People and Places - December 2009

Jerry Walsh was The Arc pioneer

Jerry Walsh, who helped build The Arc of Minnesota into a statewide advocacy network on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities and create the foundations for the service system in Minnesota today, died Nov. 4. He was 88. 09PNP_Jerry Walsh Professional Shot

The Arc of Minnesota hired Walsh in 1957 as executive director to lead a previously all-volunteer organization. Ten years later, the number of local chapters had more than quadrupled, and the membership had grown five-fold. Eighty counties are now served by The Arc chapter.

Under Walsh, The Arc not only became a statewide presence, but a statewide force in the halls of Minnesota government. Within his first year, Minnesota passed a ground-breaking law requiring special education services for students with mild intellectual disabilities. By 1967, the number of students receiving special education services had more than doubled to 8,000.

In the early 1960’s, he built on this success, as Minnesota approved state funding for day programs. Later that decade, he and other staff and volunteers from The Arc of Minnesota helped raise awareness of the crowded, inhumane living conditions in Minnesota’s institutions.

Walsh also helped transform the way we think about and provide services to people with developmental disabilities. In 1966, Walsh took a five-week tour of programs in six European nations. There he observed services that were smaller and more homelike and that provided more support and training than the bare minimum care provided in Minnesota institutions. It didn’t take long to realize, he wrote after his trip, that “we in Minnesota have a lot of catching up to do in the area of residential care and community services …there is much, much more that we could be doing in Minnesota… not some time in the future, but now…”

In 1967, he brought Bengt Nijre, one of Europe’s leading thinkers on services to people with developmental disabilities, to Minnesota to speak to Arc chapters and policymakers about the need for change. Walsh also served on numerous committees that urged the governor and state departments to improve services.

His success came from building a strong grassroots network of The Arc chapters and public policy advocates and by using innovative advocacy techniques. When he discovered it was difficult to convince state legislators to visit state hospitals and observe the conditions there, he was undeterred. He, his staff, and volunteers invited wives of legislators instead. After seeing the horrid living situations there, these women went back and told their husbands, and their husbands paid more attention to the way persons with developmental disabilities were treated. Later, Arc chapters organized tours for county commissioners, human service personnel, media, and service club members.

Walsh was a pioneer and trailblazer in field of developmental disabilities. Pat Me-llenthin, The Arc of Minne-sota’s current executive director, said that his passing should remind us all of us “to renew our commitment and our support to carry the torch as Jerry and many others did before us with such determination and valor.”

 

Four schools called ‘family-friendly’

Four Minnesota schools were recently awarded as Family-Friendly Schools by the Minnesota Parent Center, Minnesota’s PIRC (Parental Information and Resource Center), a project of PACER Center. The awards were presented in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education as part of Minnesota Parent Involvement Month in October. Parents were asked to nominate schools for efforts to create a family-school partnership.

The winning schools are Woodland Elementary School, Brooklyn Park; Highland Park Elementary, St. Paul; Zachary Lane Elementary, Plymouth; Cologne Academy, Cologne.

“Schools that invite parents to be partners in education realize that families play an important role in student success,” said Heather Kilgore, director of Minnesota Parent Center, MN PIRC. “We applaud these schools, along with the parents of their students, for demonstrating what strong school-family partnerships can achieve.”

To nominate a school, parents were asked to respond to the following questions: Does the staff make the school building a welcoming and inviting place? Do school policies and practices encourage you to be involved with your child’s learning? Do the adults in the building listen, invite, and greet you with friendly tones? Are the written materials understandable and useful?  Do they give you the information you find helpful?

 

Chris Colestock retires

Chris Colestock, Radio Talking Book broadcaster since 1985, retired from the Communication Center recently. Over the years, his voice has been one strongly identified with the station. Many people will miss his morning delivery of the newspapers. Colestock assures listeners, though, that he intends to read as a volunteer for many more years.

Listeners will continue to hear his voice on Tech Wire programs (6:15 a.m. Wednesdays) and with various books.

 

Upstream Arts, Minneapolis schools team up

Upstream Arts has embarked on a new partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools, bringing its innovative approach of teaching social and communication skills to students with and without disabilities into special education classrooms at Washburn High School, Ramsey International Fine Arts Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School, Patrick Henry High School, Lake Harriet Middle School, City View Performing Arts School, Roose-velt High School and Edison High School. The program is supported by VSA arts and MetLife Foundation’s Arts Connect All grant.

Upstream Arts is one of only ten organizations in the nation to receive the “Arts Connect All” grant, which cultivates and recognizes arts education programs that create learning environments where students with and without disabilities learn side-by-side, creating art together. The grant rewards programs that use the arts to develop students’ social, cognitive, and artistic skills.

Teams of professional artists who visit these schools once a week include Matt Guidry, Norah Long, Charles Fraser, Sara Richardson, Matt Sciple, Suzy Messerole, Laressa Dickey, Dylan Fresco, Don Mabley-Allen, Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing.  These are artists whose work has been seen at the Guthrie Theater, History Theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theater, Bedlam Theater, Illusion Theater, Park Square Theatre and The Burning House Group.  Their original creative work has been published and produced locally and nationally. They will be working with 120 students with and without disabilities, ranging in age from kindergarten to 12th grade.

 

Woman featured in article dies

Diana McArthur Puhr, 61, who was the subject of an Access Press story earlier this year, passed away in November. She was 61 years old and lived in Fargo. An article described the challenges her family faced when Puhr and others were moved out of Fargo-Moorhead area care facilities to escape the spring flooding there. The article described the importance of having disaster plans in place.

Diana Thorun McArthur was born Jan. 8, 1948 in Fargo, North Dakota. She was born with cerebral palsy and minor developmental disability. She attended Agassiz Junior High and Central High School. She graduated in 1967, the last class at Central High. Diana attended one year at the Anne Carlson School for the Handicapped during her elementary school years. 

She married August Puhr in June of 1973, celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary in 2009 and lived in Fargo until her death. She was involved in the Baha’i faith and volunteered at Bethany Homes memory care unit in Fargo before she became a resident there

She was preceded in death by her mother (1967), her father (1997) and her brother (2009). She is survived by sisters Cynthia McArthur of St. Paul and Alison McArthur of Columbus, OH; cousins, nieces, one nephew and one great niece.

 

The Arc board member, Cindy Johnson honored

Cindy Johnson of Wood-bury accepted the Good Neighbor Award from the National Association of Realtors at its convention in San Diego last month. Johnson, a board member of The Arc of Minnesota and The Arc of the U.S., was one of only five Realtors across the country who received this honor. She was recognized for her volunteer efforts.

For more than 20 years she has worked to make life better for persons with developmental disabilities and their families. These efforts include her advocacy on behalf of her daughter and sister, both who have developmental disabilities; her advocacy that helped expand and protect community-based services for persons with disabilities; and her leadership in The Arc at the local, state, and national levels.

 

Employers saluted for hiring practices

ProAct, an Eagan organization that helps people with disabilities prepare for, find and maintain work and self-sufficiency has named its employers of the year, chosen for their efforts in employing disabled people. “Employers are at the heart of ProAct’s mission,” said ProAct President Steve Ditschler. “The work they provide is invaluable to ProAct’s individuals, and we salute them.” The winners were honored before a crowd of nearly 600 at the Prom Center in Oakdale.

T.J. Maxx, Eagan was honored in the supported employment category. The store hosts job tryouts for multiple positions, including stocking, processing, fitting rooms, cashiering and building maintenance. Rapala and its Eagan distribution center were honored in the community employment category. The distributor of fishing lures and other products employs ProAct individuals to work on packaging for products headed to 43 Wal-Mart distribution centers. Apothecary Products, Burnsville, won in the business partner category. The pharmacy-supply company uses ProAct for a substantial amount of work on a regular basis.

 

The Arc Value Village gets two awards

Arc Greater Twin Cities who works on behalf of adults and children with developmental disabilities and their families were recognized with two recent honors. In November the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce presented Arc Greater Twin Cities with a 2009 Deubner Award. The Arc Greater Twin Cities received the award in the non-profit category as an organization that exemplifies growth, excellence, risk, diversity and innovation. The award is named in honor of Walter and Lydia Deubner, proprietors of a downtown Saint Paul grocery store who invented the first shopping bag with handles. The Arc opened a Value Village store last month at Hillcrest Shopping Center in St. Paul.

 Also in November the New Hope City Council selected Arc’s Value Village store to receive this quarter’s Outstanding Business Award. The award recognizes businesses in New Hope for noteworthy accomplishments, including providing outstanding community service.

The Arc’s Value Village has generated nearly $16 million on behalf of The Arc and the people it serves, thanks to generous donations from the community. Revenue from the sale of donated items helps fund The Arc Greater Twin Cities’ programs for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.