The month of October was Minnesota Disability Employment and Awareness Month, as proclaimed by Governor Jesse Ventura. This celebration is traditionally observed in cooperation with the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)/Department of Labor, formerly the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. ODEP provides training materials and national publicity materials for use by the media.
Each October, the Minnesota State Council on Disability selects (from a slate of individuals and organizations nominated by the public) and recognizes those who have demonstrated outstanding efforts as, or on behalf of, persons with disabilities.
The 2001 winners, by category, are:
Distinguished Service, Individuals: Barry Hite and Daniel Reed
Barry Hite is not only the lay pastor of Hilltop Chapel in Palisade, MN, but also runs a small business in Emily, MN. He has distinguished himself in service to his community as a player and coach of a national champion softball team. He also coaches youth baseball, as well as supporting several programs for hunters with disabilities. Mr. Hite broke his back in an accident over 20 years ago and is paralyzed from the waist down. He and his wife, Bertie, are the parents of two sons.
Daniel Reed has recruited businesses in the St. Paul area to employ people with autism. He has worked tirelessly to secure transportation for his workers with disabilities and initiated the purchase of several 15-passenger vans to shuttle clients to and from their work. He has also authored a book chronicling his experiences with persons with autism.
Distinguished Service, Groups: People First and The Knights of Columbus
People First has distinguished itself for helping people with developmental disabilities to become actively involved in the Minnesota disability rights community. The organization has developed self-advocacy groups and training programs around the state through 20 chapters involving over 500 members.
The Knights of Columbus conduct the “Fall Classic” for Minnesota Special Olympics. Over 800 participants with developmental disabilities from throughout the state come to the metro area each November for the competition. Over 350 Knights of Columbus volunteers coach the competition with the aid of an additional 600 volunteers. In addition, each April, Knights of Columbus volunteers raise over $275,000 by handing out candies and accepting donations for agencies serving developmentally disabled persons.
Employer of the Year, Over 200 Employees: Saint Paul Companies, Inc.
Saint Paul Companies, Inc. has developed partnerships with several agencies that provide training and placement services for people with disabilities. As a result of these partnerships, the company has actively sought out qualified applicants and provided work experience and internships for them. The St. Paul Companies have provided a positive work environment that includes adapting work sites to the individual needs of the candidates. Company representatives serve on several agency boards and actively promote the recruitment, employment, and promotion of their employees with disabilities.
Employer of the Year, Under 200 Employees: The Hazelden Foundation Dietary Services Department
The Hazelden Foundation Dietary Services Department has, for the past 15 years, employed persons with disabilities referred to them by the Chisago Lakes Achievement Center. Management has demonstrated great flexibility in providing accommodations for the CLAC workers.
Legislator of the Year: Senator Julie Sabo
Senator Sabo demonstrated extraordinary leadership and determination in her efforts to pass the Visitability language through the Senate and conference committees this past legislative session. Housing, as we know it in Minnesota, will take on a new and more accessible face. Housing built in whole or part with public funding, funneled through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, will be more accessible to a far greater range of individuals.
Recreation: Wilderness Inquiry
Wilderness Inquiry provides outdoor adventure trips to people of all ages and abilities. In addition, they have a special program designed to meet the needs of families with children with a disability by providing adapted skills training to prepare them for outdoor adventures around the country. The staff demonstrates a “do whatever it takes” attitude toward providing accommodations for people who need them to ensure that everyone participates fully and has a great time.