Midwest Special Services is 60

Group is considered to be by, for, and of the people Of the People: Originating as part of United Cerebral […]

Group is considered to be by, for, and of the people

A young man doing his job.

A young man doing his job.

Of the People: Originating as part of United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of St. Paul in the office of a pediatrician at the old Gillette Children’s Hospital, MSS was envisioned by its founding parents as providing a world of opportunity for their children that defied the commonly accepted practice of institutionalization. The group was organized as Han-Dee-Cap, Inc. The founders and their children knew that they were capable of so much more than society expected of them.

UCP incorporated on July 26, 1949 and bought Han-Dee-Cap Inc. in 1951. MSS separated from UCP in 1974. UCP continued to provide advocacy and support, and MSS provided direct services.

By the People:  When UCP was formed, a public school education was not available to the children of the founders. Taking matters into their own hands, the founders launched the school program or developmental achievement center (DAC) and hired their first director, Beth Gray. Gray’s dedication and perseverance created the foundation for today’s day training and habilitation programs at MSS. Her compassion and commitment to helping people with disabilities succeed are still remembered today.

If Beth Gray could be called the mother of MSS’ day habilitation and treatment program, Al Erickson was the father of the employment program. When Han-Dee-Cap, Inc. merged with UCP in 1951, there was no staff to speak of. The shop was run by the clients. When it grew enough to warrant having some staff to facilitate the program, they hired from within, promoting Al Erickson to the position of work counselor, a job he had already been doing unofficially for many years. The entrepreneurial spirit exhibited by the men of Han-Dee-Cap, Inc. lives today as MSS as they explore way to help people seeking competitive employment to explore the option of self-employment as a means to achieving their goals.

For the People: For 60 years MSS has remained committed to its mission. MSS leaders listen closely to the people the agency serves and support their inalienable right to choose for themselves. MSS also encourages its clients to actively participate in planning their own lives. Along the way, MSS provides whatever support it can to help clients achieve their goals. In reflection on his 30 years with the agency, Lyth Hartz, the agency’s president said of the future for MSS, “We will continue to expect great things from the people we serve. They deserve nothing less.”

From the original location in a storefront on the East Side of St. Paul to MSS has grown to operate five program centers in Apple Valley, Brooklyn Park, Eagan, Shoreview and St. Paul. They serve more than 500 people each year offering a variety of services including vocational rehabilitation and day training and habilitation.

Most recently they have added specialized programming for seniors with developmental disabilities that includes services for individuals with complicated medical and personal care needs. Specialized services are also available at the Apple Valley and Brooklyn Park centers for adults with autism. MSS boasts the first Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) Autism Accreditation in the state of Minnesota. It was only the second to receive this honor in the country. The CARF surveyors commended MSS on the creativity and innovation exhibited by the autism program. There is also an extensive and sophisticated creative arts program that provides guidance and exploration through a multitude of expressive mediums including studio arts, music and performance.

According to Tim Dickie, the vice president of programs, MSS’ longevity is attributed greatly to a commitment to personal choice for the people served. “We have many stakeholders, but the ones whose opinion matter the most is the clients’ and it always will be.”For more information about the programs and services of MSS, visit their website at: www.mwsservices.org   or call (651) 778-1000.

Much earlier, a different era -- people still doing their work.

Much earlier, a different era -- people still doing their work.