A families’ response to the workforce shortage in finding care for their loved one
It’s a big number that signifies the big impact MRCI has on its clients. That number is 65. That is the number of years the nonprofit has been serving individuals with disabilities through innovative programs that help individuals achieve their personal goals.
“This networking of many minds working toward a common goal has made an astounding difference for Suzy,” said Diane Sukalski, mother of MRCI client Suzy who has Down Syndrome. “The focus is on her abilities, not her disabilities. Suzy is like a wildflower; she has been allowed (and actually encouraged) to grow in all the places some people thought she never would or even should! She has been given opportunities to learn and grow every day. Suzy is a citizen who is a contributing member of society. She has learned to live, believe and inspire. Suzy is so fortunate to have these supports; her life is truly full of possibilities. Thank you MRCI!”
Today, MRCI is one of Minnesota’s largest and most diverse providers of employment, day services and fiscal management services for self-direction programs. It serves individuals all over the state from facilities in Chaska, Fairmont, Mankato, New Ulm, Shakopee and Rosemount. But MRCI got its start as a modest program, during very different times.
In 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn in as president, the Korean War ended, and after debilitating tens of thousands of people, a polio vaccine was introduced. It was also the year a concerned group of community members, seeing the effects of the polio epidemic and injured veterans returning from war, started MRCI. The
founders wanted to make sure people with disabilities could adjust to a life different from what they had known before.
Although locations and programs have changed over the last six decades, the mission has not. MRCI strives to provide innovative and genuine opportunities for people with disabilities and disadvantages to participate in their community. MRCI has embraced change to stay true to this mission.
For example, in the 1960s, MRCI began facility-based work services for individuals with developmental disabilities. This was part of a statewide effort to get more people living, working and engaged in their home communities.
At that same time, the MRCI Auxiliary established the Mankato Thrift Shop to help fund many emerging MRCI programs. And MRCI was one of the first organizations in the Mankato area to provide childcare services with the opening of its Open Arms preschool. That program was later transitioned to the Mankato school district.
By the late 1970s MRCI began making plans to build a new facility in Mankato complete with computerization. It was another big change to keep up with the times.
In the 1980s, offices were established in Fairmont, New Ulm, Burnsville (now Rosemount) and Chaska (and now also Shakopee) to meet growing needs of supported employment programs in those communities. The 80s began a significant transition to community employment and long-lasting community employment partnerships.
“Our team members here really do a good job of making the MRCI clients feel like an extension of the team,” Kristine Clausen, Director of Human Resources for Apothecary Products in Burnsville, said. “They are not segregated, they are right on the floor with everyone else. They help make us better.”
In the early 2000s, MRCI created a Client Directed Services division in an effort to help loved ones of those with special needs to hire a caregiver of their choice. Entering the self-direction industry was natural from MRCI who already was committed to individualized care for individuals and families. “We are able to find who we want and who we think will fit in best with our family,” said Laura Elkins, mother of two MRCI clients.
Beth Ponstein, whose son Bryson was born with Spina Bifida, is thankful MRCI allows her to care for her son. “Our rep, Joel, came in and had it all laid out for us and made it so easy to understand. They’ve just been wonderful. It allows me to focus on taking care of Bryson’s needs. We are thankful for MRCI!”
But the organization is not stopping there. The future includes a renewed commitment that means integrating clients at home, at work and in the community.
“It’s a passion from the heart,” said Brian Benshoof, MRCI CEO. “MRCI is committed to the individuals we serve, the families we support and the partnerships that make our mission possible. Thank you for 65 great years.”
Today, MRCI is the eighth largest nonprofit human service organization in the state. With a staff of more than 425, the agency empowers more than 4,000 clients. It would not have been possible without a dedicated group of founders and the experienced, passionate staff and community members today. To learn more about MRCI, visit mymrci.org or call call 800.829.7110.