been members since People First first began here in Salem, Oregon in 1974. We have grown old with People First and we realize we have grown tired. Sustainability at our past level of involvement has become an issue.  Our statewide organization has decided it is time to step back and take a break. In the meantime local chapters are encouraged to keep meeting and grow strong.

People First Member Terry Schwartz and Helper Dennis Heath Go To Japan

Terry and Dennis visited Japan to tell the  People First story and present their experiences on January 22-30,2005. They did presentations in the following cities around Tokyo on the island of Honshu: Chiba, Toyohashi, and Nagoya. Japan hosted the visit. Both Terry and Dennis felt the visit was a wonderful experience and they appreciated the opportunity to meet so many new friends and share information about People First.

People First Welcomes Japanese Visitors

People First of Oregon hosted a visit October 5 through October 8, 2004 for 10 developmentally disabled individuals from Japan. The visitors wanted to see how People First members were living and working in Oregon. After meeting and socializing with People First members,  touring group homes and visiting work sites, the visitors declared they wished they could stay in Oregon instead of returning home! It was obvious a good time was had by all.

David Maffitt 
John E. Dye Award Winner for 2004

The John E. Dye award is presented each year at the Oregon People First Convention to the outstanding People First member of the year.

Past John E. Dye Award Winners

Oregon Apologizes for Forced Sterilizations

In December, 2002, Governor Kitzhaber apologized for Oregon's past practice of forcibly sterilizing the developmentally disabled. People First member Ruth Morris was there. Read her story and more in our section on eugenics

Robert Jones

July 19, 1935 - July 28, 2002

EUGENE -A graveside service was held July 31 for Robert Mark Jones of Eugene, who died July 28 at the age of 67. 

Robert was born July 19, 1935, in Portland. He lived in Oakridge before settling in Eugene. Robert was a member of People First of Eugene and Oregon and ARC of Lane County.

Survivors include a brother, Richard of Eugene; and a wife of the heart, Ruth Morris of Eugene.

Memorial contributions may be made to ARC of Lane County.

(A picture of Robert and Ruth is in the Photo Album)

Salem Statesman Journal – July 2, 2002
 Restaurant, Employee Find Success
Commentary by Carol McAlice Curry

(A picture of Jim is in the Photo Album.)

It hasn’t been easy recently to go a day without another account of corporate corruption and greed – WorldCom, Xerox, Enron, the list goes on.  So when a business does something right, though it might pale next to these something wrongs, its story deserves to be heard. 

Two years ago, the Jack in the Box restaurant on Lancaster Drive NE hired James Brewer to help part time with the cleaning. Ordinarily, a new hire wouldn’t warrant a mention except that James, Jim to his friends, was 50 years old, developmentally disabled and this was to be his first job. Some employers wouldn’t take a chance of James, but Bobbi Kurek, an employment liaison at the Shangri-La Corp., didn’t let that deter her.  Shangri-La, a nonprofit human services corporation, provides the disabled and economically disadvantaged with employment and living support. So Bobbi worked with James in classes, helped him understand workplace issues and drove him to interviews. 

Between appointments two years ago, they stopped for lunch at the Jack in the Box and Bobbi convinced the manager to give James a job. “I knew he could do it, he just needed someone to give him a chance,” she said. James didn’t disappoint.  He started bussing tables and taking out the trash, but “within a few weeks he started telling them what they needed to do to keep the place clean,” Bobbi said. Now he’s in charge of heavy maintenance, too; cleaning vents and changing light bulbs.

“Jim is fantastic.  We’re incredibly happy with Jim,” said restaurant manager Carrie McCuan. She recently honored Jim’s anniversary with the company by giving him a cake shaped like a Jumbo Jack and a strawberry shake, his favorite menu items.

Though it’s a little difficult at times to understand James, he’s patient and kind when asked to repeat words.  He tries to please by slowing down and lowering his voice.  “I love my job and my customers and my boss.  They tell me all the time I do a good job,” James said. “I stack the napkins, fill condiment trays, clean the dining room, clean the bathrooms, wash my hands and then clean the dining room again.”

His efforts have paid off. Late last month, the restaurant was recognized by company officials with a 97 percent rating in an unannounced quarterly inspection.  McCuan said the store earned a 100 percent score for cleanliness. “We’ve never had a perfect score before, and I know Jim played a big part in it.  It’s a very detailed inspection; you can lose points for one fingerprint on one window.  But Jim has an eye for detail, and he keeps the store looking good.”

It’s a mutually beneficial partnership.  Maybe other businesses should try more of the same.

David E. Johnson

March 04, 1953 - June 22, 2002

SALEM - David E. Johnson, age 49, died peacefully on Saturday.

David is survived by his father, Bill Johnson of Portland; sisters, Blythe Nordbye of Brightwood and Brooke Johnson of Portland; and friend, Eleanor Miller of Salem.

Private interment will be at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland. Arrangements are by City View Funeral Home in Salem.

2002 Oregon People First Officers Named

President:  Steven Kramer of Portland
1st Vice-President: Ruth Morris of Eugene
2nd Vice-President: Rodney Carver of Eugene
Secretary:  Bertha Spinning of Portland
Treasure: Sally Kramer of Portland
Sgt. At Arms: Margaret Whipple of Medford

  John E. Dye Award

The John E. Dye award is presented each year at the Oregon People First Convention to the outstanding People First member of the year.

David Maffitt

Bertha Spinning

Ruth Morris 

Margaret Whipple 

Terry Schwartz 

A picture of the award is in the Photo Album.

In Memory
John E. Dye

September 1, 1951 - March 26, 2000

John Edward Dye was born in Portland, Oregon on September 1, 1951.  He was a longtime resident of Fairview Training Center  who lived independently in the community since 1984. John worked for Mount Hood Brewing Company.  He enjoyed music, traveling and dancing.

John was a 25 year member of People First and was its president for two years.  In 1997, he participated in a Japanese documentary film on people with disabilities who live independently. He was an active participant in the Special Olympics and a recipient of the Governor's Award for serving on the 1995 Developmental Disabilities Council. 

People First Receives Community Partnership Award     

People First of Oregon received the 2000 Community Partnership Award

"For your history of outstanding collaborative advocacy leading to the closure of Fairview Training Center and the community inclusion of Oregonians with developmental disabilities who were institutionalized."

People First President Cindy Helvington accepted the award from Governor Kitzhaber at a ceremony on March 3, 2000.

Pictures of the award and Cindy receiving it from Governor Kitzhaber are in the Photo Album.

Fairview Closes!

Fairview: The Closing Chapter
People First started at Fairview institution in 1972.  Read newspaper articles and comments from People First members and others on the closing of Fairview.

The Fairview Memory Book
Oregon Department of Developmental Disabilities 

Congratulations to Judy Cunio!

Cerebral Palsy Association of Oregon and SW Washington's "Person of the Year"   

Judy received the 1999 Tara Asai Award at the agency's annual meeting in Tigard on October 1, 1999.

A picture of Judy is in the Photo Album.

Korea People First Visits Oregon 

On 8/19/99 approximately 35 persons from Korea met with People First of Oregon members and staff from the Developmental Disabilities Council.  

The group from Korea wore jackets with People First insignias in both English and Korean.  They included members, parents, teachers, and administrators. A Korean woman from the UO served as translator.

The meeting was hosted by Judy Cunio, Rosella Samuelson, and Cindy Helvington.  Gifts and business cards were exchanged.  It was a very good meeting.  People First members said they would be of assistance if needed in the coming years.

A picture of the jacket presented to People First is in the Photo Album.

Dance Floor is Safe Haven
Twice a month dances for developmentally disabled residents attract a crowd  
Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal Newspaper Article: June 18, 1998

They love music, they love to dance, and the Salem Senior Center provides a twice-a- month set ting for those attending the Erixon Dance Program.

Usually,200 or more developmentally disabled area residents show up for the fun.

David Beem, who helps supervise the dances, recalled a forerunner that started while he was living at Fairview Training Center in the early 1960s. Most of the former Fairview residents are now in apartments or collective living environments in the community.

"They are from all the group homes in the city," Beem said of the dance participants. "A lot of disabled people don't have nothing to do, no sports or anything. We play country and rock mixed. They like it because there ain't no problems there, there ain't no crime."

Terry Schwartz, who serves as disc jockey, agrees with the assessment that the dances at the senior center are a good environment. "In the dance clubs, they do a lot of drinking," Schwartz said. "There is no drinking, no drugs at the Erixon dances. It is so clean. That is why we have done it so many years."

Schwartz said the dances have grown in attendance and musical sophistication since he first started with them in 1974. He began with a simple reel-to-reel tape recorder at the old Pringle Community Hall. As he kept blowing out amplifiers and speakers, a friend encouraged him to add professional equipment. Now, Schwartz not only plans for the twice-a-month dances at the senior center, but for the weekly ones at his former Fairview home. "It is my hobby," Schwartz said of his reasons for playing the dance music. "I liked to start it as a business, and I enjoy it every time."

The people attending take pleasure in it, too. "They love it, and they come every time. They know me, and they love our sound system. We make sure it is a good sound," Schwartz said.

The combination of enjoyable sounds and a protective environment is the draw, said Mike Brown, a recreation leader for the sponsoring city Community Services Recreation Department. "It is an event especially for the developmental disabled population," Brown said. "They don't have to worry about other people or about other people judging them." He has been working as a dance supervisor for a half dozen years. His comfort level with the population is enhanced by spending time with his sister, who has Down's syndrome.

Bruce Bolton, city recreation supervisor, said the dances are so popular that talks have been held on seeking a larger space. They are moving slowly, however, out of concern for the need for the developmentally disabled having a steady site on a regular schedule, he said.

The dances are high on the list of favored activities by the community's Special Population Networking Committee. It coordinates such things as recreational activities, classes and programs for people who are developmentally disabled.

To Learn More: The twice-a-month dances for developmentally disabled people take place at the Salem Senior Center, 1055 Erixon St. NE.  Admission is $2 per person.  Call 370-7232 for more information.

Pictures of the dance are in the Photo Album

Former People 1st President David Beem runs for Salem City Council and gets 9% of the votes!

Disability fails to slow Beem's efforts
    The Ward 6 candidate for City Council aims to help minority groups

  Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal Newspaper Article: April 19, 1998l

David Beem hopes this will be the year that Salem voters give him the chance to be Oregon's first developmentally disabled individual to serve on the City Council. The 46-year-old former Fairview Training Center resident has run for council several times in several wards, never garnering enough votes to get his name on the November ballot. 

This time, he faces one opponent in the Ward 6 race: Bob Wallace, former chairman of the Northeast Salem Community Association. "I'm not sure if I've got a shot or not," Beem said recently in the small apartment off Center Street NE that he shares with his wife, Rachel. "A few people don't want me, they don't think I can do it. They should give me the chance." 

Beem, who has a hand drawn Beem for Council sign propped up in his kitchen window, has advocated on behalf of the, disabled for years. His living room wall is lined with service awards, including The Arc's 1989 national Bill Sackter Award for service. He proudly shows off autographed photographs of governors and presidents, some of whom he's met. "He's a real go-getter," said Bill West, an adult-case coordinator with The Arc (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens) in Portland. "He really tries to go out there and get the message out that people with disabilities can have an impact and input in society in ways that can benefit both themselves and society in general." 

Beem attended public schools until the age of 9, and then lived at Fairview for the next decade. An avowed Democrat, he names President John F. Kennedy. as his political hero. When asked about the issues important to him, Beem gives answers that are often fragmented and difficult to follow. But his views on providing opportunities for the disabled and helping the homeless are clear. Those groups are too often the victims of discrimination and crime, he says, and more should be done to help them.

Beem's list of volunteer activities is long. Until recently, he served as president of People First of Oregon, an advocacy group run by and for people with developmental disabilities. He also organizes regular dances for the developmentally disabled at the Salem Senior Center. Beem is passionate on the subject of fighting crime, he would like to see 50 more officers hired. For years he has volunteered at the Salem Police Department, putting together information packets on the city's Neighborhood Watch program. "He's also been pretty good about spreading the word around the Neighborhood Watch to people in his neighborhood," said Merrie Schopfer, who coordinates volunteers for the police department. Beem, often joined by his wife, has attended almost every council meeting since he filed for the seat. 

If he loses this election, he has no intention of throwing in the towel on a political career. He says he may even consider a run for Congress.


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