People and Places – December 2013

Blind chef serves tasty meals Va’nasha Washington displayed her culinary skills November 18 as lead chef for about 200 guests […]

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At right, Va'nasha Washington prepared the meal while Chef Wes Durham supervised.

At right, Va’nasha Washington prepared the meal while Chef Wes Durham supervised.

Blind chef serves tasty meals

Va’nasha Washington displayed her culinary skills November 18 as lead chef for about 200 guests at Minneapolis’ Waite House Community Café free lunch program. Blindness doesn’t prevent Washington from working efficiently and safety, and preparing high-quality food, in Waite House’s busy kitchen.

Waite House staff recognizes Va’nasha’s work with us as pioneering the way for other blind people to benefit from this program.

Waite House, a neighborhood center of Pillsbury United Communities, began offering a culinary arts work readiness program in the summer of 2011. In April 2012 the program moved to share a building with the Phillips Community Center. There Waite House serves food from a larger, fully licensed kitchen.

Waite House offers this unique employment training to both adults and youth. Participants learn basic cooking skills from Executive Chef Austin Bartold, preparing and serving lunch to approximately 200 guests from the community Mondays through Fridays. Participants leave the program with new skills, references, and ServSafe Certification, an industry-recognized certificate in kitchen safety, sanitation and food safety. The program is designed to prepare job seekers for entry in to the growing food service industry.

Part of the program requirement is that the participant plan and direct the preparation and serving of a meal as the lead chef for that day. Washington’s turn went without a hitch and everyone enjoyed the meal.

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Reach for Resources, Inc. receives grant

Reach for Resources, Inc. has received a $1000 CVS Caremark Community Grant. The announcement took place last month at the Reach for Resources’ Annual Meeting/Holiday Party held at the Minnetonka Community Center in Minnetonka.

The Community Grants Program was created by CVS Caremark as part of its commitment to help people achieve their best health by providing financial assistance to programs that are focused on wellness and prevention. The support from CVS Caremark will help Reach for Resources continue its School-Based Counseling Project that partners with Intermediate School District 287 to provide mental health services to students with disabilities. The district is based in Plymouth.

Reach for Resources is a non-profit agency established in 1986. It serves people with cognitive disabilities in the Minneapolis area. Its School-Based Counseling Project works with teens and young adults with developmental disabilities and mental health disorders.

These teens and young adults face significant barriers, putting them at high risk for crisis. Having multiple disabilities can also make it difficult for them to complete secondary education. These students are referred to Independent School District 287 to receive special education transition services provided by. Reach mental health practitioners meet individually with the students to address various concerns affecting them, provide therapeutic skills training and, if needed, refer them to appropriate intensive treatment.

The CVS Caremark Community Grant allows for the project to continue offering free, convenient mental health services to teens and young adults that would, otherwise, not have access to the counseling they need.

“The grant from CVS Caremark will help continue to provide mental health services to an under-served group of students who have been diagnosed with a developmental disability and a mental health disorder,” said Allison Henderson, Reach’s mental health practitioner. “These students face unique challenges that often put them at high risk for poor outcomes. Being able to provide counseling in school allows these students access to services they would likely not receive otherwise. This program aids students in gaining skills and knowledge to improve not only their day to day functioning, but their quality of life and long term success.”

“As a pharmacy innovation company, we are committed to building healthier communities. We believe one of the keys to helping people on their path to better health is by providing wellness and prevention programs,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president, corporate philanthropy & sustainability, CVS Caremark. “We are pleased to support the work that Reach for Resources does in the community and we look forward to working with them in fulfilling their program’s mission.”




Merrick, Inc. celebrates decade in Vadnais Heights

Merrick, Inc. Board of Trustees Chair Jackie O’Connell, Executive Director John Wayne Barker, and architect Lars Glockzin celebrated a decade in Merrick’s Vadnais Heights building.

Merrick, Inc. Board of Trustees Chair Jackie O’Connell, Executive Director John Wayne Barker, and architect Lars Glockzin celebrated a decade in Merrick’s Vadnais Heights building.

Merrick, Inc. celebrated a milestone of 10 years at its energy-efficient building located on Labore Road in Vadnais Heights. Building architect Lars Glockzin was among the many guests, staff and clients on hand for the event.

“This project meant a lot to me,” Glockzin said. “I worked with the clients and staff on almost all aspects of design. The end result is an amazing building with accessible design features that really do make a difference.”

Features include wide hallways so two people using wheelchairs can pass each other easily; skylights bringing in natural light; and bright welcoming colors. The design choices were inspired by conversations with clients and staff.

The November celebration included a slideshow with highlights of the past decade, the unveiling of a commemorative poster marking the occasion, and ofcourse, cake. Board of Trustees President Jackie O’Connell, former board member Dan Kuechenmeister, and others enjoyed celebrating the anniversary together. “Almost daily we are reminded how having a clean, safe, and respected building reinforces a positive attitude among clients and employees that promotes their engagement and satisfaction,” said Merrick Executive Director John Wayne Barker.

“We continue to have other programs tour our building to inspire their projects and feel good about having a building that saves over 50% in utility costs and has no harmful emissions to the air.”

Merrick, Inc. is a private nonprofit corporation that provides meaningful work options, therapeutic programs and life enrichment activities to 375 adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In addition to the energy efficient facility in Vadnais Heights, Merrick operates a second program site for adult day and memory care services in North St. Paul.



Volunteers make a house a home

Jon Vasquez helped volunteers with work on the house.

Jon Vasquez helped volunteers with work on the house.

A group of about 20 military veterans and volunteers from United Healthcare, as well as workers from Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, did a special project in St. Paul on Veterans Day. The group made needed repairs to the home of Navy veterans Eileen and Jon Vasquez.

The couple met in Virginia while attending Naval training for operating nuclear powered vessels. As a result of their Navy service Eileen is now considered legally blind. Jon has a traumatic brain injury which affects his short-term memory process.

The Vasquez’ St. Paul home was in need of substantial repair in order for them to continue to live their safely. The volunteers tackled a number of projects including installing drywall in the bedrooms, installing a walking path from the front of the house to the backyard garage area, reinstalling stairway handrails and installing fall prevention devices in bathroom.

United Healthcare offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 780,000 physicians, other care professionals, 5,900 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide.

Rebuilding Together Twin Cities’ mission is to bring volunteers and communities together to improve the homes and lives of low-income homeowners. This ensures that low-income homeowners—particularly older adults, people living with a disability, veterans and families with children—can live independently in safe and healthy homes. It is an affiliate of the national Rebuilding Together, Inc.



UCare among those honored by foundation 

Fairview and Ebenezer foundations celebrated donors at an annual recognition event in November, presenting three Outstanding Philanthropic Partnership Awards. The awards are given to recognize legacy of service, improving access to health care and planned giving.

UCare was honored for improving access to health resources in our community. UCare is an independent, nonprofit health plan serving more than 300,000 members. UCare’s mission is to improve the health of its members through innovative services and partnerships across communities. The support of the UCare Fund enables Fairview to help the underserved by expanding and strengthening its community health programming in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Support from the UCare Fund was used to open Health Commons, a drop-in health and wellness center aimed at fostering relationships among residents, building trust in health care providers and empowering residents to live healthy, productive lives.

Two Edina residents were also honored for their service. Robert Solheim was presented with the Elsie O. Mitchell Legacy Award. Solheim is a past chair and current member of the Fairview Southdale Hospital Board of Trustees and is co-founder and president of N.C. Little Memorial Hospice, the state’s first licensed residential hospice facility.

Dennis Fernkes was recognized for his generous planned gift. His late wife was taken care of by Fairview Hospice He established the Dennis and Janet Fernkes Endowment to help support Fairview’s hospice program in perpetuity.

Fairview Foundation builds philanthropic partnerships to further Fairview’s mission of improving the health of the communities we serve. Ebenezer Foundation raises funds to support Ebenezer senior living communities, which help older adults and others make their lives more independent, healthful, meaningful and secure.

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