History written by Karen Noel President/CEO of Alzheimer's Association of the Great Plains
In the 1980s, grassroots efforts by family members of persons with Alzheimer’s disease led to the development of the first Alzheimer’s support group in Lincoln, Nebraska. This local support group, which began in 1981, met regularly at a local church. In 1983 the support group applies to National Alzheimer’s Association for Chapter status. Volunteers produce Chapter’s first “cut-and-paste newsletter. Lincoln Chapter hosts Region VI chapter meeting with representatives attending from four states. Chapter applies to National for office start up grant.
With annual budget of $25,000.00, first office opened, Executive Director is hired. Fund-raising begins…garage sales, plant sales, softball tournaments and tennis tournaments. A caregiver creates the “Take the Bite Out of Alzheimer’s” promotion and designs a sticker; Trademark is registered for the sticker design. Chapter becomes member of CHAD (Combined Health Agencies Drive) boosting revenue significantly. Chapter wins first place in “Excellence Award” from National Association, for giving most dollars to research of Chapters its size.
In the 1990s, first Memory Walk held in Lincoln raising $5,000.00. Part-time secretary is hired. Other chapters purchase apple stickers for fundraising. First successful apple campaign is launched. Chapter loses donated office space, receives grant dollars to furnish new office, receives free phone system from bank, second Memory Walk brings in $30,000.00. Increased autopsy assistance fund, new respite assistance program is added, part-time respite coordinator is hired. To increase revenue, additional fund-raisers held “gift wrapping service” on Mothers, Fathers, and Valentine’s Day. National chooses chapter as a pilot site for the direct mail campaign “Address Your Neighbor”. Chapter wins highest award “Overall Excellence in Program” from National for its Legislative Breakfast with state senators.
National approved new name Lincoln/Greater Nebraska which better reflects chapter territory. Members from Greater Nebraska are added to board, as well as two Advisory Councils were formed. Memory Walks grow to 18 locations raising $77,000.00. Chapter moves and triples office space. Monthly newsletter takes on professional look. Support groups have grown to 35 across the 80 counties served by the Chapter. Alzheimer’s Demonstration grant enables the opening of two branch offices in Greater Nebraska, expanding the programs and services. Additional staff is added, development coordinator, support group coordinator, part time public policy coordinator is shared position with Omaha Chapter. Grant is funded through Community Health Endowment for $50,000.00 for respite financial assistance in Lancaster County.
Two new programs were added to build an on going financial base; the Cornerstone Society and the Circle of Hope. Two new special events are added; “Nite Lite Golf” and “Stars Are Out” fund raising events were added to increase revenue to expand programs and services.
The chapter partners with key organizations making possible the funding of lifespan respite through legislative bill 148, available to families who care for loved ones at home.
Staff provides Nebraska Health and Human Service with a statewide Dementia training for 350 professionals. Forty people are registered in the Safe Return program, seventy three families using respite financial assistance program. Staff works with key nursing homes in culture change by providing the program “I support Quality of Life”. Chapter provides in-service trainings, train-the-trainer, health fairs, caregiver workshops, symposium on ethics in dementia, ABC (Activity Based Care), information and referral.
Strategic Realignment Initiative is adopted by national board of directors. The initiative is centered on strengthening the chapter network for a new period of growth. Chapter meets stringent criteria to be considered an “Area Chapter” and have the four-member management team in place; President/CEO, Program Director, Development Director, and Finance & Operations Director. Chapter also agrees to serve the entire state of Wyoming. The realignment initiative reduced the network from 220 chapters to 83 “Area Chapters”.
National believes cultures are one and same, requests the Lincoln/Greater Nebraska Area Chapter realign with Sunflower Chapter in Wichita Kansas. Combined board of directors established the Alzheimer’s Association of the Great Plains. The realigned Chapter will be a more effective organization overall, higher quality core services (education, information and referral, care consultation, support groups and Safe Return), capacity to reach more people. The newly named Great Plains Chapter covers 231,511 square miles of farmland, ranchland, mountains and plains. Great Plains Chapter serves largest geographical territory in the entire network of Chapters.
Chapter changes monthly newsletter to quarterly and increases size. Regional Director hired in Wichita office, educational coordinator hired for rural Kansas through Alzheimer’s Demonstration grant. Seven new walks in Kansas, support groups now number 89.
After three years, Board of directors vote to separate Kansas and Nebraska territory. Wichita will be a stand alone office with national representation serving on their new board. The Great Plains Chapter will continue to cover all of Wyoming and the 80 of the 93 counties in Nebraska. A new board of directors govern the chapter with members from rural Nebraska and Wyoming.
Chapter joins national in Collaborative Direct Marketing campaign, 3 staff members are trained in Chicago to be instructors of Dementia. New web site designed pro bono for chapter.
Chapter begins special support group for early on set people. Two people from Chapter’s early on set support group people are chosen to serve on national’s Early On Set task force. Chapter has 50 support groups in Nebraska and 8 in Wyoming.
The Great Plains Chapter opens office in Douglas Wyoming, first time Memory Walks in Cheyenne, Rock Springs and Lovell. Chapter receives $10,000.00 MetLife grant to increase newsletter distribution in Wyoming. A new Advisory Council is being formed in Wyoming.