Merz wins inaugural award

Natasha Merz, Assistant Commissioner of Aging and Disability Services at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, as the inaugural recipient […]

Natasha Merz headshot

Natasha Merz, Assistant Commissioner of Aging and Disability Services at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, as the inaugural recipient of the Jim Wolford Community Impact Award. The award is presented by Lifeworks Services, Inc. 

The award honors the memory of Jim Wolford, founder and owner of local IT firm, Atomic Data, and longtime champion of the Lifeworks mission. He passed away suddenly in 2023. Lifeworks will present the award annually to a person or organization who has significantly advanced disability inclusion through advocacy, policy, employment, or fundraising, and who lives into Wolford’s call to action: to cherish people and build communities where everyone is valued.  The inaugural award will be presented at the 2024 Lifeworks Annual Celebration April 18. 

“It is an honor to carry on Jim’s legacy through this award. He was a pillar in our community, and tirelessly advanced disability inclusion through his support of the Lifeworks mission,” said Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa, Lifeworks president and CEO.

“Natasha is the type of changemaker Jim encouraged all of us to be – one who challenges deficiencies and inequities within the system while keeping all Minnesotans and their needs at the forefront of decision-making.” 

Merz’s legislative work in 2023 resulted in the adoption of 30 significant disability and aging-related laws and policies. She drives the Department of Human Services’ renewed commitment to community engagement to increase the reach and impact of disability and aging services in Minnesota. 

“People, sometimes someone we know, sometimes strangers, are behind everything we do. People like Jim Wolford, and organizations full of passionate people like Lifeworks, are what lights my fire for this work,” said Merz. “I’m grateful and honored that Lifeworks would recognize me as someone who makes a community impact for people.” 

Lifeworks’ mission is to partner with people with disabilities to drive change by increasing opportunity and access in the community.

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