People and Places - January 2011

Grants benefit several groups 

The Digital Inclusion Fund has awarded 11 grants totaling $100,000 to Minneapolis organizations for programs to promote technology access and technology literacy. These are the third set of grants awarded from the Digital Inclusion Fund, which was created in 2007 as part of the “Wireless Minneapolis” contract between the City of Minneapolis and US Internet Wireless, the company that manages the citywide wireless network. The “Wireless Minneapolis” contract included a Community Benefits Agreement that was the first of its kind in the country, and the Digital Inclusion Fund is a key component of the agreement. 

The Digital Inclusion Fund provides financial resources to organizations in Minneapolis that increase technology access and skills among low-income people, people with disabilities, people of color, immigrants and refugees, displaced workers, seniors in order to bridge the digital divide. The fund is managed by the Minneapolis Foundation. 

Organizations serving senior citizens and people with disabilities receiving grants include Augustana Care, $7,500 to support the Seniors Online program at Augustana Care’s Minneapolis Campus. Funds will be used to upgrade computer equipment, and for technical support and assistive devices primarily for older adults with low vision. 

Learning in New Dimensions, Inc. received $10,000 to teach technology access to blind persons in Minneapolis using synthesized speech and refreshable Braille displays. 

Little Brothers—Friends of the Elderly received $6,995 for technology improvements for elderly program participants in order to increase quality and efficiency of programs, assessment and implementation of computer training for staff, and replacement of key equipment. 

To date, USI Wireless has provided more than $500,000 to the Digital Inclusion Fund. In the years to come, a percentage of USI Wireless’ revenue from wireless subscriptions will go into the fund.   

  

UCare debuts new Mobile Dental Clinic  

UCare Minnesota has unveiled a fully accessible “dentist’s office on wheels.” The clinic made its inaugural stop at the Dakota County Northern Service Center in West St. Paul. It replaced UCare’s first-ever mobile clinic vehicle.  
 

Nancy Feldman, President and CEO, UCare and Paul Schulz, DDS, MPH, Associate Clinical Specialist, Director of Outreach and Director of the Mobile Dental Clinic, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, were on hand for the first stop, as were Sheila Riggs, DDS, Chair of the Department of Primary Dental Care, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and Bonnie Brueshoff, Public Health Director, Dakota County.  

The custom-built, full accessible clinic vehicle replaced UCare’s first vehicle, which was retired after driving almost 100,000 miles to serve UCare members and community agencies. The clinic is a fully equipped, 43-foot vehicle—a “dentist’s office on wheels”—that brings quality dental care to UCare members in Minnesota who have limited access to dental services. UCare is the first health plan in Minnesota to own and operate a mobile dental unit. The health plan works to reduce disparities and raise awareness of the issue of dental access for the uninsured, and connect members to a health care provider in their community. 

Staff on the vehicle provide dental exams, cleanings, fluoride treatment, and primary dental care to eligible members of UCare’s Minnesota Health Care Programs and Medicare plans. The vehicle is a partnership between UCare and the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. All dental services are provided by School of Dentistry dental and dental hygiene students, who treat patients under supervision of a School of Dentistry faculty dentist. This partnership began with the original clinic’s launch in August 2002. 

The fully integrated clinic and hospital in Bemidji will be a not-for-profit, community-based health care system. It will combine the experience of the two health care organizations, which will increase efficiency and lead to better coordination of patient care. 

  

Scarves are sought for team    

Special Olympics Minnesota has teamed up with Coats & Clark, owner of Red Heart® Yarns to announce the 2011 Special Olympics USA Scarf Project.  This nationwide initiative gives knitters and crocheters the opportunity to contribute to the Special Olympics Program(s) of their choice, and to know that in doing so, they are contributing to an unprecedented sense of unity and support for the Special Olympics athletes and the movement as a whole.    

Special Olympics Minnesota is requesting 1,000 scarves from the knitting and crocheting community by February 11, 2011 to give to participating athletes, coaches and volunteers to wear as a symbol of unity during Winter Games this year.       

“These hand- knit and crocheted scarves are truly symbols of unity and encouragement for our Special Olympics Minnesota athletes,” said Dave Dorn, President of Special Olympics Minnesota. “We are excited to spread this message of support as we distribute the donated scarves at Winter Games this February.”    

Participating knitters and crocheters are asked to follow specific size and yarn color guidelines, but creativity in pattern and design is encouraged. Scarves should be 54-60 inches long, 6 inches wide and be knit or crocheted using Red Heart® Yarns Super Saver 886-Blue and Red Heart® Yarns Super Saver 512-Turqua.    

Individual Program deadlines and additional instructions can be found at www.scarvesforspecialolympics.org. The website contains everything from project guidelines and specific state deadlines to frequently asked questions and other ways to contribute to Special Olympics.  

Follow the 2011 Special Olympics USA Scarf Project on the website www.scarvesforspecialolympics.org, Face-book; Scarves for Special Olympics and Twitter @USAScarf Project. 

  

Hudson High School program provides friendship 

Hudson High School’s, Student to Student Program, which is now in its fifth year, was featured recently in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The program provides social opportunities to students with special needs.    

Student to Student is a partnership between Hudson High School and Bridge for Youth with Disabilities, a non-profit group.    

The student mentors meet each month with their buddies for an event, maybe an ice cream social or school basketball game —something that allows everyone to interact and have fun. The program recently has seen a dramatic rise in popularity. This year, 131 mentors in 11th or 12th grade are participating—about twice as many as last year, said John Dornfeld, a counselor at the Wisconsin school.    

“We don’t have to work very hard at promoting it—our kids just want to be a part of it,” Dornfeld said. He added that because of the program’s growth this year, counselors have decided to include Hudson Middle School students with special needs. Other area schools have adopted or are considering similar programs.    

The success of the program could be attributed to kids outside of Student to Student watching the buddies and their mentors interact, said Ben Peters, 17, a senior in his second year mentoring. 

“They see all these students talking and always laughing and having a good time, and that might spark their interest,” Peters said.    

“It always put a smile on your face no matter what kind of day you’re having,” Peters said of the buddies, “And it makes everyone’s day.” 

  

Seniors honored for service 

Foster Grandparents in the community were honored at special luncheons in the Twin Cities for their service in the Foster Grandparent Program.  Celebrating 45 years of service to children, the Foster Grandparent Program is part of the National Corporation for National and Community Service and sponsored in Minnesota by Lutheran Social Service (LSS).  Senior Companions, a sister program, were also honored.   

Foster Grandparents, age 55 or older, provide tutoring and one-to-one mentoring to children in schools, Head Start programs and shelters.  Senior Companions, also 55 and older, help frail seniors remain at home and independent by offering companionship, grocery shopping assistance and transportation to medical appointments.  More than 300 Senior Companions and Foster Grandparents serve in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties.   

“Our senior volunteers are outstanding individuals and great role models who provide a very important service in our community to kids and older adults alike,” said John Bringewatt, senior director for LSS.  “We know that their service makes a difference in helping children improve test scores in school and helping frail elderly stay in their homes.  As our aging population increases in the next 10 to 20 years, we will definitely need more senior volunteers in the future.” 

Senior volunteers serve a minimum of 15 hours per week and receive a modest tax-free stipend and mileage reimbursement.  The programs are supported with grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Minnesota Board on Aging, as well as support from local counties, United Ways and partner organizations. 

Senior volunteers serve in most counties around the state.  In 2010, 491 Foster Grandparents worked one-on-one with 2,965 children, offering 313,000 hours of tutoring and support. Of those tutored in reading, 85% improved at least one grade level.  415 Senior Companions served 2,214 individuals in their homes with 260,000 hours of service, with 89% of seniors served remaining in their own homes for the year.   

For more information on senior volunteer opportunities in your area, contact Mary Kay Connolly at LSS at 651-310-9440.

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