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Member Stories
The member stories that follow speak to the power of the human spirit, to the power of hope, and to the power of dedicated individuals working together as a team.

    Darrin Pribbernow shares his story and experience serving on Community Care’s member appeal and grievance committee.

    Growing up in smalltown Wisconsin wasn’t easy for Darrin Pribbernow. The farming town of New Holstein was a place where folks (particularly kids) were not especially receptive to things or people that are “different;” and Darrin was nothing if not different.

    Darrin was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that causes severe and lifelong mobility limitations.

    Darrin has always relied on an electric wheelchair and his mobility is basically limited to a single finger on his left hand. He also uses a ventilator due to a weak respiratory system. In 2013, Darrin enrolled in Community Care’s Family Care program when he turned 18.

    That changed in 2010 when he met Caitlin, who would quickly become his best friend, his girlfriend, and now his wife. Darrin describes Caitlin as his rock. He said any success he’s found or may yet find, does not happen without her.

    So far, Darrin’s successes have included finishing his criminal justice degree at Lakeland University and completing law school at Marquette University. Darrin is now a practicing attorney and an advocate. The legal profession was a natural fit for someone with a knack for arguing and a strong desire to help those in need.

    Turns out these same qualities made Darrin a good candidate to serve on Community Care’s member appeal and grievance committee. We asked Darrin about his decision to volunteer.

    What made you decide to serve on the committee?

    My case manager, Brenda, suggested that I participate in the committee. She felt that my legal education was well-suited to the responsibilities of someone on the committee. I decided to do it because it seemed like an opportunity to help people and do something good.

    What has your experience serving on the committee been like?

    Serving on the committee has been rewarding, if not trying. In law school, we are told that most people who seek out legal services do not do so because they want to. Whether it is a criminal trial, a divorce, or a civil suit, the idea is that you—the lawyer—are likely meeting your client at one of the lowest points of their lives. I try to maintain that same mentality in my service on the appeal committee.

    When you serve on an appeal hearing, it is important to go into it with the understanding that the appealing member does not want to go through this. Justifying their needs to a committee of five strangers is likely not how the member wants to

    spend their time. Frustrations and tensions are usually very high. Listening to people voice those frustrations can take a toll, however, nothing worth doing is easy. Everyone has a right

    to be heard, especially when it involves their own well-being. That is the most rewarding part: knowing that you are the ear that so many people need.

    Is there anything you hope to accomplish while serving on the committee?

    I know firsthand how it feels to be told that you do not need something that you feel you do need. In my experience, the worst part is not necessarily getting what you want, it’s the feeling that no one was listening to you. I just want appealing members to feel like the appeal process they went through was a fair one; that they were actually heard.

    What would you say to a member to encourage them to volunteer on the committee?

    First, remember that every single Community Care member has a right to appeal decisions. Even if you personally are not appealing a decision, serving on the appeal committee gives you the opportunity to help others exercise that right. You are giving other people a voice. And the committee needs you now more than ever. There are supposed to be two members on every hearing. However, there are not enough volunteer members to meet that goal right now. That is why we need you!

    Darrin's story appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of our member newsletter Connections.

  • RIDING WITH MATT: Matt Barton Shares Unique Life Memories

    Member Story - Matt BartonAfter 30 years of working security at Milwaukee’s Summerfest, Matt Barton can tell you exactly what his favorite memory is - the time country music star Kenny Chesney asked him to take him around Milwaukee.

    A close second would probably be the summer when he got to be Taylor Swift’s personal security guard, shepherding the young, and still relatively unknown Swift and her mother around the Summerfest grounds.

    If you are looking for an explanation as to how Kenny Chesney edged out Taylor Swift on Matt Barton’s list, it all comes down to two words: Harley-Davidson.

    Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, naturally Matt is a devoted Harley guy. It’s hard to miss, considering his custom wheelchair is painted orange and black (the color of the Harley-Davidson logo), the same color as his bike and his custom Harley-Davidson Ford F-150. If that doesn’t convince you, maybe the fact that he collected more than 400 Harley T-shirts will.

    So, how did Matt catch the Harley bug?

    “I saw Evil Knievel ride his Harley and the movie Easy Rider,” Matt said. “I said, ‘I have to have a Harley.”

    In the 30 years Matt spent riding, he visited 48 of the 50 states, traveled to Boston along Route 30, made the trip from Milwaukee to Dallas, and retraced the Oregon Trail. Each trip is commemorated with a pin on Matt’s leather motorcycle vest, which he wore when he rode.

    On the shorter trips, Matt was accompanied by his wife Laura. When their chil­dren were young­er, they would ride with Matt in a two-person side car.

    Sadly, those trips are just memo­ries now, but good memories.

    Matt, 60, suffered a stroke in 2019 that left him paralyzed on his left side. Not only did the stroke confine him to a wheel­chair, but it left him unable to ride his beloved Harley.

    “I had to sell my bike. It was the worst day of my life,” Matt said. “I cried.”

    Fortunately, Matt’s stroke did not rob him of his memories. Those memories, and his leather motorcycle vest, help remind him of all the places he has been to and all the people he met along the way. That’s what he loved most, “seeing all the peo­ple we would meet on the road,” Matt said.

    As a member of Community Care’s PACE program, Matt gets the kind aid, and assistance he now requires, both in his home and at the Vliet day center.

    Matt, a retired Milwaukee Pub­lic School special ed teacher, en­joys sharing his memories with others, especially his friends, and the staff, at the Vliet day center, where he is a regular on Tues­days and Thursdays.

    “I love coming here because of all the activities we do. They keep me busy,” Matt said.

    As for that trip with Kenny Chesney, Matt just happened to be at the right place at the right time when Chesney noticed he was a rider.

    “He asked, ‘Would you take me on a tour?’” Matt said. “So, I did.”

    Matt's story appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of our member newsletter Connections.

  • TAKING HIS SHOT: Cliff Pheifer doesn’t let his disability define him

    Member Story - Cliff PheiferCliff Pheifer would be the first to tell you he is not an excellent shot, but he is by no means the worst. If pushed, he is more likely to tell you he is “mediocre.”

    The simple fact that Cliff can hold a shotgun and shoot it is impressive, considering what he goes through to do it. The fact that he can track a “clay pigeon” racing across the sky and hit it is, well, pretty amazing.

    Cliff, 66, lives in Kaukauna. He has been a member of Community Care’s Family Care program for about eight years.

    When Cliff was in his 30s, he learned he had Pompe disease, a rare genetic disorder that causes the muscles in the arms and legs to slowly weaken over time.

    For the past 30 years, Cliff has been confined to a wheel-chair. In addition to needing  a portable ventilator to help him breath, Cliff cannot lift his arms above his head,  which makes the fact that  he shoots trap in a league  all the more incredible.

    About 10 years ago, Cliff started shooting trap at the Brown County Sportsman’s Club in Green Bay. He had hunted turkey and deer before, but never thought about shooting trap. “I didn’t even think I would be able to do it, but I saw some guys shooting with a stick. So, I made myself one with some help from a machine shop,” Cliff said. “I’ve been shooting ever since.”

    Dan Mercer, Cliff ’s care manager, knew Cliff ’s story was worth sharing. Last year, with coronavirus restricting face-to-face visits with members, Dan wanted to get out and catch up with Cliff safely.

    He knew Cliff shot trap, so he planned a visit. He wanted to see Cliff shoot.

    “We spend so much time solving other people’s problems, or trying to make things easier, I wanted to see Cliff, who despite everything gets in his van, drives up there, meets with his buddies and does something he loves,” Dan said. “I could see how proud he was to have me there.”

    Before becoming a registered nurse, Dan got his start in Emergency Medical Services. He joined Community Care as a care manager six years ago. It is a job that suits him well.

    “I am a true believer that our life is a compilation of our stories. I wanted to know people’s stories,” Dan said. “By getting into nursing I was able to spend more time with my patients. Doing case management with Community Care gives me a great opportunity to learn that story.”

    Cliff's story appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of our member newsletter Connections.

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