FARGO, N.D. – “I don’t believe in giving a handout, but I do believe in giving a hand up to help people get ahead,” says Deb Mathern. She employs that philosophy in her work as CEO and president of Fargo Public Schools Federal Credit Union and in her after-hours volunteer work with North Dakota organizations. Her volunteer work began with a personal experience, two, actually. “My sister is a diabetic and had to use a wheelchair to get around after several bypass surgeries on her legs. When I would take her shopping for groceries or necessities, it really came home to me how we take our mobility for granted. I’d double-park in front of the store, unload a wheelchair and get her situated and into the store, run out and park the car and then go through the whole process in reverse as we left.” Mathern attended a luncheon sponsored by people with disabilities, listening to their stories. “I invited one of the young men to dinner and learned so much about their financial struggle: what they do when the motor goes out on a wheelchair or whether they pay their utility bill or buy groceries or health insurance.” In her fourth year at the ARC (Association of Retarded Citizens) of Cass County, she serves as vice chair. She also serves on the state ARC Governmental Affairs Committee, following legislation affecting those with developmental disabilities. Her favorite project was “Disability Awareness Day” at the capitol. “After seeing what my sister went through, I thought everyone should have to spend a day in the shoes of someone with a disability.” “We had wheelchairs and walkers and a computer for a mute person to use to speak. To demonstrate dyslexia and learning disabilities, we asked several legislators to read their bills upside down. Others were given a financial limitation of $1.60 for lunch. We asked them to draw their disability from a hat as we don’t get to choose the disability we may be born with. It was a wonderful experience.” Mathern also served four years on the board of Handi-Wheels Inc., a non-profit transportation service for low-income and disabled people, and now serves on the Youth Works Board. -

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