People and Places – February 2015

The Arc Minnesota honors its heroes The Arc Minnesota recently honored seven extraordinary women at its annual Heroes Luncheon in Roseville. Heroes’ […]

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The Arc Minnesota honors its heroes

Arc of MN AwardsThe Arc Minnesota recently honored seven extraordinary women at its annual Heroes Luncheon in Roseville. Heroes’ awards are given annually for people who give outstanding service to The Arc and the Minnesotans it serves.

The seven women honored all provide outstanding service as executive director, chief executive officers,
chief program officers or co-executive director of their local chapters of The Arc for at least 15 years.
Each honoree has served The Arc as a staff member and/or volunteer for more than two decades.

The honorees are: Lee Ann Erickson, The Arc Southwest Minnesota, Dawn Helgeson, The Arc Mower County, Bev Kaler, The Arc United, Kim Keprios, The Arc Greater Twin Cities, Marianne Reich, The Arc Greater Twin Cities, Cass Robinson, The Arc United Presentations at the ceremony detailed the executive directors’ numerous accomplishments during their careers. Reflections by speakers at the event praised the women’s personal qualities that have helped make them so successful and such strong leaders in The Arc movement statewide. The Arc Minnesota leadership expressed gratitude to the honorees, who have all devoted their lives to ensuring that people with developmental disabilities are full members of the greater community.


Crafty card maker has her work cut out for her

Wayzata resident Anna Rudick’s basement changes with the seasons. This time of year it look like a home for Cupid. Other times it’s Santa’s workshop. Rudick, who was recently featured on KMSP-TV, designs and makes do-it-yourself holiday cards. Business is booming and she is hurrying to keep up. Rudick, 26, has Down syndrome. She began Anna’s Card Kits in March 2014 as a creative outlet with the support of her friends and mentors, who now help her run the business. Each card is handmade and sold primarily through the website. Since Fox 9 met her a few months ago, the business has filled orders from all 50 states and around the world. However, it’s become somewhat of a problem.

Rudick isn’t allowed to have more than $2,000 in assets, since she receive state benefits. But like any good entrepreneur, she’s thinking outside the box and gives thousands of dollars of profits away to charity. She helps others living with this genetic disorder. Good business sense runs in the family. Her father owns a computer software business and her mother also has a business startup. “She doesn’t want to do things that everyone’s doing, she wants her own accomplishments,” her mom, Sue Rudick said.

“I want her to gain the understanding that life is wide open, you can do anything you want, you can go places, you can do things,” her dad, John Rudick, said.

Check out Anna’s Card Kits at


Olmstead Academy prepares self-advocates

Self-advocates from throughout Minnesota are putting learning into action, thanks to the Advocating Change Together (ACT) Olmstead Academy. Between now and November, 19 participants on six teams will tackle projects in their home communities.

The projects range from addressing transportation needs to person-centered planning. The slogan for the academy is “People with disabilities are living lives side by side with everyone else.”

It was a time of pride January 22-23 as Olmstead Academy participants showed what they have learned so far, during a conference at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in St. Paul. The conference was a high point for academy participants, organizers and mentors.

“I will do everything in my power to make this [the projects] happen,” said Steve Peck, a self-advocate from Central Minnesota. Other participants are Charlie Applequist, Nate Clark, Rosemary Hanson, James Lee, Larry Lubbers, Nathan Miller, Linda Markle, Patty McGlynn, Carol Robinson and Carrie Varner. Allies are Rick Cardenas, Melissa Evans, Cheryl Gardner-Gionzoli, Wilbur Neushwander-Fink, Carla Tice, Samantha Thompson, Maggie Treichel and Nikki Villavicencio.

The Olmstead Academy is a 12-month training program sponsored by ACT. The Olmstead Academy was launched in response to Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan which provides a framework for advancing community integration.

The academy requires work on action learning projects. The 19 program participants are divided into six teams with two self-advocates and one support ally from six different Minnesota regions. Teamswork with a community organizer to develop action learning plans.

From October 2014 to January, teams launched their action learning projects. They worked with community councils, gained support from advisors, obtained budget approvals and received funding through a host agency.

For two days, participants reconvened and developed ways to promote their projects through presentations and display boards. They also finalized their project plans and practiced leadership skills. Before the academy’s closing ceremony, self-advocates displayed and explained their projects.

Northeast Region (Duluth) is working with a local cab company to set up transportation vouchers. Team
members are hoping to give people opportunities to go places and do things more spontaneously.

Southwest Region (Mankato) self-advocates have written and performed “The Other Side” a play creating awareness about people with disabilities. They’ll also be working with school-aged children in a mentoring program called “Born That Way, Here to Stay” to teach children about disabilities.

Metro Region self-advocates are making steps toward helping people find jobs in integrated settings, promoting new opportunities and skills training.

Northwest Region (East Grand Forks) self-advocates are excited about getting involved in three community events: Catfish Days, the Community Garden Project and the Art Crawl.

Central Region (Cambridge) and Southeast Region (Rochester) teams are working to implement person-centered plans with peer support. They’re seeking progress as they tap into resources for integrated housing and jobs.

“It’s been a really busy year, and it’s been very exciting to see us work together to create this program,” said Mary Kay Kennedy, program facilitator and executive director of ACT.

“I’m so excited to see the leadership here, folks that are bringing these projects forward,” said Kennedy.

The teams have worked together since September 2014 when they met during the first four-day session of the academy to set goals, develop project plans, work on budgets and set timelines. Through role-playing exercises, journaling, interactive games and other methods they learned about the federal Olmstead decision and how they can be leaders for change in their communities.

The training includes six daylong sessions that give participants tools to be involved in their communities and take on leadership roles to fulfill Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan goal: For people with disabilities to live, learn, work and enjoy life in the most integrated setting desired.

All states are required to have the plans, as a result of a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The case began in Georgia and had nationwide impacts. One program highlight was Dinner with the Leaders which gave participants the opportunity to build relationships with key disability community leaders in Minnesota. Local leaders included Darlene Zangara, executive director, Olmstead Implementation Office; Alex Bartolic, director, Disability Services Division Minnesota; Sean Burke, attorney, Minnesota Disability Law Center; Rebecca Covington,
executive director, Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities; Roberta Opheim, ombudsman, state programs for mental health and developmental disabilities; Colleen Wieck, executive director, Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, Deb Holtz, ombudsman, state programs for long-term care and Joan Willshire, executive director, Minnesota State Council on Disability.

“The leaders hosted the teams, having them over for dinner to share stories. It was a great way for leaders and participants to get to know each other,” said Bret Hesla, ACT consultant and program facilitator.

For more information about the Olmstead Academy, contact the ACT Office at 651-641-0297 or go online at (This article was prepared with information from writer Carol Oyanagi.)


State council appointments announced

Gov. Mark Dayton has announced several appointments and reappointments to the State Rehabilitation Council. The council is created under state law and the Federal Rehabilitation Act. Members are appointed by the governor. The council guides decisions about Minnesota’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services program,which serves thousands of people with severe disabilities statewide by helping them reach their vocational goals.

The council also advises state government on the performance of Minnesota’s vocational rehabilitation services programs, particularly on the extent, scope, and effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation services.

Reappointed are Nicholas Wilkie, disability advocacy group representative; and Claire Reeve, business, industry or labor representative. Wilkie is from St. Paul and Reeve is from Byron.

New appointees are Susan Benolken, Department of Education representative; Isaac Mensah, business, industry or labor representative; and Katrina Simons, vocational rehabilitation services representative. Benolken is from Roseville. Mensah and Simons are from St. Paul.



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