People and Places – November 2018

Treehouse Foods, DARTS honored for employment efforts in disability community ProAct has announced its awards for 2018, honoring a food […]

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Treehouse Foods, DARTS honored for employment efforts in disability community

ProAct has announced its awards for 2018, honoring a food supplier and a services provider. Providing excellent work

opportunities for people with disabilities based at ProAct in Eagan, Treehouse Foods and DARTS received annual awards.

Treehouse Foods, a large food supplier, is the 2018 Business Partner of the Year and DARTS, which serves older adults in and around Dakota County, is the 2018 New Employer Partner of the Year.

DARTS and TreeHouse were honored at ProAct’s Annual Recognition Banquet in Oakdale, held earlier this fall. A unique address was given by model Mikayla Holmgren, who is believed to be the first person with Down syndrome in the nation to compete at the state level. Before participating in the Miss Minnesota Pageant, she represented Minnesota in the national Junior Miss Amazing pageant in Los Angeles.

“These partners are wonderful examples who work

closely with us to provide opportunities for the people we serve,” said ProAct President and CEO Steven Ditschler. “We are grateful for their role in enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.”

TreeHouse Foods has been a source of work for almost 180 ProAct participants in the past year, said ProAct Business Manager Mary McGeheran. She said predictability, reliability, and longevity are hallmarks of Treehouse. The nonprofit’s relationship with the food company spans more than 15 years.

“We set up a variety and number of production line

s each afternoon to prepare for the following workday, and a sit-down line is used for those who are unable to stand, or who are in wheelchairs,” McGeheran said. The manager said TreeHouse is “part of the ProAct family” and is an important asset. “They understand our capabilities and ProAct has an understanding of the demands to meet TreeHouse needs,” she said. Participants sort and box prepackaged granola bars and other items for eventual shipping to grocers and other retailers.

ProAct’s New Employer of the Year, DARTS, is based in West St. Paul. It serves senior citizens and people with disabilities in many ways. ProAct gets involved with housekeeping for DARTS at residences around Dakota County. Crews of five or six participants and two ProAct staff members perform the work.

“It’s a win-win all around, one nonprofit working with, and for another,” said McGeheran. “Our missions align beautifully with one another in celebrating and supporting diversity, aging and inclusion.”

DARTS also holds training sessions, open house events and monthly meetings to build on the partnership. Meet and greet gatherings bring both parties together to review specific needs for each residence, and to establish expectations for the work, McGeheran said.

The business manager said the community and companionship experienced by senior citizens and ProAct participants has been priceless.

ProAct, Inc. offers person-centered services that enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities. It is headquartered in Eagan and has additional operations in Red Wing, Shakopee, Zumbrota and in Hudson, Wis.


Outstanding Disability Employer award winners announced

The Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) in October honored six Outstanding Disability Employer award winners from across the state.

“Employers who hire individuals with disabilities and work crews are important partners in our efforts to provide person-centered services that improve people’s lives in Minnesota,” said Julie Johnson, president of MOHR. The organization represents more than 100 disability service providers across the state.

MOHR’s selections for the 2018 Outstanding Disability Employer awards are AmericInn by Wyndham, Roseau; Kowalski’s Markets, Twin Cities; Sammy’s Pizza & Restaurant, Cloquet; Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake, Duluth; Taco John’s, Cambridge and 3M Fall Protection, Red Wing.

MOHR’s mission is to advocate and support its nonprofit members by providing meaningful services to persons with disabilities and communities served. Members are committed to respecting, each individual with a person-centered approach and to expanding work opportunities.

Celebrated every October, this year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month was “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.” It celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. The national observance began under a different name in 1945.



Largest ceremony ever for training group

Can Do Canines has celebrated its largest graduation ceremony with 18 diverse teams graduating from its program October 27. Can Do Canines provides assistance dogs to those with disabilities involving mobility challenges, hearing loss or deafness, seizure disorders, diabetes complicated by hypoglycemia unawareness, or children with autism. The dogs are fully trained and provided free of charge. Not only is it the largest ceremony in the organization’s history, it’s also the most diverse. The ceremony included mobility, autism, seizure, and diabetes assist teams, representing all types of assistance dogs that Can Do Canines trains.

Also included in the lineup are six successor teams. These are clients who have previously had an assistance dog from Can Do Canines and are graduating for a second, or for some, even third time. One of these successor clients is Wendy, graduating with Hearing Assist Dog Yukon. A lot has changed since Wendy was matched with her first dog 15 years ago. “The training process is totally different,” Wendy said. “It used to be that you get the dog, and then you had to do obedience classes, and basically start from scratch. Now the dog is fully trained, and now it’s me that has to be trained.”

The ceremony represented the culmination of a long journey for the assistance dogs and their human partners. Even before the pair goes through team training together, the assistance dog has experienced months of training with volunteers and staff. Each dog has been touched by numerous selfless volunteers who donate their time, energy, and love to raise and train a dog for someone with a disability.


Two appointed to council

Gov. Mark Dayton has announced two appointments to the State Rehabilitation Council. 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 is created under state law and the Federal Rehabilitation Act.

One new member is Rebecca Puchtel of Elk River, who is an advocate member with a term expiring in January 2020. Puchtel replaces Andrea Redetzke. The other new appointee is Sonny Wasilowski of Faribault, who is seated as a current or former vocational rehabilitation services representative. Wasilowski replaces Jeannette Nevilles.



October brought kudos to workers, those who support them

October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Gov. Mark Dayton issued a special proclamation to commemorate the month. The official certificate was presented by the statewide disability organization Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) to two key legislators, Senators Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) and John Hoffman (D-Champlin).

The governor’s proclamation states that Minnesota is committed to providing individuals with disabilities a “continuum of work options that best meet individual needs and choices in a person-centered manner.” It also states that employers are crucial to providing opportunities for work experience, career paths and the dignity that comes through labor.

Individuals with disabilities typically find it more difficult to find work opportunities and are often assisted by nonprofit providers who help with everything from resume writing to job tryouts, job coaching, skill building and training for work.The senators have been strong advocates for people with disabilities. “This is great.

We know that people with disabilities want to be part of the community at large in a huge manner and the Olmstead provision tells us that,” said Hoffman. “We, as policymakers want to understand and make that a reality, and this is one step in the right direction. It makes a lot of difference to be able to acknowledge this whole month and say to folks with disabilities that we want to make sure that you’re working and being included in society.”

Abeler echoed Hoffman’s comments. “This is a big deal. We get the privilege to work on this. The real heroes are the people every day who get out of bed and face their challenges or help people who are facing challenges. It’s an honor to work with John and Foung on this, and with you all.”

Hoffman and Abeler were joined by Sen. Foung Hawj (D-St. Paul). “Our state is productive because of the inclusion of people with disabilities,” Hawj said, “I’m glad I’m standing next to the two champions here in our Senate and I’m going to be a third.”



Handi Medical wins ethics honors

St. Paul-based Handi Medical Supply was one of the companies honored with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Minnesota and North Dakota’s 2018 Torch Awards for Ethics. The ceremony was held in October at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

BBB’s Torch Awards for Ethics recognizes leading area businesses that uphold the highest standards and display an outstanding level of ethics and integrity, in every aspect of their day to day operations. Handi was honored in the  category for employers with 51 to 175 employees.

Other winners are Monarch Builders & Commercial Services, Edina; Standard Water Control Systems, Inc.,

Crystal and Preferred Credit, Inc., St. Cloud. “We were proud to honor this year’s finalists and winner  at our annual Torch Awards ceremony,” said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “These local businesses deserve recognition for how they value and demonstrate the highest level of ethics in all that they do, both with their businesses and in the community.”

About 300 business owners and community leaders attended the ceremony. Jason Matheson and Alexis Thompson of MyTalk 107.1 emceed the event, Dennis W. Schulstad, retired Brigadier General, USAF, and former Minneapolis City Council member, served as keynote speaker.

BBB presents the Torch Awards for Ethics each year to several for-profit businesses located within the Minnesota and North Dakota region. Eligible businesses are offered the opportunity to submit an entry to BBB, where a panel of independent volunteer business and community leaders select the winners. Nominees must be in good standing with BBB; however, BBB Accreditation is not a requirement to compete.






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