“I've been working in the nonprofit field for about 10 years. It's really something that I have a great deal of passion for. I feel like there's so much good work being done in the nonprofit sector.”
We’re thrilled to announce Stephanie Deible as the latest addition to our team at the Michigan Nonprofit Association, stepping into the role of Program Manager. So, what should you know about Stephanie? For starters, she’s been crowned Ms. Wheelchair Michigan.
When many think of beauty pageants, images of glamour, glitz, intense rivalries, and diamond tiaras may come to mind. And while Stephanie was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Michigan in 2012 and placed third in the national competition, it wasn’t a beauty competition. “It’s an advocacy-based and leadership-based competition,” said Stephanie. “What happens is there are representatives from across the country and each person picks an advocacy-based platform and something they’re passionate about to help people with disabilities specifically.”
Stephanie, a wheelchair user due to cerebral palsy, knows the sting of discrimination and exclusion firsthand. She recalled an incident over a decade ago in Grand Rapids when her best friend was getting married. “I was a bridesmaid in her wedding. And we encountered a bridal store in Grand Rapids that had a sign outside their door that said, no wheelchairs allowed in the store.”
The incident became a catalyst for Stephanie’s activism journey, eventually capturing widespread media attention. “That’s how the Ms. Wheelchair Organization found me. They saw the news clip.”
Stephanie tirelessly advocates for other disabled people in Newaygo County where she lives. Prior to joining MNA, Stephanie served as the Community Inclusion Specialist for Disability Network West Michigan, where she led initiatives to eliminate barriers and expand access for individuals with disabilities. One of her notable achievements was overseeing a transportation program in Newaygo County, a region that lacks public transportation options. “I managed a program for people with disabilities who either cannot drive or are facing barriers that make it difficult to access reliable transportation.” This program enabled them to partake in essential daily activities, including medical appointments, grocery shopping, employment, and volunteer and social opportunities. Impressively, Stephanie efficiently orchestrated the entire program through the committed efforts of volunteer drivers.
“My role at Disability Network West Michigan was impactful in many ways because it allowed me to help individuals with disabilities better engage in the community and set goals for the future.”
In a candid revelation, Stephanie shared her exhilarating skydiving adventure, challenging stereotypical perceptions about wheelchair users.
“I actually did it when I was Ms. Wheelchair Michigan because it was an annual event at the time,” Stephanie explained. “A lot of people do this (jump from a plane) because it’s something that they never imagined themselves doing, especially being a wheelchair user.”
Stephanie recalled how the tandem jump experience from 10,000 feet in the air with her older sister went down. “Somebody jumped with me, and they had a specific harness. As we’re going down after the parachute opens, your tandem partner has a pulley system that is designed to pull my legs up behind me so that way when we land, I landed in a seated position. Because obviously not being able to stand or walk, I couldn’t land on my feet.”
She says her sister screamed the entire way down. But for Stephanie, it was pure ecstasy. “It was exhilaration mostly because I never imagined that would be a possibility for me.”
This thrilling dive? Just a chapter in the adventurous life of Stephanie—a fervent sports enthusiast.
Following her dedication, Stephanie took on the role of Executive Director at Ms. Wheelchair America, Inc. There, she championed initiatives to uplift and equip individuals with disabilities, honing their leadership and advocacy capabilities. With her deep-rooted passion for nonprofits and advocacy, she seamlessly aligns with MNA’s core values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
Reflecting on her journey, Stephanie emphasized, “I firmly believe that everyone has something different to bring to the table. And it’s really important to be able to engage and elevate other people’s voices and stories. Because no matter what we’re doing, we can always be learning from each other.”
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