Deadline draws near: Worthy nominees are sought for 2016 Charlie Smith Award

Jeff BangsbergTime is running out to honor Minnesotans and Minnesota organizations that provide outstanding service to the state’s disability community. Deadline for nominations for the 2016 Access Press Charlie Smith Award is 5 p.m. Wednesday, August 15. The newspaper’s board of directors is waiting for the nominations to start rolling in.

This year’s award will be presented Friday, November 4 at the newspaper’s annual banquet in Bloomington. Please save the date. The event has moved to a new, larger location, DoubleTree by Hilton, 7800 Normandale Blvd.

Information on the award can be found here. Email access@testing.accesspress.org for a form or call 651-644-2133 for assistance. If assistance or accommodations are needed to submit an award nomination, Access Press staff is glad to provide help.

The Charlie Smith Award is named in honor of the late Charlie Smith Jr., founding editor of Access Press. He was a well-known Minnesota disability rights advocate and founded the paper as a way to provide information and organize the community around key issues. He was well-known for his tenacious spirit, yet he was also someone who quietly reached out to and helped people with disabilities.

Many deserving Minnesotans have received the award. One is activist Jeff Bangsberg, who won in 2011. In his speech five years ago, Bangsberg cited the importance of the honor. He and Smith worked together on the Medical Assistance for Employed Persons withDisabilities (MA-EPD) program.

“I view this award as a legacy for the things I was fortunate to be part of, from the days when I first became involved in Project Mobility; the days in the late 1970s when the personal care assistance program began; when I had the opportunity to chair the State Rehabilitation Council; and contracting with the Minnesota Department of Health in evaluating health care homes as a consumer representative.”

“I remember when I dipped my toe into public policy the first time. Tom Haben and I would go down to the capitol to speak with legislators. I can’t even begin to tell you how scared we were. It was an intimidating experience! We would sit outside of their offices for what seemed to be hours. One day, Jim Ramstad, who was our state senator at the time, took the two of us into his office, sat us down and role- played with us until we felt comfortable. Then, he literally walked us to one of his colleagues’ offices and said, “Senator, these two gentleman would like totalk to you.” Well, there we were …”

Many people like Bangsberg and Smith are working in our community every day, to make life better. Organizations are doing this unsung work as well. The Charlie Smith Award is a chance to celebrate accomplishments. Nominees are needed to continue the award’s legacy.

Deaf community advocate Jessalyn Akerman-Frank was the 2015 award winner.

Past award winners are:

2015: Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, Minnesota Commission for Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing
2014: Christine Marble & Wendy Devore, CareerVentures
2013: Cal Appleby, Augsburg College
2012: Charles “Chuck” Van Heuveln, St. Paul School District
2011: Jeff Bangsberg, MN Department of Health
2010: Steve Kuntz, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
2009: Anne Henry, Minnesota Disability Law Center
2008: Pete Feigal, Co-Founder of Tilting at Windmills
2007: Jim and Claudia Carlisle, People Enhancing People
2006: John Smith, University of Minnesota
2005: Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD)
2004: Rick Cardenas, Co-Director of Advocating Change Together (ACT)
2003: Margot Imdieke Cross, Minnesota State Council on Disability

The award winner is chosen by the newspaper’s board. The winner and finalists will be featured in the September issue of Access Press.

Any individual or group in Minnesota playing a role in Minnesota’s disability community is eligible for nomination. Provide as much information as possible about a nominee. That information is used by the newspaper board to evaluate the nominees. Links to newspaper, magazine or online articles, or television news stories are welcome.

People cannot nominate themselves.

Past nominees can be nominated again, but there are rules for repeat nominations. A person or organization can be nominated for two consecutive years, but has to wait one year before being nominated again. If there is a repeat nomination, a new person or group must make the nomination the second year.

Please send a high-resolution digital photo or an actual photo of the nominee. Otherwise, be prepared to tell the editors where a high-resolution photo can be obtained. Pictures will be returned on request.

Completed nominations, with photos can be sent via email to CSAnominations@testing.accesspress.org, via fax to (651) 644-2136, or mail to Access Press, c/o Charlie Smith Award Committee, 161 St. Anthony Avenue #910; St. Paul, MN 55103. The winner is the guest of honor at the annual award banquet. Guests enjoy a delicious meal, a fun silent auction and “pick your prize” raffle, speeches and time to socialize with friends. Family members and friends of the honoree are encouraged to attend.