People and Places – February 2009

The 2009 St. Paul Winter Carnival Royal Family includes Megan Andryski, New Hope. The newly crowned Princess of the East […]

The 2009 St. Paul Winter Carnival Royal Family includes Megan Andryski, New Hope. The newly crowned Princess of the East Wind works as a sign language interpreter for Intermediate School District 287. A friend taught her sign language when she was a high school student. She went on to study American Sign Language in college. She volunteers with Thompson Hall, a St. Paul social hall for the deaf. Andryski decided to run for Winter Carnival royalty as a way to share knowledge about American Sign Language and the area’s deaf community. She already served as an interpreter during some of this year’s events.

Andryski and the rest of the royal family will spend the next year representing the Winter Carnival at parades, festivals, nursing home visits and other activities throughout the region. The family includes the Queen of the Snows and Boreas Rex, as well as princes and princesses for each of the four winds.

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Brian McCarthy, who has lived with cerebral palsy since birth, isn’t deterred by a slow housing economy. McCarthy Builders and Re-modelers, Minneapolis, was recently featured by Star Tribune Small Business columnist Dick Youngblood. A newspaper article described how McCarthy has shifted his company’s focus from home building to remodeling, with an emphasis on reworking homes to accommodate the disabled and the elderly. The shift has paid off, as the business made a record profit in 2008. Most of his work was in what he describes as barrier-free design. His work has won praise for its quality and he credits much of his success to tireless networking and a strong work ethic.

“Some mornings I have trouble buttoning my shirt, and I couldn’t fix a screw on your glasses,” he told Youngblood. “But I can lift and pull, put up sheetrock and swing a hammer.”

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Residents of Kingsley Commons, a Minneapolis independent living community that exclusively serves residents with multiple sclerosis, are meeting to discuss disability-related health care concerns. They began meeting in January to tie into President Barak Obama’s “Change is Coming” program.  Grant Watkins of CommonBond Communities and Representative Joe Mullery (DFL) District 58A also participated in the first round of discussion. Common-Bond owns and operates Kingsley Commons, one of three communities of its kind in the United States.

At the first meeting, residents identified the cost of health insurance and cost of health care services as the number one and two biggest problems in the health system. They believe that ongoing community meetings with policy makers are the best way to bring information forward.

The public is invited to the meetings. For details, contact kingsleycmns@aol.com

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Judges and staff at the St. Paul Federal Courthouse recently welcomed back the janitorial staff from Tasks Unlimited. The courthouse was closed for three years for remodeling and opened in late 2008.

The newly renovated building includes more than 300,000 square feet of space, including 25 courtrooms, rare art and sculptures that require specialized maintenance. “It was a huge undertaking but we’re all very glad to be back,” said Tasks Operations Director Gil Bessard. Workers were trained to use new equipment and environmentally friendly cleaning equipment and procedures. The move back to the renovated facilities was described in a recent Tasks Unlimited newsletter.

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The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota recently announced its 2008 award winners. The honorees were feted at NAMI -Minnesota’s recent Pathway to Hope conference.

Winners included Human Services Inc. of Washington County, Provider of the Year; Kay Trainor, Leadership Award; Will Susens, Volunteer of the Year; Bob and Patty Holycross, Volunteer Couple of the Year; Marie Nitke, Grand Rapids Herald, Media Award; Jeanne Allen, Blue-stem Center, Professional of the Year; Lori Shepherd, Consumer Advocate of the Year; Sen. Patricia Torres Ray and Rep. Larry Hosch, Legislators of the Year; Sgt. Steve Wickelgren, Law Enforcement Award; Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Faith Community of the Year; Sandy Menge, Lifetime Advocacy Award; Bindi Shah, Office Volunteer of the Year; Phyllis Johnson, Benefactor of the Year and Mara Calvert, Office Volunteer of the Year.

Material for People and Places came from the Pioneer Press, Opportunity Partners, State of MN and Associated Press. Submissions are welcome at access@testing.accesspress.org