At this amazing 20th anniversary of Access Press, I want to thank everyone for your patience with me back in September of 2001 when I was elected as executive director.
It was a difficult transition for all of us; there just was no replacing Charlie Smith, who had lost his hard-fought struggle with throat cancer. Charlie said to me just a few days before his death, “Try it for six months, Tim. If you don’t like it, close the doors but… I know you’ll like it!” Charlie was right; I do like the job, the paper and the community I get to work with. Pretty much every morning, I wake up excited about what new adventures Access Press and the community will have for me. I wish there was more time in each day. There are no words that I can use to express my appreciation to all of you. And I’m thankful every day to Charlie Smith. He was a special person in so many ways, a true friend to me and to all of you, whether you knew him or not!
Secondly, I want to thank all who helped Charlie, the founder of this paper, especially his parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. William Smith Jr. Also, I would like to thank all the board members who have served Access Press over its life as a 501(c)3; Steve Kuntz, Margot Cross, Bill Desert, Lolly Lijewski, Bridget Smith, Sue Warner, Mary Kay Kennedy and more recently JoAnn Cárdenas, Kelly Matter, Kay Wilshire, Brigid Alseth, Anita Schermer, Tom Squire and Mike Chevrette. Special thanks to Ellen Houghton, who has been the Access Press graphics and layout designer for the entire 20 years. She is still teaching me the business of getting a newspaper into print, as she taught Charlie.
Thanks to Jeff Nygaard, a real journalist and teacher who stuck with the paper for years after Charlie’s death to make sure we would have solid footing to continue. I’m grateful to Donna McNamara, who was also there at the beginning to encourage me and help build our foundation support. I could go on for pages to thank properly all the editorial and support staff over the past nine years: Laurie Ekblad Anderson, Terri Ricci, Ekta Prakash, Bret Hesla, Jordan Selbo, Lance Hegland, Jane McClure, Dawn Frederick and so many fantastic unpaid volunteers. I truly appreciate all the people who, at the beginning, might have had doubts about having this non-journalist at the helm. They pushed me and taught me how to keep Access Press going.
They also taught me how to be a kinder, better person. Finally, thanks to all the writers and volunteer journalists who have contributed to making the paper even better: Nicole Roberts, Pete Feigal, Anne Henry, John Tschida, John Schatzlein, Joel Uland, Steve Larsen, Mike Gude, Luther Granquist, Justin Dart, Kevin Kling and cartoonist Scott Adams. I’ve surely omitted the names of some key contributors, but in the interests of space, let me just acknowledge that every day I think of so many others who have made Access Press a valued resource for all of us with or without a disability.
Thirdly, because we wouldn’t have space for my words or anybody else’s without the advertisers, join me in expressing deep thanks to all of the advertisers and financial supporters of Access Press over these last 20 years. I’d like to give a special nod to some of those advertisers that have been around for the long haul: Handi Medical Supplies supported the very first issue and has not missed one in 20 years. Thanks to Mary Benhardus and her family. Mary has the same entrepreneurial drive that Charlie did. I want to extend also a huge thanks to all the foundations that have seen the value in Access Press and supported us through the years. Medtronic was one of our first big foundation funders and continues to support us. We owe a lot to them and to the Medtronic Foundation, UCare Fund, Community Shares of Minnesota, Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation, Headwaters Foundation for Justice and the Otto Bremer Foundation.
I hope that in the near future you will give yourself an opportunity to read the timeline that we put together; it is incredible. The whole 20 years will be online by the time you read this and soon after, we will have each section linked to its full archived article. The sad part about much of this timeline is how repetitive it is: same issues, same struggles, different time, different characters. We fight the same battles but we do make progress by inches. It all becomes so clear when you go through the whole timeline.
Having reviewed those 20 years of history, I know how much we need to thank all the lobbyists and disability advocates who have stayed in there, year after year pushing on for the same cause, the same issues: independence for themselves, their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters with disabilities. Thanks for their voices at the capitol, on the streets, and for every conversation they have at shopping malls, in their neighborhood and parks, at grocery stores and theaters. Thanks to all the folks with disabilities who are out and about every day in the community, changing public perceptions of what a person with a disability needs and can do to make this a better place. The true reward will be in seeing what is to come. It can only get better.
One last thank you to Lynda, my wife, who has, more than anyone, supported me at every turn, every bump, every low and every high! Thank you, all! You are the Access Press community, and I’m proud to be a member.