Thank you to our member Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota for their support of the LSA Disability Network, and the recent "Speak Up”"self-advocacy summit. We were excited to welcome Susie, Sheri and Nicole to Washington, D.C. and advocate with them on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Learn more about LSA-DN here and check out Susie’s recap of their days in D.C.
by Susie Schatz, Director of Advocacy & Volunteer Services for LSS of Minnesota
Sheri Hicks was recently honored for her enthusiastic community involvement at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota's 150th anniversary celebration. Sheri says building connections with people who can help you find the supports you need is important to living well every day.
In early October, Sheri and her friend, Nicole, traveled with me to Washington, DC for the Lutheran Services in America - Disability Network (LSA-DN) conference. Sheri and Nicole receive supports through LSS Disability Services and were in Washington to learn more about the power of self-advocacy.
Our federal elected officials have great impact on shaping Minnesota into a place where every person has access to the supports and services they need in order to do the things that help them be happy, healthy, and connected to the world around them. It's critically important to share the changes happening in the lives of people with disabilities, and the great work LSS does to support their goals and dreams, so lawmakers in Washington advocate on our behalf.
The group's first day in Washington was spent on Capitol Hill. They learned from others across the country, including Dakota Johns, who receives supports from Mosaic in Arizona. Johns addressed his fellow advocates about the importance of public speaking and shared examples of delivering a memorable message. Later on, the Administration on Community Living shared news on policy changes at a federal level and how to effectively engage members of Congress.
Day two started with "Breakfast with Al" — an invitation from Senator Al Franken to Minnesotans visiting DC to join him for Mahnomen porridge, made from wild rice from the White Earth Reservation. Over breakfast from home, Sheri and Nicole shared details of their lives and asked Senator Franken thoughtful questions about the future of services for people with disabilities.
Across Capitol Hill in the Rayburn House Office Building, meetings continued with Congressman Rick Nolan, who represents Northeastern Minnesota. He commended Sheri and Nicole for coming to Washington to help improve quality and accessibility of supports for people who need them.
Over on the fifth floor of the Cannon House Office Building, David Fitzsimmons, the Chief of Staff for Congressman Emmer, listened intently as Nicole shared her positive experience with LSS' Host Home program.
This year's Disability Network conference was a fantastic opportunity to build stronger relationships with our members of Congress. It was wonderful to watch ladies we support gain more knowledge and confidence to advocate on behalf of all Minnesotans.
After lunch, the group took a tour of the U.S. Capitol, admiring statues from each state and artwork about the birth of the U.S. Following a photo op, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who represents the St. Paul area, greeted Sheri with a big hug.
"She came to visit my housemates and me at Stillwater Place," Sheri recalled. "It was very nice to see her again." When Sheri proudly announced she is moving into her own apartment soon, Rep. McCollum insisted that she will visit and bring Sheri a plant as a housewarming gift.
Read more about the Self-Advocate Training in Washington, DC.