2017 Disability Capitol Action Day

June 16, 2017

Approximately 30 FREED consumers, staff, and Board members from Grass Valley, Nevada City, Marysville, and Yuba City traveled to Sacramento on Tuesday for the 13th annual Disability Capitol Action Day. We joined over 400 people from across the state who gathered at Cesar Chavez Plaza on I Street for a disability resource fair and rally. We then marched the three blocks to the State Capitol where some of us met with legislative staff to advocate for single-payer health care, continued funding of supports to those with traumatic brain injuries, and the ability for those on Supplemental Security Income or other means tested government benefits to save money for disability-related expenses.

Speakers at the rally included CA Assemblymember Rudy Salas who introduced AB763, which provides state funding to the 28 Independent Living Centers in California. Other people spoke about actions on the Federal level, including the serious threat to Medicaid funding proposed in the House of Representatives’ American Health Care Act, and provisions in the ADA Education and Reform Act which would de-incentivize businesses from having accessible buildings and facilities. FREED’s Board member, William Reed, told the crowd what it is like for him to be an IHSS provider and encouraged us to speak to our legislators about the issues we most care about.

Disability Capitol Action Day is organized each year by the Disability Action Coalition, and this year’s theme was access to health care. We marched from Cesar Chavez Plaza to the State Capitol, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Medicare for all is the way to go,” and “What do we want? Medicaid. When do we want it? Now.”

During our visits to legislative offices after lunch, community members expressed strong support for SB562, the Healthy California Act, which would establish a single-payer health care system for all Californians. We met with staffers for State Senators and Assemblymembers representing Grass Valley / Nevada City and Marysville / Yuba City. We encouraged them to support SB562. We also thanked them for their support of SB398, (the TBI bill). This piece of legislation provides supports and services to people with traumatic brain injuries. FREED is a provider of these services. Some of our consumers with traumatic brain injuries were at the visits and spoke about how useful and life-changing the programs are for them.

The day was filled with a sense of solidarity and unification across the ability spectrum and a sense of hope for our ongoing journey to increase the rights and resources for people with disabilities. At the rally in the morning, Lydia X. Z. Brown spoke to the need for us to create an intersectional movement. “Those who have the privilege and the power in our community need to be using that privilege and that power to speak with and to lift up those of us who don’t have the same privilege and power,” they said. “Those of us who for too long have been excluded and at the margins even within our own movement need to be at the forefront leading our way forward, demanding our right to life, our right to justice… We’ve still got to fight to make sure that there is a tomorrow and that the next generation of young disabled folks, particularly those who are otherwise marginalized, know that there is a future.”

Jail and Bail Fundraiser 2017

March 8, 2017

It’s time for the annual Jail and Bail Fundraiser, sponsored by KNCO. Several of FREED’s kind supporters are heading to “Jail” and will be collecting “Bail” in order to get out, and to support FREED! Check out the BAIL WANTED posters below, and click on the button below your favorite jailee to help pay their bail through PayPal. You may also call FREED at 477-3333 to pledge bail to your favorite “prisoner”.

The real fun takes place on Thursday, April 20th: First check The Union in the morning for Mug Shots of our “jailees” then tune in to KNCO radio. The KNCO Meeting Room becomes a jail. The Jailers (KNCO Staff) interview their prisoners on air, and this is the chance for them to thank and acknowledge those who contributed “bail” and to talk about the organizations they are supporting. FREED would like to thank KNCO and The Union for all the years of sponsoring and supporting the Jail & Bail Fundraiser – since 1995 according to our records!!!!!


Your PG&E Bill May be Increasing Dramatically! – How to Get Involved

February 24, 2017

Most Californians will soon see a change in the way they are billed for electricity: the center for accessible technology wants to hear from you about what this will mean

What is changing about my electricity rates?

Right now, most households pay for electricity with tiered rates.  When you use electricity, the initial rate each month is the lowest rate available.  If your usage goes above a set level, the amount you pay for the additional usage is higher than the initial rate.  People who use the most electricity pay the highest rate, while people who limit their usage can stay within the lowest “tier.”

Over the next few years, the major utilities in California will be switching most customers from the tiered structure to a “time of use” or TOU rate structure, where rates are higher during the time of day where there is the most demand on the electric grid (likely to be late afternoon and through the evening) and lower during other times of day.

Why is my rate structure changing?

There are many factors involved in the decision (made by the California Public Utilities Commission) to change most customers to a TOU rate structure, most of which relate to the state’s energy and climate goals.

  • Higher rates at times of high demand are intended to encourage customers to shift their usage to other times of day, which will help manage the flow of energy through the power grid.
  • Lower rates at times of day when solar power is abundant are intended to support California’s commitment to clean energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

What does this mean for me?

While the purpose of the change to TOU rates is to support important energy and climate goals, it may create problems for many customers who cannot easily shift their energy usage.  This is a particular concern for customers who live in hot climate zones, including the Central Valley and the desert areas of California.

Most customers will see their summer bills go up with a change to TOU rates.  A substantial number, but by no means all (or even most) will see that offset by lower bills in the winter.  If a customer can shift their energy usage to lower-cost times, they can offset any increases, or even see bill decreases.  But a customer who is unable to shift their usage may see a substantial overall increase in their annual cost of energy.  Customers who use a lot of electricity are most likely to see their bills go down, while those who use less energy are more likely to see their bills go up.

Do you want to find out more about these changes? And what can you do?

The Center for Accessible Technology is conducting short (20 minute) telephone interviews and is inviting customers to complete a survey about household energy use.  These tools will allow us to collect information and potential concerns from customers about the upcoming changes to their rate structure. We can also provide information on how to “opt out” of the change if you prefer.  By providing your story about your electricity usage and how any change in rate structure may affect your quality of life, you will help us submit important information to the California Public Utilities Commission, which is considering whether to exempt groups of customers from the change. It WILL make a difference.


If you are interested in being interviewed, please email Kate Woodford at kwoodford@cforat.org, or call 510-841-3224 x 2017 to schedule a telephone interview. Evening and weekend interviews are available. We look forward to speaking with you and hearing your important story.

New Pilot Program: Voice Options Kicks-off on January 11th!

January 6, 2017

FREED is excited to be a partner in the new Voice Options program.  This program connects Californians with speech language disabilities to iPads with speech apps. Using a speech app may make being understood easier and allow you to speak independently.  Voice Options is a pilot program of the California Public Utilities Commission. For more information on the program check out: http://voiceoptions.org/

The SCAN Foundation Community of Constituents Regional Coalition

January 4, 2017

Formed in 2011, the Community Living Implementation Council (CLIC) of Nevada County advocates for consumer-friendly access to long-term services and supports (LTSS), as well as increased agency collaboration.  CLIC consists of 14 member organizations that provide services and programs to individuals with disabilities, older adults, caregivers, and family members.  The vision is that all older adults and persons with disabilities live independent, fulfilling, and healthy lives.  The Council’s focus is to provide easy access to a broad array of services, a continuum of help in accessing services, and advocacy for individuals desiring LTSS and more information.

In 2016, collaborative efforts expanded to Yuba and Sutter counties with the creation of the Yuba-Sutter Aging and Disability Resource Connection Advisory committee with a focus on bi-county LTSS coordination.

For more information go to http://www.thescanfoundation.org/our-goals/dual-integration/community-of-constituents

Keep FREED Rolling!

November 29, 2016


On Tuesday, November 29th, FREED is participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to celebrating and encouraging giving. #GivingTuesday is a special call to action to create a global day of giving that brings diverse organizations and communities around the world together to give back. It is about ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things for our community. We hope you can join us in celebrating the holiday season by making a contribution to FREED today at http://www.freed.org/donate/!

Help keep FREED rolling today by signing up online for a monthly reoccurring donation!

 2016 FREED Highlights

  • FREED is #1 in Assistive Technology (AT) by serving the largest number of individuals in California with AT services as compared to all other urban and rural Independent Living Centers in California!
  • FREED is #2 in California by serving the second largest number of individuals as compared to other Independent Living Centers!
  • 1333 individuals served with comprehensive independent living services!
  • 1568 information and referral services provided
  • 32 individuals transitioned from a nursing home to community living
  • 87 individuals served with Care Transition Coaching and support during and after hospital discharge
  • 1647 hours of collaboration, networking, and community advocacy in the counties we serve.

Community Organizing with over 50 community members to create practical outcomes in infrastructure accessibility and voter registration.

Demonstrated Outcomes

  • 56% of individuals are better able to perform activities of daily living
  • 53% feel that their overall quality of life has improved
  • 52% are better able to access their home environment
  • 42% are better able to access the community

We truly appreciate your support of FREED’s work and ask that you consider donating to FREED through your year-end giving. Make a one-time donation by writing a check today or by going to http://www.freed.org/donate/. Even better, consider becoming a Rolling Donor by signing up online for a monthly reoccurring donation.


Our Community: An Aging & Disability Conference – August 3rd, 2016

June 10, 2016

ADRC 2016 conference flyer FINAL

Our Community: An Aging & Disability Conference

August 3rd, 2016

9am – 4pm

Holiday Inn Express, Grass Valley


Celebration of Trails – June 4th!

May 31, 2016

Join the Bear Yuba Land Trust, Sierra Club, and FREED for a family friendly, all ability levels, hike on the Hirschman Trail this Saturday, June 4th!

When: June 4th at 9:30 a.m.
Level: Easy to moderate (depending on distance), .8 miles (wheelchair accessible) – 5 miles (moderate ascending and descending)
Meet: Hirschman Trail Trailhead

Bring the whole family for this kid-friendly, all ability level exploration of Nevada City’s Hirschman Trail. Join Ana Acton of FREED and Richard Thomas of the Sierra Club as we investigate the flora and fauna of this popular trail. Thomas is a longtime resident of the area and will bring his scope for viewing wildlife, such as the resident Western Pond turtles, at the pond. Bring your camera and sketch book if you wish. This is a wheelchair, limited mobility accessible trail to the pond (.8 mile round trip). Those who want to go further, will have that option, too. We are fortunate that local natural history buffs, Ralph and Lisa Cutter, have signed on again for this year’s hike!

Questions may be addressed to Richard Thomas at 264-6740 or email at randtthomas@sbcglobal.net.





FREED’s Friendly Visitor Program Celebrates Alfredo Nespral’s 100th Birthday!

May 31, 2016

FREED’s Friendly Visitor program matches elderly, stay-at-home locals with volunteers. Earlier this year, Friendly Visitor Coordinator Maureen Gerecke made such a match between Alfredo Nespral of Penn Valley and me, Jeff Russell.

In just a few short months we became good friends. As I am relearning Spanish at Sierra College, we visit in both English and in Spanish.

Alfredo Nespral was born on April 21, 1916 at San Antonio de Los Baños — 15 miles southwest of Havana, Cuba. He grew up with two sisters, Josephine and Olga. During the tumultuous 1930s of Cuba, Alfredo finished high school and was admitted to Havana University to study medicine, anatomy, and physiology. Only nine months later, when student unrest shuttered the university, Alfredo applied to the Havana Naval Academy. He was one of 1,200 applicants who took the entrance exam at La Punta, Cuba. Even in this stiff competition, Alfredo excelled and was accepted. After three more years of Naval Academy, Cuba recruited Alfredo to join the then fledging Cuba Naval Air Force. He quickly “earned his wings.” Because he was coming out of the Naval Academy, they nicknamed him “el Marino.” In those early days Alfredo flew a single propeller 500 HP Stearman airplane.

Later Alfredo trained in long distance navigation with the then world leader in such, Pan American Airlines. For many years he flew the Havana to Madrid route. With a stop-over in Bermuda to refuel, it took 17 hours to go one way. Because Havana/Madrid was such a long flight they stayed four days before the return flight.

Alfredo’s life changed for the better in the closing days of World War II. One afternoon while at the seawall of the Commodore Club on Havana harbor, he sat down next to a very pretty lady. He was 29 years old and she was just 24. Her name was Thais (try to imagine the romance of the tropical breeze blowing there — think Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall). After just a short time talking, Thais turned to Alfredo and stated, “Quiero casarme” (“I want to get married”). Not to be undone, Alfredo quickly replied he wanted that too! And so, after a year or so of courtship and, his winning over her protective parents, they did marry.

In those same years, Thais attained an impressive post doctorate education in the USA majoring in both dentistry and orthodontics. She became the head of orthodontics at Havana University. Eventually she encouraged Alfredo to become a doctor of dentistry also. They created a very comfortable life in Cuba.

After Fidel Castro overthrew Cuban dictator Batista in 1959, Cuban life became more oppressive. In 1962, Alfredo and Thais secretly fled by boat to Caracas, Venezuela. They left everything they had behind.

In Venezuela life was not very inviting and shortly, after many applications, they landed jobs in orthodontics and dentistry in the USA. Eventually they moved to Southern California.

Alfredo and his much beloved Thais enjoyed more than 50 years of marriage together. After many world travels and two very productive lives, they settled in Penn Valley in the early 2000s to raise horses. Sadly, less than three years later, Thais died. Alfredo’s son Cesar Nespral still lives near their old hometown of Palmdale, California. Everyone who meets Alfredo today remarks that he moves and acts more like an 80-year-old than 100!

Realizing that Alfredo was doing “nothing special” for his 100th birthday, I began to plan a grand birthday party for him.

Spanish teacher Sara Casler helped in these efforts by securing a venue on Sierra College campus. She also encouraged other Spanish students to attend. To prepare, they practiced singing the Cuban birthday song “Felicidades.” On April 21, with Maureen Gerecke and several other of Alfredo’s friends in attendance, Professor Casler’s students serenaded Alfredo with this song. He was most pleased by the festivities and certainly by the birthday cake decorated with the Cuban flag. 

After such a long and interesting life, Alfredo Nespral certainly deserves the attention. 

Jeff Russell lives in Big Oak Valley.


Don’t forget to Register to vote!

March 10, 2016