About Us

With locations in Lincoln, Omaha, and surrounding rural areas, Extended Families of Nebraska provides high quality habilitative services both residentially through the Extended Family Home model and vocationally at our day service Abilities. In both settings, we provide each person served with a positive, supportive environment free of abuse, neglect, harassment, and exploitation. 

We do this by employing experienced and qualified direct support staff and subcontractors. EFN is confident that they will provide quality, person-centered services to the people we support. As much as possible, we aim to give people served every opportunity to make choices and help them live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Our Staff

Administrative Team

Cindy Lindner - Founder & CEO

Cindy has over 30 years of professional experience working in the field of Developmental Disabilities (DD) and a lifetime of personal experience, having an older sister she adored with Down Syndrome. She has three undergraduate degrees and was working on her Masters in Business Administration. Cindy truly has a rounded background in the field of DD.

As a child, Cindy worked with her sister Karyn to assist her in learning, growing, experiencing life, and being a good sister. Later, she served as Karyn's guardian. Cindy worked direct care in both day and residential settings. She managed group homes and in-home services. She was a surveyor for the State of Nebraska--assessing compliance for providers and assisting them to meet those requirements. Cindy went back to the private sector where she provided quality assurance activities and training for a local DD provider, later becoming the Area Director for their Lincoln program. Cindy was then recruited by a national DD provider. She served as their State Director for seven years, before deciding she was not really corporate material. Her family also opened their home to an elderly man in services, providing Extended Family Home services.

As the months passed, many of Cindy's staff contacted her asking when she was going to start her own agency, so they could transfer to her. Cindy opened Extended Families of Nebraska, LLC on 01/01/2011, contracting with Extended Family Home Providers. Abilities, EFN's day services, opened its doors on 04/14/2014. Cindy is very proud of her amazing leadership team, our dedicated Extended Family Home Providers, and all of EFN's staff, who work very hard to provide the highest level of quality of care possible.

On a personal note, Cindy has one beautiful, amazing daughter who is grown and on her own, two sweet little Pomeranians who keep her company in the evening, a canary who is an amazing singer, and a gecko, who well, is her daughters and Cindy's for now. Cindy loves being outdoors, gardening, swimming, and traveling to our national parks, as well as relaxing on the beaches of the Gulf coast.

Most importantly, Cindy wants to be sure that Extended Families of Nebraska provides the best quality of care possible for people living with disabilities and treats all subcontractors and staff with a high level of dignity and respect, striving towards "Making a Positive Difference, One Family at a Time!"

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Julie Valencia - Area Director

Julie began her career in the human service field in 1995. Julie brings 23 “enjoyable” years of experience serving others in the Developmental Disabilities/Mental Health system.  In the past, Julie has worked as a Residential Manager, Security Specialist, Human Service Treatment Specialist, Residential Coordinator, Residential Director, and provided 14 years of Extended Family Home/Adult Family Home services.  Approximately 3 years ago, Julie began employment as a Residential Coordinator with EFN. As Area Director, Julie coordinates services for Extended Family Home Providers in Omaha and Lincoln.

Julie’s philosophy is:  

"If you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got. ~ W.L. Bateman"

Julie has stated the reason she can identify with this quote is, “you can’t just be okay with how things are and accept them as is.”  Julie feels we need to challenge ourselves, and the people we serve to try new things, so we can all grow as individuals.

Abigail Woods - Business Coordinator

Abby has been working in the Developmental Disabilities field for 8 years. She started off working as a residential Direct Support Professional, then moved into an Assistant Manager position. After finishing her Bachelor’s in Child, Youth, and Family Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she decided to stay in the field and worked as a Vocational Manager. Two years ago, Abby switched gears and began providing Extended Family Home services, which she continues to do.

In November 2017, she was invited to join EFN’s administration team as the Business Manager—managing human resources, finances, business matters, and just about anything else that needs to be done. This was a surprising, unplanned step in her career path, but it turned out to be the perfect fit! Abby loves the attention to detail and problem solving that comes with the job.

Abby grew up in Carroll, Nebraska, a village just outside of Wayne, America. She moved to Lincoln in 2008 to attend UNL and has loved the city ever since. Abby married her wife, Holly, in March of 2017, and they have a perfect black cat. In her spare time, she enjoys house projects, playing poker, spending time with family and friends, and dining out.

Abby was initially inspired to work in this field by the people who supported her uncle in a group home. Abby vowed to grow up and do the same work. Later, when she started her job as a DSP, it did not take long to realize that she had discovered her passion and career. Abby loves working for Extended Families of Nebraska and hopes to be a valuable member of the team for a long time.

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Janie Powers Williams - Behavior Support Specialist

Janie has worked with adults with Developmental Disabilities for nearly 30 years and started as a Direct Support Professional. Prior to working for Extended Families of Nebraska/Abilities, Janie held the positions of Program Specialist, Residential Coordinator for in-home services, and Day Service Manager.

Since joining EFN, Janie has worked as Day Service Coordinator at Abilities, Residential Coordinator, Quality Assurance Coordinator, and Training Coordinator. Janie currently serves the roles of Behavioral Support Specialist, Mandt Trainer, and Extended Family Home Provider.

Janie chose to work in the field, because she has always had an affinity for working with people with diverse backgrounds. Janie chose the field while in college, working part-time in apartment settings. Janie received her Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and Applied Psychology from the College of Saint Mary in Omaha.

Janie, her husband, and her four children live in Lincoln. Part of Janie’s family includes a gentleman for whom Janie’s family has provided Extended Family Home services for 11 years. Janie’s adult daughter has also chosen to become an Extended Family Home Provider.

Residential Team

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Latisha Dorton - Residential Director

Latisha has over twenty years of experience in the DD field. She has been a part of the EFN team for three years and is now serving as the Residential Director.

Heather Short - Residential Coordinator

Heather Short comes to Extended Families of Nebraska with 30 years of experience in the field of Developmental Disabilities. Heather started her career by assisting in moving individuals out of institutions in North Dakota in the mid-1980s.  Since working in North Dakota, Heather has worked in several states as a Direct Support Professional, Coordinator, and a variety of other positions. Heather has been an Extended Family Home Provider for more than 10 years.

Heather’s philosophy is, “it helps to have a sense of humor.”  Heather received her Bachelor’s degrees in Education and Psychology from the University of North Dakota. When not at work, she enjoys relaxing with her family, traveling, and reading post-apocalyptic science fiction.

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Sara Porto - Residential Coordinator

Sara Porto is a Lincoln, NE native and graduate of Northeast High School. Sara has 16 years of experience working in the developmental disability field.

Before coming to Extended Families of Nebraska, Sara worked in direct care positions in both in-home supervised settings, group homes, and day services.  

In 2014, Sara assisted with the opening of Abilities day services by filling the position of Assistant Day Service Coordinator.  In December of 2016, Sara left Abilities to become a Residential Coordinator with the company. 

“What I enjoy most about my chosen profession is the ability others have to make my life more full.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something from someone else that I can use in my personal life.” 

Sara has three children named Winter, Jaret, and Orion.  They also have two dogs named Queso and Moon and a cat named Cupp.

Elizabeth Gillaspie - Residential Coordinator

Elizabeth is a native of Lincoln, NE, residing in Eagle, NE for the last 12 years, and a graduate of Lincoln East High School. Elizabeth earned her Bachelor’s degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Biology. Elizabeth has enjoyed her work in the DD field since 2001.

 “I enjoy working with others, especially those with disabilities. They are more accepting of others than 'regular folks,' and they don’t judge you for being awkward and silly--they embrace it.”

She has experience working residentially for 3 1/2 years and vocationally for 9 years. Elizabeth has also served as a Extended Family Home Provider for 11 1/2 years. Elizabeth started with Extended Families of Nebraska in February 2018 as a Residential Coordinator.

Personally, Elizabeth has been married for 14 years, has a four year old daughter, and a German Shepard/Bernese Mountain Dog named Stella Blue. Her favorite colors are purple and turquoise, and her favorite animal is a hippopotamus.

Elizabeth has been a Master Gardner with the UNL Extension office for almost seven years. Her focus in the program is plant diseases and insects. Her nickname at the EFN is “Mother Nature.”

In her free-time, she enjoys sleeping, being outside, camping, gardening, playing with her house plants, and roller skating. Elizabeth has been a member of two different Roller Derby teams in the past 10 years; the No Coast Derby Girls and the Cass County Roller Girls.

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Amanda Alder - Residential Coordinator

Amanda is a native of Lyons, NE and comes for Extended Families of Nebraska with 16 years of experience in the DD field. Amanda has served as an Extended Family Home Provider with EFN since 2016 and as a Residential Coordinator since March of 2018.

As an Extended Family Home Provider, Amanda explains,"my family and I truly enjoy making the individual we support a part of our family. He sees my relatives as his relatives." 

Heather Eaton - Residential Coordinator

Heather began her career in the Human Services field in 1997. In the past, she has worked as a Direct Support Professional, Residential Manager, Habilitation Manager, and a Vocational Manager. In January 2019, Heather joined the EFN team as a Residential Coordinator.

Heather grew up in Omaha, NE and moved to Union, NE in 2009. She is a volunteer firefighter and serves on her Village Board of Trustees. Heather is married and has two teenage boys. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, fishing, gardening, and riding ATVs. 

DAY SERVICES TEAM

Cindy Huelsdonk - Day Service Coordinator

Cindy is a native of Phoenix, AZ and brings over 11 years of experience in the DD field. Cindy gained experience at the Lincoln Regional Center for 8 years and as a DD Service Coordinator for the State of Nebraska for a year and a half.

Cindy came to EFN in February 2016 as the Day Services Coordinator at Abilities. Cindy explain that her passion for working in the field is, "watching everyone I help support live life to the fullest."

In her free time, Cindy enjoys time with her daughter, playing volleyball, reading, and watching movies.

Susie Matson-Pulec - Assistant Day Service Coordinator at Abilities

Susie is a native of Lincoln, NE and has worked at Extended Families of Nebraska for 4 years. Susie received her Associate’s Degree in Human Services from Southeast Community College. Susie is a veteran in the Developmental Disabilities field and has experience working in management and administrative positions.

Susie is married with two boys. She and her family enjoy finding new adventures and going on family vacations.

Brittany Bedell - Assistant Day Service Coordinator at Abilities

Brittany is a native of Lincoln, NE and has been with Extended Families of Nebraska for 4 years. Brittany has held the position of Assistant Day Services Coordinator at Abilities for the last 2 years. Brittany comes to EFN with over 11 years of experience in the developmental disability field.

Brittany has always enjoyed being a part of and working in the field, “I have been around people with developmental disabilities my whole life. Working with them makes me feel happy and complete.”

Brittany is a big Green Bay Packers fan and goes to games often. Brittany loves everything “The Wizard of Oz” and has one cat, Calie. Her mother is a current Extended Family Home Provider for EFN, and Brittany hopes that, she too, will be able to provide services in her home one day.

Emilia Lindner-Ferguson - Activities Coordinator

Emilia started working as an Administrative Assistant at Extended Families of Nebraska in May of 2017. In the Spring of 2019, Emilia transitioned into her role as Activities Coordinator at Abilities. She uses her skills in painting, drawing, and crafts to entertain and to come up with some fun activities to do with individuals. Emilia also helps to organize events and activities in the community.

Emilia enjoys nature, animals of all kinds, and loves to paint, draw, and do any type of arts and crafts whenever she gets the chance to do so. Emilia has been around individuals with developmental disabilities her whole life and loves to care for people. She has always enjoyed this field of work and wants to continue to build a career for herself around this field. She is a fast learner who is very willing to learn and help our team!

 

Office Administration

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Gene LeDuc - Office Manager

Gene came to Extended Families of Nebraska in April 2018 with seven years of experience in the Developmental Disability field.

Gene chose to begin his career in the Developmental Disability field while working in an AmeriCorps position for the Downtown Lincoln Association and getting to know a group of individuals who also worked there. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Sociology from UNL in 2010, Gene began working both vocationally and residentially for a local provider.  Since then, Gene has gained experience working in direct care, management, and administrative positions with three different providers.

Gene’s philosophy is, “perception is reality.” He believes that it is important to always keep an open mind of how people who experience developmental disabilities may perceive others and their environment and that it is important to consider all factors. He believes in person-centered and inclusive approaches to habilitation. He also has a passion for enhancing options for exercise and nutrition for the people we serve.

Personally, Gene enjoys spending time with family whenever possible, photography, baseball, almost all types of music, and traveling.

Timothy Stephens - Administrative Assistant

Tim started his work as an Administrative Assistant at Extended Families of Nebraska in 2017. Tim is a native of Missouri who came to Lincoln at the age of 14 years old.

Before working at EFN, Tim held the position of Lead Supervisor in the UNL cafeteria grill for nearly four years. Tim was responsible for ensuring the staff he worked with greeted students and guests. Tim also worked to keep the grill clean and learned to follow health codes.

Tim has also worked at Best Buy where he worked as a Customer Service Representative and assisted with cleaning duties.

As an Administrative Assistant, Tim assists with greeting and gathering information about new applicants and potential providers. Tim is passionate about having a part in finding people who will provide quality service. He says, 

“I like helping to find applicants that integrate individuals as part of their family.”

Tim also excels in taking incoming daily phone calls, ensuring office equipment is functional, setting up service calls as needed, assisting in filing, running errands, and maintaining a presentable and clean work environment. Tim’s attitude and work ethic helps create a positive, encouraging, and fun work environment.

In his free time, Tim enjoys watching and playing sports, especially basketball, softball, and volleyball, listening to music and attending concerts, and collecting and watching movies, especially D.C. and Marvel movies.

Tim also enjoys spending time with his mother and her wife, his sister, his brother-in-law and niece, and his brother and sister-in-law who all live in Lincoln. Tim also enjoys animals and currently lives with a dog and four cats.

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Candis Jurgens - Administrative Assistant

Candis moved to Lincoln from Dallas, TX in 1994. Candis has previous customer service experience working for McDonalds for 3 years and Lane Bryant for a year & a half.

Candis came to Extended Families of Nebraska in November of 2017. Candis enjoys being able to work with people in her position and has been around the disability field all her life. She enjoys greeting applicants and visitors, answering incoming phone calls, making copies, assisting in filing, and running errands.

Candis has one younger sister, is the mother to her very outgoing one-year old daughter, and has two cats named Lucy and Coco. In her free time, she enjoys taking photographs, shopping, and spending time with her daughter.