Hatteberg's People - Linda Weir-Enegren

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On Hatteberg’s People, in light of all that has been going on at Rainbows United for the past month or so, I thought it might be instructive to go back to the beginning of that program. Linda Weir-Enegren believed no child with disabilities was un-trainable. With no money, and without the realization that her mission was impossible, Linda started Rainbows in the early ‘70’s. It began in the basement of a local church with no paid staff and just a few volunteers.
“I suppose there were days when I felt I had crawled the last 50 yards on my belly though hot oil. That’s not a good thing to have for all your life, but if it is for something this worthwhile and noble, then I am glad to have been a soldier.”
I happed to shoot this old video that chronicled the first days of the program. Linda Weir was a powerful dynamo who believed these children would do better at home than in an institution. Her job was to find a way to reach them and to help the parents.
“We had no money, we had absolutely no money, we had no resources and we went month to month just hoping there wouldn’t be a crises.”
Rainbows began in 1972, and by the headlines you can tell how far her world has come. Words like ‘retarded’ were used to describe her clients. Linda fought those words. These were children. Children who had been dealt a bad hand…
“When we started, no one in the entire country was addressing these children.”
“Ok pay attention here. Ok now you push. That’s right you push…good girl.”
“The community always was supportive.”
Only four months into her married life, Linda found a child with disabilities who had been abandoned. He became her family. Linda and her husband Phil went on to have two birth children, but adopted five others, some with disabilities.
“I did not take them to be a project. I took them to be their mom. To give them love, to give them a home every single day no matter how this turned out.”
Now that first child she adopted who was abandoned. He is Kenny, now 35and like the rest of her children…successful.
“There is a certain amount of dignity in taking a risk as you can see.”
Linda’s energy knew no bounds, but there came a day when she knew she would have to turn Rainbows over to some one else.
“The first thing that happened was, as embarrassing as this is, I forgot my baby’s first birthday.”
She left Rainbows in 1979. And this is surprising to many; she is now the President of L-S Industries, a company that makes industrial cleaning equipment, a different life to be sure.
Nearly 40 years ago Linda Weir-Enegren had a dream. Now thousands of children have a future where it is possible for them to dream.
“And I think I and the other volunteers here feel very blessed that we are able to have this kind of experience in life. To watch these children grow---the children who are un-trainable.”
“I wanted very badly for families to be able to stay together. And that is why we did it.”

Tag: I felt it was important to show the ‘roots’ of Rainbows, as they migrate through their bankruptcy proceedings. Rainbows is a local treasure, indeed a national treasure, and while huge mistakes were made, the core issue is serving the children and families.

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