People and Places - November 2012

Eagle Scout project helps residents

Individuals living at Northport, a Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) home for adults with developmental disabilities in the Minneapolis area, are looking forward to more afternoons spent at their neighborhood park and hosting gatherings in their back yard. That’s because an Eagle Scout’s final project brought philanthropy and service together to create a more accessible community.

At the suggestion of his Pastor, Erik Newland partnered with Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd—his scout troop sponsor—and Lutheran Social Services to design a project that would fulfill his scouting requirements and a personal desire to help improve quality of life for people with disabilities.

With help from a grant awarded by the church’s foundation, Newland planned and led construction of a concrete pathway to form a direct route around the home, providing safe and quick access to the backyard and park. The $3,500 gift covered the entire cost of the project.

“When Erik approached me about an idea for his Eagle Scout project, I knew working with LSS would be a perfect fit for him,” said Pastor Deborah Samuelson. “Our foundation encourages stewardship and service and we wanted to do all we could to support his endeavor.”

Financial backing wasn’t the only support he received. Building materials including gravel, sand and pavers were provided at a discounted price from Klier’s Nursery & Garden Center, Minneapolis. As for the labor, he enlisted Boy Scout Troop 6, his family, friends, and congregation to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

“My grandfather uses a wheelchair, and the struggle to cope with it has been quite hard on him and our family,” Newland said. “Hearing about how hard it is for individuals at Northport to do something as simple as enjoy the backyard was sad. I’m happy that I could build this path for them and help improve their community.”

“This project was a huge undertaking and I am so impressed with Erik’s initiative,” said Per Chomdokmai, designated coordinator for LSS. “The new path and patio means that people we serve will be able to safely access their own backyard whenever they want to; an inherent part of the American culture and social experience. We really appreciate the generosity of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and the support of Erik’s scout troop and family. Without any of them, this would not have been possible.”

The concrete pathway was to be finished before the end of October. The crew will return in April to finish landscaping and plant flowers. Newland expects to receive the Eagle Scout honor at a recognition ceremony this winter.




Housing program achieves milestone

A program that helps Minnesotans with disabilities find safe, affordable housing surpassed the 500 mark in moving individuals to homes of their own this year.

Housing Access Services is a partnership of The Arc of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Human Services that helps adults of all ages who are eligible for Medical Assistance home care or waiver programs and want to move to homes of their own.

Program staff accompanies people as they look for housing. They help with completing rental applications and lease agreements, meeting and negotiating with landlords and property staff, application fees and deposits, finding affordable furnishings and packing and moving belongings. Staff ensures that people who can work are close to places of employment and services, such as transportation, that will allow them to work. Recently staff has worked to ensure that participants in the program are receiving benefits they may be entitled to through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other programs. Currently the program is increasing its efforts to connect people to nutrition programs and employment supports for which they may be eligible.

Among the 566 people who have moved since the program started in September 2009 are adults who had been living in their family home and others who moved to residences of their own from group homes, assisted living or from being homeless.



Keprios wins national excellence award

The Arc’s National Conference of Executives honored Kim Keprios, chief executive officer of The Arc Greater Twin Cities, with the 2012 Executive Excellence Award. She received the award at The Arc’s National Convention and International Forum in Washington, D.C., Oct. 25-28. The Executive Excellence Award is the convention’s highest honor. It recognizes an individual whose career exemplifies the fulfillment of the mission, core values and position statements of The Arc.

Keprios was nominated for the award in recognition of her 30th anniversary with The Arc Greater Twin Cities. She joined Arc Hennepin County in 1982 as community services director. She became executive director in 1986 and has led the chapter through mergers with Arc Carver County and Arc Great Rivers. Today she is the chief executive officer of The Arc Greater Twin Cities, which serves the seven-county metro area and is the largest chapter of The Arc in Minnesota.

Under Keprios’ leadership, The Arc Greater Twin Cities has developed strong individual advocacy, selfadvocacy and public policy initiatives focused on self-determination and community building for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. These initiatives include future planning, special education, work preparedness and, most recently, abuse prevention and mentoring.



Health reform expert named Minnesota Medicaid director

Carol Backstrom, an administrator experienced in health care administration and reform at the state and federal levels, has been named state Medicaid director. She began work at the Minnesota Department of Human Services on Nov. 5.

Backstrom had served as a senior policy advisor at the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, part of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In this role she has served as liaison with state partners in creating and implementing reforms in Medicaid programs across the country. Before that she served as assistant to the commissioner for health reform at the Minnesota Department of Health, overseeing implementation of state health reform legislation passed in 2008.

Minnesota is a leader in advancing Medicaid reforms. In August, Minnesota became the first state to win federal approval for its Health Care Delivery Demonstration, an effort to improve care for enrollees while saving taxpayer dollars. Minnesota has also implemented competitive bidding for providers of health care services, already saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars without compromising care. In addition, an effort is underway to redesign Medicaid services to better serve those with long-term care needs and make the program sustainable in the future.

Medicaid, funded jointly by the state and federal governments, serves 666,000 low-income senior citizens, adults, children and people with disabilities. It represents one of the largest expenditures in the DHS budget with expenditures of $7.5 billion for state fiscal year 2011.



Rise! exceeds fundraising goal

Rise, Inc.’s first fundraising gala, Celebrate Rise!, exceeded its goals, raising more than $100,000. Proceeds will be used to purchase two 15-passenger vans to help ensure people with disabilities are able to go to work and participate in community activities. Pentair was the premier sponsor for the event, which attracted more than 450 guests to Minneapolis’ International Market Square Oct. 11.

Several business partners of the organization were sponsors of the event, including ATK Federal Ammunition, Cummins Power Generation, Dan’s Complete Automotive, Delta Dental, Electrolux Major Appliances (Freezer Division), The Grunewald Group, Hays Companies, Inc., Hoglund Bus Company, HOM Furniture, John’s Auto Parts, Johnson, West & Co. LLC, Klein Bank, Liberty Carton Company, Mary T, Inc., Medica, Northeast Bank, Team Personnel, and Wells Fargo Bank MN, N.A. WCCO-TV was the Media Sponsor for the event, and News Reporter/Anchor Jason DeRusha emceed the gala program. Rise also honored Cummins Power Generation’s Business Unit in Fridley as its Business Partner of the Year; Environmental Stoneworks in North Branch, and Pitney- Bowes Presort Services in Fridley as Employers of the Year; and Minnesota Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) as its Community Partner of the Year.

Several business partners of the organization were sponsors of the event, including ATK Federal Ammunition, Cummins Power Generation, Dan’s Complete Automotive, Delta Dental, Electrolux Major Appliances (Freezer Division), The Grunewald Group, Hays Companies, Inc., Hoglund Bus Company, HOM Furniture, John’s Auto Parts, Johnson, West & Co. LLC, Klein Bank, Liberty Carton Company, Mary T, Inc., Medica, Northeast Bank, Team Personnel, and Wells Fargo Bank MN, N.A. WCCO-TV was the Media Sponsor for the event, and News Reporter/Anchor Jason DeRusha emceed the gala program. Rise also honored Cummins Power Generation’s Business Unit in Fridley as its Business Partner of the Year; Environmental Stoneworks in North Branch, and Pitney- Bowes Presort Services in Fridley as Employers of the Year; and Minnesota Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) as its Community Partner of the Year.



Northfield residents get help

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Donovan recently announced grant approval to help 64 senior citizens and persons with disabilities in Northfield to receive health care, meals, and other critical supportive services. The grants are awarded through HUD’s Multifamily Housing Service Coordinator Program.

The grants are awarded to eligible owners of private housing developments that receive rental subsidies from HUD to house low-income individuals in 36 states and the District of Columbia. These property owners or their management companies either hire or contract service coordinators with backgrounds in providing social services, especially to the frail elderly and people with disabilities, to assist their residents with special needs

“These service coordinators help us connect senior citizens and those living with disabilities with the services they need to live independently,” said HUD’s Midwest Regional Administrator, Antonio R. Riley.

“We’re getting older as a nation and these grants go a long way toward ensuring these vulnerable populations are well served and allowed to age in place.

The grants are awarded are designed for an initial three-year period to allow eligible owners of multi-”family housing for the elderly or disabled, to hire and support a service coordinator. The funds cover such costs as salary, benefits, quality assurance, training, office space, equipment, and other related administrative expenses.

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published.