She grew up with over 60 LCSNW foster siblings. Now she’s joined our Board

by | Feb 3, 2023 | Behavioral Health, Family Support, Staff Spotlight

Cathy Neer was raised in a home filled with love and the aroma of homemade bread and pies. The place was always bustling with the activities of Cathy and her three siblings. A rotating cast of temporary foster children took things to a whole other level. Most of the time, they were pre-adoption babies. Occasionally they were toddlers or other young kids.

Growing up was never dull for Cathy, the daughter of Doug and Gail Freese. The couple signed up as foster parents with Lutheran Family and Child Services (the precursor to Lutheran Community Services Northwest) in the mid-1950s, and they never looked back. 

“At one point, they were the longest-serving foster parents in Spokane,” Cathy recalled. “More than 60 foster kids came through our house over 20 years, usually about five weeks at a time.”

Today, as Cathy settles in as the newest member of the LCSNW Board of Directors, her long, strong family connection to the agency offers important context. 

So does her 25-year career teaching at-risk and special needs students in Pasco. LCSNW provides school-based mental health care and wraparound family services in Benton and Franklin Counties. Our teams have served the Tri-Cities area since 1964 – just eight years less than we’ve served Cathy’s hometown of Spokane.

“I am excited to have Cathy on the Board because of her history with education in the Tri-Cities,” said LCSNW President and CEO David Duea. “I was struck not only by her knowledge of local resources, but by her passion for kids she has served and who we serve.”

Cathy, now retired, joined the Board in November as an at-large representative. She spent most of her career at Pasco High School teaching special education. At the time, some students were dropping out; they struggled to manage the rigors of a full academic day. So Cathy and her colleagues integrated community volunteer work to prepare these young people for the workforce. A 5-to-6-year graduation plan was implemented to help them secure their diplomas – along with food handler cards, drivers licenses and practical skills.

It’s this kind of “big picture” thinking that Cathy brings to the LCSNW Board. “I’m very level headed and pragmatic,” she said. “If there’s something you want to do, there’s always a way to do it. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.”

Losing John Neer, her husband of more than 45 years, to brain cancer in February 2021 was “a real game changer,” she said. But Cathy maintains an active schedule with interests such as pickleball, water volleyball, snowshoeing, water skiing and being a fun-loving “nana” to three beautiful granddaughters. 

Her Mom died in December at age 89, but the legacy of service left by Gail and Doug Freese continues.

“Lutheran was a big part of our lives growing up,” Cathy said, “and we’ve always supported what’s going on there.”