People and Places – March 2013

Opportunity Partners celebrates its many partners with awards Four businesses were honored with recognition awards at “Celebrate Opportunity—An Executive Networking […]

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Opportunity Partners celebrates its many partners with awards

Four businesses were honored with recognition awards at “Celebrate Opportunity—An Executive Networking and Business Recognition Luncheon,” hosted by non-profit disability organization Opportunity Partners Feb. 27. Awards were given to businesses that have shown exemplary leadership in providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in 2012. About 400 people were on hand for the event, which featured speakers and displays from business partners.

Frank Vascellaro of WCCO-TV served as emcee for the event, which was held at the Marriott West in Minneapolis.

The Laura Zemlin Employer of the Year winner is Engineered Products Company (EPCO). A supplier of specialty lighting and wiring consumable products for electrical contracts, EPCO brings in two teams from Opportunity Partners Monday through Friday. In a single week, the teams assemble thousands of parts for interior and exterior lighting systems as well as many other products.

Production Customer of the Year winner is DecoPac. The company is the world’s largest wholesale cake decoration supplier and marketer. DecoPac turns to Opportunity Partners for many projects, including annual licensed Super Bowl commemorative cake decorations sold across the nation.

The Community Partner Award went to Walgreens. Walgreens has joined with Opportunity Partners to provide people with disabilities a variety of opportunities in their retail stores. Walgreens has 14 stores that serve as valuable work evaluation or training sites for Opportunity Partners. Through the partnership, more than 20 people have been assisted in their path toward independent employment.

The Julie Olson Topp Employer of the Year was given to Kraus-Anderson Construction Company.

Kraus-Anderson, one of the nation’s leading commercial general contractors and construction managers, has hired several employees from Opportunity Partners for general office duties. The company has done an exceptional job of advocating for the hiring of workers with disabilities and has provided  positive exposure to the cause.

Chris Wright, president of the Minnesota Timberwolves delivered an unforgettable keynote presentation on “Building Your Superstar Team.” He spoke about seeing the strengths of every employee and giving back to the community can create an organization bound for success, even during tough times.

Established in 1953, Opportunity Partners is celebrating its 60th anniversary of helping people with disabilities live, learn and work more independently through innovative services and collaborations with business. One of the largest social service agencies in Minnesota, the organization supports 1,700 people with disabilities each year. It is based in Minnetonka.


Global Rehabilitation, L.L.C. opens

Dayna L. Wolfe, M.D., an integrative physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, has announced the opening of her new practice, Global Rehabilitation LLC in Columbia Heights. Wolfe writes the Health Notes column that appears from time to time in Access Press.

Wolfe is a global health care provider with extensive experience as an educator, clinician, scientist, patient advocate, business consultant and community leader. She is well-versed in disability issues. She uses a holistic approach to the assessment and treatment of patients with chronic illness and disability, care of patients with Lyme and associated diseases and comprehensive nutritional supplements consultations.

Wolfe also serves as a home-based physician services for individuals with severe mobility impairments Her new clinic is located at Total Health Square, 5194 Central Ave NE, Columbia Heights


Pulice awarded outstanding service award

Pat Pulice, Director of Fraser Center of Autism Excellence, was recently awarded an Outstanding Service Award by the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health.

This award is given to recognize individuals who have shown extraordinary achievement and/or leadership in the field of children’s mental health.

Pulice has more than 30 years of experience working with children on the autism spectrum. She provides program development, resources and continuity of intervention, integrating multidisciplinary services including mental health, pediatric therapy, transition services and housing needs at Fraser, a Minnesota nonprofit serving children and adults with special needs.

Pulice was also appointed to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force for the State of Minnesota to define the parameters of autism treatment and funding for a report to the Department of Human Service.

She has provided multiple testimonies to the Minnesota Legislature over the years regarding the needs of children on the autism spectrum and their families.

She is consulting with Fairview Hospital system to increase hospital staff knowledge and skills to work more effectively with children and youth who are severely impacted by autism.

Fraser is Minnesota’s largest and most experienced provider of autism services. Fraser also serves children and adults with more than 60 types of mental and physical disabilities. Its programs are nationally recognized for their high quality, innovation, and individualized, family-centered approach.

For more information, call 612-861-1688 or visit


It’s snow fun for the 25th Northland 300 ride

The 25th annual Northland 300 snowmobile ride went off without a hitch thanks to ample snow conditions and a good group of riders and volunteers. The ride from Two Harbors to Ely raised $174,267, with $112,410 cash and $61,857 in in-kind donations. This brings the all-time accumulative total to more than $3.8 Million to benefit the athletes of Special Olympics Minnesota. It was a proud accomplishment for those taking part in the special anniversary ride.

The ride was held the last weekend of January. I concern for the trails and availability of snow, Northland 300 Board members Marc Williams, Meaghan Dahl and Janel Vorel headed north the Saturday before the ride to ensure that 82 snowmobilers would be able to ride the 300-plus miles from Two Harbors to Ely and back. The report was good and snow conditions improved a few days later.

Snowmobilers departed Superior Shores Lodge in Two Harbors, early Jan. 24. But first they enjoyed a moving opening ceremony. Special Olympics Minnesota athletes Louis Nosan carried the torch and passed it to Tyler Bengston, a first-time participant who rode on the back of his father Steve Bengston’s sled.

Tyler Bengston then passed the torch to Laurie Mallory, Two Harbors Special Olympics Minnesota athlete. Malloy has supported the Northland 300 since its first ride in 1989. The final carrying and holding of the torch, was done by Steven Eull, Special Olympics Minnesota athlete and five-year Northland 300 participant who rode on the back of his coach, Jason Reinsch’s sled. Nosan sang the National Anthem as the torch was brought in.

Special guests were also on hand. Two Harbors Mayor Randy Bolen, presented the key to the City of Two Harbors to Kathy Karkula, volunteer event director, and declared it Northland 300 Day to the participants of the ride. Darrin Young of Superior Shores Resort, Gordy Anderson, President of Two Harbors Chamber of Commerce and the Two Harbors American Legion Color Guard were present to wish participants well.

Temperatures were below zero when the ride began. Snowmobilers were happy to begin their first leg of the trek with snow on the trails to ride to their destination, Grand Ely Lodge in Ely. Ski-Doo, a Northland 300 Gold Medal Sponsor, hosted a demonstration trailer there. Northland 300 participants and event visitors met Ski-Doo representative Joe Cameron and tried out a variety of Ski-Doo model snowmobiles.

A ceremony was also held at Grand Ely Lodge, with lodge manager Denis Jordan, Ely Mayor Ross Peterson, the local VFW/American Legion Color Guard and Ely’s own Jay Mackie, who sang the National Anthem. Eull and Bengston carried in the torch followed by Northland 300 snowmobilers on their sleds.

Many prizes were awarded to Northland 300 participants. The top raffle prize, a 2013 Ski-Doo MXZ Sport 600 snowmobile, was won by Todd Forrest, Tomah, Wisc. The second and third prizes of $1,000 apiece were won by Mike Read of Mounds View and Shawn Snyder of Apple Valley. Bob Bloom of Balsam Lake, Wisc. won fourth prize, a champagne weekend for two at Superior Shores Resort. Other prizes included fishing and summer vacation packages, a camera, a television set and gift certificates.

To learn more about the Northland 300 and Special Olympics Minnesota, visit and


Poetz raises awareness of developmental disabilities issues

The term “pioneer in the self-advocacy movement” is used to sum up Cliff Poetz’s involvement in disability rights. But that phrase greatly simplifies what he has done as a self-advocate, leader of The Arc, and leader in other disability organizations and causes for more than 40 years. Poetz was honored recently by The Arc Minnesota for his advocacy, as one of the Heroes of The Arc. His work is again noted during March, which is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

A native of St. Bonifacius, Poetz moved to Portland Residence in Minneapolis as an adult. He soon became an activist, joining the facility’s Client Council and then becoming its president. He also began working with disability organizations in Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan and Indiana.

Poetz’s work got the attention of national leaders. In 1973, Don Bartlett, Portland Residence Program Director, got an unexpected call from the office of  Sen. Ted Kennedy. Bartlett initially thought this was a prank. However, Kennedy’s staff really did want to speak with Poetz. Poetz was asked to come to Washington, D.C., to testify in support of the Developmental Disabilities Act.

After the call, Poetz and Bartlett spent 14 hours hammering out three pages of testimony. But Poetz encountered opposition from disability community members before the Senate hearing.

“Some of the leaders in Washington, D.C. didn’t want me to read what was in my testimony,” Poetz said. “I was calling for self-advocacy involvement in setting up developmental disability councils and the right of people with disabilities to advocate for themselves. But some in the movement were too overprotective, and they didn’t want to rock the boat. My staff and I insisted that I should speak up for more consumer involvement and empowerment. We prevailed, and I read my testimony the way it was.”

Poetz was vindicated by the support he received from others—including Muriel Humphrey, wife of Sen. Hubert Humphrey. “She came up to me after the hearing and complimented me on the testimony and said, ‘You did the right thing.’”

His testimony was part of a larger victory. The Developmental Disabilities Act passed, providing needed protections and funding for advocacy agencies and developmental disabilities councils nationwide. Poetz also has decades of experience with The Arc, first as a board member for Youth ARC in the 1974.

In the early 1980s, he joined The Arc’s national board and made his presence felt. Because of his push for the rights and acceptance of people with disabilities, The Arc, in Poetz’s words, “…eventually understood what self-advocacy was all about and why it’s so important.”

Thanks to him, The Arc rewrote its mission statement with stronger language on self-advocacy. He also led efforts to create a self-advocacy movement in Minnesota, as co-founder and president of People First Central in the Twin Cities and a leader in People First Minnesota, He traveled the state to help found and advise new People First chapters. He was a leader in Advocating Change Together, and helped co-found Remember With Dignity (RWD) to respect state institutions’ past residents with named grave markers. He was also involved in the successful effort to pass legislation calling on the state of Minnesota to apologize for treatment of people housed at those institutions.

Poetz has performed numerous roles as a board member with The Arc Twin Cities and The Arc Minnesota, serving in almost every way possible. He also assumed leadership positions in other disability organizations, including Minnesota State Council on Disability, Interact Theater and the Advisory Committee for the Direct Service Training Initiative. He led workshops at the annual conferences of The Arc Minnesota, and did public speaking around the world.

His efforts strengthened the organizations he served and empowered countless other self-advocates. Poetz has won many awards. One of the highest honors was from the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation. He was given its Self-Empowerment Award in 2000 for his “pioneering work in self-advocacy.” He enjoyed his first-ever ride in a limousine at that event and met activists from around the world.

What has made Poetz most proud? He fondly recalls how his testimony helped make the development Disabilities Act federal law. He also remembers his involvement in a lawsuit against Metro Mobility to improve transportation to people with disabilities and his work with Remembering with Dignity. Yet another point of pride is his work to educate The Arc’s national board, parents, and professionals on self-advocacy and working with self-advocates.

But he also focuses on what is still needed: better transportation; more employment opportunities; further movement of people from large facilities into community-based facilities; and more education of legislators to understand what self-advocates and direct care staff do every day.

Poetz continues to be one of the most visible and vocal advocates for persons with developmental disabilities in Minnesota. As he said at The Arc Minnesota Heroes event: “All I’ve ever said is that we want to be treated as equals. We’re getting there.”

Jerry Smith at ICI and The Arc Minnesota provided material for this article.

Dedication to Stillwater Place residents makes her a winner

Donna Chipman’s new quilt makes her small apartment at a senior living facility in Little Canada much cozier. The quilt, with its light green and blue pattern, adds a cheerful touch to her home.

“It’s so much more than a quilt,” she said. “The colors are stunning, but what’s most beautiful is what this represents—a family.”

Chipman’s colleagues from Lutheran Social Service (LSS) of Minnesota honored her in February with the handmade quilt and this year’s Volunteering is Vital Award or VIVA. It is a special award within Lutheran Social Service’s Disability Services, recognizes Chipman’s talents and skills. But it also is recognition of a heart that is full of love for the women she supports.

“What a surprise to receive appreciation for my volunteering,” Chipman said. “Volunteering is its own reward.”

For 10 years, Chipman worked as a direct support professional at Stillwater Place, an LSS home for adults with developmental disabilities in Shoreview. When it came time to retire last year, she thought about giving her time to children in schools, but it didn’t take long to realize she belonged right where she was. She went back to Stillwater Place as a volunteer.

“After a while, I really missed the ladies that I helped support for so many years; they had become my family,” Chipman said. “I thought with all my experience, I would be more useful staying where I was.”

“Donna has the innate ability to make everyone around her feel loved and cared for,” said Cindy Iverson,  Chipman’s longtime supervisor at LSS. “She’s got an energy that the ladies just love and they’re always so excited to learn that she is coming over—they wait at the door to greet her with a hug.”

Besides giving out the best bear hugs, her top priority is making sure they have every opportunity to lead full, rewarding lives. Chipman spends ample time researching free or low-cost activities happening in the community.

“My hope is that they get to do what they dream of doing. I want to inspire them to think of things they didn’t realize were possible,” Chipman said. “Nothing pleases me more than when we come up with an idea or planned activity, and the ladies love it and are excited about it.”

“They tell me ‘thank you’ all the time,” she added. “It’s great to see them having fun. I remember one adventure we took together to Laura Ingalls Wilder Days in Pepin. One of the women ran up to me, her arms all the way up in the air, and as she grinned from ear to ear, she said, ‘Donna you made my day.”

Knowing that she is a part of some lasting memories for the women she supports is a special thing, but for Chipman, the most rewarding moments are unexpected. “They teach me every day to appreciate the small things,” Chipman said. “The littlest thing or silliest comment means so much and goes a long way in making our days together a joy.”

Statewide, LSS serves 1,500 people with disabilities through supervised community homes, in-home support and respite care.

LSS of Minnesota helps children and families, people with disabilities and older Minnesotans through a wide range of services that inspire hope, change lives, and build community. The non-profit organization, headquartered in St. Paul, serves more than 100,000 Minnesotans yearly with operations in 300 Minnesota communities.

LSS employs more than 2,300 people. For information about the organization’s statewide services, visit


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