Who We Are
With locations in Lincoln, Omaha, and surrounding rural areas, Extended Families of Nebraska provides high quality habilitative services both residentially through the Shared Living 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 every opportunity to make choices and help them live fulfilling and meaningful lives.
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, now known as Shared Living.
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 Shared Living Providers. Abilities, EFN’s day services, opened its doors on 04/14/2014. Cindy is very proud of her amazing leadership team, our dedicated Shared Living 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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Sarah grew up in Grand Island, Nebraska. She started volunteering as a teacher’s aide for the special education department in 6th grade and continued throughout high school. This helped her form some great relationships with people she would go on to support as a DSP at ILC in Grand Island. She started her associate degree in Grand Island, stayed at ILC for 3 years, and then decided to continue her education. That brought Sarah to Lincoln, where she finished her Bachelor’s in Psychology and Criminal Justice.
She transferred to the ILC here in Lincoln, where she moved up and stayed for almost 7 years. While with ILC, she held the role of a Vocational DSP, a Residential DSP, Vocational Manager, and finally a Residential Coordinator. Sarah plans on using her variety of experiences in the field to continue helping one family at a time, extending more person-centered options to people supported in rural settings, and continuing to build top-notch day programs with well-trained and appreciated staff.
In Sarah’s spare time, she loves to spend time with her wild toddler, significant other, family, and friends. Traveling, planning trips, reading, her planner, and attempting to keep plants alive are a few of her favorite things. Having worked a variety of different part-time jobs throughout the years, nothing has ever come close to filling my cup the way the DD field does. She often jokes, “I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t involved with people with disabilities”, but it’s not really a joke. She loves her job and how no two days are ever quite the same. She is very excited to be onboard as the Area Director of a company that places the focus on person-centered supports with such a well-qualified team of people carrying out the mission.
Abby has been working in the Developmental Disabilities field for 10 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. Six years ago, Abby switched gears and began providing Shared Living services, which she continues to do.
In November 2017, she was invited to join EFN’s administration team as the Business Director—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.
Janie Powers Williams
Quality Improvement Coordinator
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 Shared Living 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 Shared Living services for 11 years. Janie’s adult daughter has also chosen to become an Shared Living Provider.
Omaha Program 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 a Shared Living Provider with EFN since 2016 and as a Residential Coordinator since March of 2018. In the spring of 2021, Amanda was promoted to Omaha Program Coordinator and assists in oversight of the Omaha Day and Shared Living services.
As a Shared Living 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.”
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!
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.
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 two cats named Cupp and Thirteen.
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 an 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 Shepherd/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.
Cindy is a native of Phoenix, AZ and brings 11+ years of experience in the DD field. Cindy started off at the Lincoln Regional Center, where she worked for 8 years, then served as a DD Service Coordinator for the State of Nebraska for a year and a half.
Day Services Team
Day Service Coordinator at Abilities
Savino joined Extended Families of Nebraska as the new Day Service Coordinator in April 2021. Savino has worked with the DD community for about four years. In 2017, he started off in the field as a Direct Support Professional then was promoted to Residential Manager within three months. He continued to expand his knowledge and grow within that company until he saw the exciting opportunity to expand his knowledge further as the Day Service Coordinator at EFN.
Savino brings with him a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Nebraska, a bright shining smile, and a can-do attitude. Savino is very pleased with the welcoming environment at EFN. His goals for his future are to continue to expand the Day Service program at EFN and to keep giving individuals who attend the day program a reason to smile.
Savino has been in Nebraska since his mid-teenage years. Prior to living in Nebraska, he spent years in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and Hampton, Georgia. In his spare time, Savino is a dedicated family man. He is married to his amazing wife, Rebecca, and recently, they added a new light to their lives, a daughter, Saige. When Savino is not busy attending to his family and work, he loves to spend time cooking in the kitchen.
Day Service Manager
Alexus Artis is Extended Families of Nebraska’s Lincoln Day Service Manager. Alexus has working in the DD field since she was 19 years old. Even before she was working in this field, she knew this is what she wanted to do. Alexus’s mother worked with disabled individuals, and this was something Alexus really admired; she was destined to follow in her footsteps.
Alexus has gained experience through working at ILC, doing respite care through DHHS, and most recently, working at Region V services. She really enjoyed her time at Region V, but she is excited to start her new journey with our family here at EFN.
Born and raised in Nebraska, Alexus is the oldest of four siblings. She always took on the caregiving role in her family. She adores spending time with her very funny three-year-old daughter Namkio.
Personnel & Facilities Coordinator
Tiffany’s kick off for Extended Families of Nebraska started in September 2020, as the new Office Manager. This is a new work environment for her, but it is one that she welcomes. She had been employed in a Quick Service Restaurant for over 15 years. Tiffany started out as a crew member and eventually was promoted to General Manager. She is really going to miss the establishment she was working at but is excited for this opportunity. Tiffany loves the fact that her job is a part of helping people. She loves to see people smile.
Tiffany is married and has two grown sons (well, they are kind of grown, they are in college), and she has a daughter in middle school. She also has four amazing fur animals, which consist of three cats and a dog. She loves animals and would fill her whole house with them if allowed!
In her free time, Tiffany and her family love to be outdoors. She loves to go camping, kayaking, fishing, and hiking, and enjoys coffee with her friends.
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, flag football, 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.