By Ron VandenBoom
Learning how to speak for yourself, make your own choices, and become a contributing member of the community is generally a normal part of the growth process, but for those with developmental disabilities, it could be a process overlooked.
Rebecca Hargis, a case worker for Opportunity Resources in Havre, is determined that in Havre this will change.
She has started a People First Montana Havre Chapter with a grant received from the Rural Institute on Transitions.
People First is an international organization with chapters in Kalispell, Missoula, Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman, Billings, Boulder, Hamilton and Butte.
Its goal, according to Hargis, is self-advocacy.
That means learning your rights as a citizen for our country as well as your community, learning how to speak up for yourself, just learning how you can be a community member. Hargis said. Community inclusion is an important part of a well-rounded life.
It also, according to Hargis, means becoming involved in the community by volunteering their services, helping with fund-raising activities, learning about the city government, or supporting ADA issues.
Its also a way they can give back to their community, she said.
Hargis explained that a lot of people with developmental disabilities have support programs that work with them.
So learning to make their own choices and decisions has been a long time coming in this country, she said. Usually other people have been making decisions for them.
Thats what the purpose of the program is, Hargis said, learning to become a self-advocate and learning about your community and being able to give back to your community.
Hargis hopes members of the Havre Chapter will contact local service organizations and see if we can go to them and have some of their people come and talk to us about what they do in the community.
People First Montana Havre Chapter held its first meeting Sept. 25 and 16 people from Havre, Havre Day Activity Center, and Big Sandy Activity signed up as new members.
The next meeting will be held 3:30-5 p.m. Oct. 9, in Northern Montana Hospital Conference rooms two and three.
The organization will discuss election of officers, dues, membership qualifications, and the structure of the chapter.
The guest speaker at this meeting will be Tracy Pyette. She will speak on how to be a volunteer and volunteer opportunities in Havre.
All interested people are invited to attend, join, or volunteer to be advisors.