Countless lives have been improved by disability service providers throughout Minnesota. Services providers help people with disabilities find meaningful work, enjoy fun activities and socialize with others.
The Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) has announced its 2020 Life Enrichment Award winners. This is the third year for the awards program. MOHR members are encouraged to nominate their own programs. Nominations also come from individuals with disabilities, their families and partnering groups.
This year’s winners are:
Achieve Services is located in Blaine and serves the north Twin Cities metropolitan area. Its honored Dance At Your Own Risk group provides opportunity for expression through music that honors ability and choice.
Achieve Services supports the original tunes of the Dance At Your Own Risk group of participants. Individual voices and high tech sounds ring out before public audiences and online.
Using iPads and the Garage Band application offers participants a chance at musical expression without the need to learn an instrument. The group is the brainchild of training specialist Joe Loskota – a band member of the Belfast Cowboys group. Achieve staff said the program is exceptional because their participants do it all – they write the lyrics and music, record and sell their original tunes and perform for audiences.
Duluth-based CHOICE Unlimited was honored for its BOLD-choice Theatre Company. The outstanding outreach theatre program was recognized for cultivating inclusion, diversity and personal pride.
BOLD-choice is an outreach theater program created by CHOICE, Unlimited. The theatre company features 24 actors with disabilities who create original productions and tour regionally.
Taking a multi-genre, fine arts approach, BOLD-choice has found therapeutic benefits to this entertaining offering. Theater creates learning experiences that shape how participants engage with the world around them. BOLD-choice Theatre members become leaders and audiences look up to their work.
Merrick, Inc. was recognized for its adult day services program, Merrick ADS. The program provides life enrichment services that engage the community and volunteers. Interaction is the name of the game. Merrick’s Adult Day Services program bases itself in the small-town metro hometown of North St. Paul, on the main street where the action is.
Thirty-eight ADS participants engage with the local community, often walking to a nearby fire station, café, library and even a pool hall. They invite community members in for customized programming. In the summer yard sales have participants searching for bargains.
Participants enjoy music therapy, exercise at the YMCA, animal -assisted activities and a sewing program. Staff and volunteers pitch in for activities. Merrick operates the program on the basis that good things can happen when people stop and chat with neighbors on the sidewalk.
Merrick headquarters are located in Vadnais Heights.
MSS was honored for the Access to the Arts program, which provides adaptive, idea-based art facilitation with an individualized person-centered approach. St. Paul-based MSS is a major purveyor, provider and promoter of the arts for people with disabilities. With choice at the center, art projects are driven by participant artists as art facilitators promote independence.
At MSS, hand over hand is a thing of the past. Physical and verbal limitations are not a problem for this group. Group members use adaptive tools, samples, picture choices and technology to make every brush stroke count as an expression of each individual. Personal styles and artistic visions are realized at MSS.
Norman County Developmental Activities Center (DAC) was recognized for its sensory room, which is located in the northern Minnesota community of Ada. The versatile space is an all-inclusive, sensory, relaxation and exploration room to improve persons’ quality of life. The space brings multiple benefits to the participants it serves with an all-inclusive, sensory, relaxation and exploration room to help people to process internal and external stimuli.
Whether they are struggling to stay focused and on task, or are in a time of transition before engaging in group activities or community events, individuals use the room to elicit the senses and bring the brain to life. Anxiety is reduced and people return to their tasks and to the greater community.
The sensory room is a relaxing and safe place where a calm, centered frame of mind helps people through the overwhelming aspects of life. It gives a chance for people to explore the realms of cause and effect and engage their curiosity in a safe space.
Minnetonka-based Opportunity Partners used Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan to inspire its winning program, called Engage with My Community. Staff member Mary Moellenhoff, a community engagement specialist, supports a group of three people with disabilities.
With a 1-to-3 staff to client ratio, the idea is to bring service coordination closer to the people in the program. Individuals with disabilities are its directors. People connect with others, wowing them with kindness bags and small deeds that touch their lives.
Engage with My Community efforts were featured in a recent organizational newsletter, which describe many ways clients help their communities. A class in Anoka decorates grocery bags for Open Arms of Minnesota, which provides food for people with life-threatening illnesses.
Random Acts of Kindness Bags, which began as a desire to improve sorting, counting and small muscle skills, provide smiles and thanks when they are given to police officers and store clerks.