People and Places - January 2012

Call for Justice now open

Call for Justice has opened its office at 404 South 8th St., Minneapolis, in space donated by Greater Twin Cities United Way. Ellen Krug, an attorney for nearly 30 years, has been hired as the Call for Justice executive director. Call for Justice is a pilot project to provide legal information, advice, and referrals to the disadvantaged. A legal hotline will be one of the project’s features.

The project will work in conjunction with United Way 2-1-1 to streamline legal referrals. This new initiative is designed to mesh smoothly with other legal services efforts in the metro area. Call for

Justice is made possible through grants by the Hennepin and Ramsey County Bar Foundations, the St. Paul and Bigelow Foundations, and numerous law firms.

Krug is a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she had an active trial practice. A graduate of Boston College Law School, she has extensive community service experience with various nonprofits.

The project will reach out to organizations that provide legal services to the disadvantaged. Work to improve legal referrals will begin immediately. The legal hotline is projected to begin operations in 2012.

Krug said that Call for Justice is especially interested in serving people with disabilities. “The primary goal of Call for Justice is to increase access to the civil justice system,” Krug said. “Historically, the disabled have been particularly at a disadvantage—in part because of simple physical barriers and in part because the system hasn’t recognized the barriers many of the disabled face. The Call for Justice project is designed to make legal referrals easier and more efficient for everyone. The disabled—often the victims of ‘social services pinball’ in being bounced from one agency to another—will benefit from our efforts to make one call all that’s needed to secure effective legal assistance.”



­­­NAMI Minnesota presents awards

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Minnesota present awards for outstanding service at its annual conference recently in Minneapolis.

Guild Incorporated was given the Provider of the Year Award. The award recognizes an organization that provides mental health services that demonstrate excellence, respect and best practices.

NAMI’s executive director Sue Abderholden said, “Guild Incorporated in St. Paul has become a beacon of light for adults living with a mental illness. Guild has worked to provide a wide array of services that are evidence-based including Assertive Community Treatment, Intensive Residential Treatment Services, supported employment and supportive housing.” Guild has also collaborated with Regions Hospital to reduce readmissions to the hospital and with Project Pride in Living and the Delancey Apartments to provide housing.

Guild’s recent Moving Matters program demonstrates enormous creativity and showed how through dance and art people can heal and reach for recovery. Guild’s executive director Grace Tangjerd Schmitt and members of the Guild Incorporated staff were at the conference to accept the award.

Social worker Richard Oni, co-owner of Progressive Individual Resources in St. Paul, was given the Professional of the Year Award. The award recognizes a professional who provides high quality services, exemplifies best practices, and demonstrates commitment to and leadership in the field.

“Richard Oni has provided much needed mental health services to the African American and other immigrant communities and has been a strong advocate for mental health behavioral aides so that they can assist families in keeping their children in their homes,” said Abderholden. “NAMI also wants to recognize Richard’s tireless efforts to develop and promote culturally competent mental health services through his eleven years on the Children’s Subcommittee and his work on the Cultural Advisory Council on State Special Education along with numerous other task forces. We greatly appreciate and applaud his work.” Oni lives in Birchwood.



Playgrounds get needed assistance

Two efforts to create accessible playgrounds, one in Woodbury and one in Minneapolis, made key steps ahead. The Madison Claire Foundation announced a pledge of $100,000 in matching funds from an anonymous donor to build Madison’s Place, the East Metro’s first inclusive playground. The playground will be truly inclusive so that children of all abilities can play together side-by-side fostering friendships, understanding and acceptance.

“We are so grateful to this donor for their pledge of $100,000,” said Dana Millington, president of the Madison Claire Foundation. “This funding match will provide a major boost to the fundraising efforts for the playground.”

The foundation also entered into a partnership with Landscape Structures Inc., a Delano-based commercial playground manufacturer. Landscape Structures, the playground industry’s thought leader on inclusive play, will supply the playground equipment for Madison’s Place. The company, along with their Minnesota partner Flagship Recreation, is focused on helping communities go beyond providing accessibility to ensuring inclusion. In addition to getting children with limited mobility onto the playground, Landscape Structures engages the social and emotional benefits of a playground to help promote social inclusion between children with and without disabilities.

The playground is to be built in summer 2012. Falls for All, which is planning a universal access playground for the Wabun Picnic area of Minnehaha Falls Park in Minneapolis was approved for $200,000 in funding from the Hennepin County Youth Sports program. The contribution puts Falls for All closer to its goal of a fully accessible and inclusive playground for children (and adults) of all abilities. More than $600,000 has been raised toward the group’s $950,000 goal.



ProAct, Inc. names new board member

ProAct, Inc. has named Deanna (DeDe) Wanzek, a veteran physical therapist and former business owner, to its board of directors. The nonprofit organization serving people with disabilities has a growing program in Hudson, Wis., where Wanzek is employed by Avanti Center. The center, which she helped t found, provides physical, occupational and speech therapy to children and adults with disabilities.

“Many of the Hudson participants are people that I saw as children,” Wanzek said. “It is very interesting to me to see the life cycle– how things were for them when they were children and now how life is for them as adults.”

She is a successful closed head injury survivor, having suffered from a broadside car accident 22 years ago. “I was extremely fortunate. Had he hit the car about three feet more toward the front I probably would not be here.”

Wanzek holds certification as a physical therapist from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She is also a pediatric clinical specialist. She teaches at St. Catherine University in St. Paul in the school’s doctorate of physical therapy program.

She and her family live in River Falls, Wisc. ProAct is headquartered in Eagan and maintains additional sites in Red Wing, Zumbrota and Hudson, Wis. It serves individuals experiencing barriers to employment and self-sufficiency due to developmental disabilities, mental health issues, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions.

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