People First wants to take its place in community

What if? That was the question Danny Holmes posted to his friend, Cody Fairweather, who helped found the local branch of Lake Roosevelt People First. A self-advocacy group founded by and for people with dis¬abilities, the organization supports and educates people to speak for themselves, make their own decisions, contribute to their community and become community leaders. Holmes, who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as an infant, had heard about the or¬ganization, which originated in Sweden, from a friend who had attended a People First meeting on the west side of the state. He though long and hard about it, then called Fairweather early one morn¬ing back in 2006. “What if we started a People First chapter here?” Holmes asked. The answer would be that Holmes and Fairweather did, starting with five members in 2006 and growing to 15 to 20 members in 2012. Fairweather is attempting to start another chapter in Chewelah, while Holmes, Sergeant at Arms, and Ben Hastings, the current President, preside over the Lake Roosevelt chapter. “There is a need for it (People First) here,” says Holmes, 29, originally from Kettle Falls. “We’re looking for ways to get more people involved, to let the community know that we are here and people are welcome to come and talk to us.” Hastings, 31, was diagnosed with Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a child, but he doesn’t readily discuss it. “I try to put it behind me, and look at the good things I have going in my life,” Hastings says. “Sometimes bad things happen, and things don’t go the way you expected them to, but that’s life. People First helps me with that.” The Lake Roosevelt People First also works with Special Olympics and people who have experienced Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). The group would also like to assist with establishing Self-Advocates in Motion club for teen¬agers with disabilities at local high schools. “It’s going to take a while, but we’re hoping the next generation likes this idea and takes it forward,” says Holmes. “We hope to connect with other organizations in the community and inspire others, whether they are disabled or not,” adds Hastings. “There’s a lot we can do if we work together.” Lake Roosevelt People First meet every third Tuesday of the month at 887 Walnut Street in Colville. To make a donation to the non-profit, visit Chase Bank in Colville and request to make a monetary contribution to Lake Roosevelt People First. For more information, call Holmes at 680-4634.