“Being with those people at the Center made me feel proud that I was Native and made me believe in myself."
“Before COVID, there were events and programs at the Indian Center every week. When COVID hit, it stopped everything. Events, fundraising, revenue streams. We were just hanging on by the skin of our teeth a couple times.
I got on board last year when they were going to close the doors. At the second meeting, I became the board chair. I didn't know Robert's Rules, but I do know how to run a business and how to deal with people.
I want to help the Indian Center be, once again, the place it was when I was growing up, a place where Natives in the community congregated, celebrated and learned from each other. It was a place where we could practice our traditions without feeling weird or different from others, without anybody judging us. There were after school programs, tutoring programs, weekend programs, work programs and leadership programs
It also was a place where kids could see that you don't have to live the way others might be living. That's one thing that changed me as a kid, being here and seeing Natives who have stable families, who don’t drink. Spending time with adults like that showed me that I could have a family like that. And there was an elder who wore a suit every day. Being with those people at the Center made me feel proud that I was Native and made me believe in myself. Before that, my life had been like going one step forward and three steps back. The Center changed my life. My daughter's in graduate school now and I’ve adopted five kids to try to help them too. So the Center is important to me, it kind of extends my reach as a father, so I can help as many kids as possible.
I am working on building a big youth program, even bigger than the one they had when I was a kid. COVID has really put a damper on our plans and revenues, though. We used to raise money by using the parking lot for University of Nebraska home football games. Now there are no games. We used to rent out our building for events. Now we can’t. And we used to do fundraising events at the Center. Now we can’t do that either. I was looking into money and stuff and every time I looked at applications and tried, I got denied by so many people.
Then Mt. Monica’s came through with a partnership and we got funding right away. St. Monica’s program, Women Are Sacred, provides recovery services for women. Their residential space at the Center will have a place for their kids, too, so the children can be with the moms while they are in recovery. We expect most of the women to be Natives, but the program also is open to non-Natives as well. Because of this partnership, we can continue forward with our plans.
I've always had a big vision and I think my board respects me for that. I don't ever ask them about it, but they've always backed me up. We have a great grant writer and dynamic board, so we are moving forward."
-- Deveron, Indian Center of Lincoln (October 2020).