People and Places – October 2009

State Council to present awards In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Minnesota State Council on Disability hosts […]

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State Council to present awards

In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Minnesota State Council on Disability hosts its annual luncheon and recognition program. This year’s event is at the Holiday Inn, in downtown Duluth, Oct. 12.

This year’s award winners are Chuk Hamilton, Minnesota Award; Wally Waranka, Mentorship Award; Rich Diedrichsen, Access Award to an Individual; Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Access Award to an Organization/Business; Minnesota Department of Transportation and SEEDS Program, Large Employer of the Year; Peggy and Al Villa, Small Employer of the Year; MN APSE (formerly the Association for Persons in Supportive Employment), Legislative Advocacy Award; and Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota, Above & Beyond Veterans Employment Award.

The event is hosted by MSCOD in collaboration with PATHWAYS TO EMPLOYMENT, a partnership between the Department of Human Services, the Department of Employment and Economic Development and MSCOD.


VSA honors artists

VSA arts of Minnesota Arts Access Awards were presented Sept. 30 during an event at Vision Loss Resources in Minneapolis. This is the 12th year for the Jaehny Awards, which are given in recognition of outstanding accomplishments by artists, arts organizations, advocates and educators that help to create a community where people with disabilities can learn through, participate in and access the arts.

Those who attended this year’s event enjoyed an exhibit of fiber arts by Lisa Dietz, Minneapolis.
Nicole Zapko, Blooming-ton, was honored as the Most Active and Visible Minnesota Artist with Disabilities. Caryl Barnett, St. Paul, was honored as Outstanding Individual Actively Promoting Access to the Arts for People with Disabilities.

The Outstanding Artist Educator of Students and Adults with Disabilities is Anne Krocak, Prior Lake. WACOSA, Waite Park was feted as the Outstanding Organization Actively Supporting Access to the Arts for People with Disabilities.
VSA arts of Minnesota also honored the Voters of Minnesota, for having the vision to pass the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment during the 2008 statewide election. Passage of this amendment will result in improved access to the arts for all people, including people with disabilities.

The 2009 Jaehny Awards were created by Nancy Ann Miller of Eveleth.


Age and Disability awards given

Recipients of the 2009 Age and Disabilities Odyssey awards were announced at the 10th annual Age and Disabilities Odyssey Conference held in Rochester recently. The awards recognize individuals and organizations as leaders and advocates in providing services to older Minnesotans and people with disabilities.

Sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Board on Aging, the Age and Disabilities Odyssey Conference is attended by health and human service providers, educators, planners and other professionals in the fields of aging and services for persons with disabilities. Conference attendees learned more about promising practices, state-of-the-art programs and policy changes.

Recipients were recognized in four categories: policy, innovation, service and community.

The Policy Award was presented to the ElderCare Rights Alliance, Bloomington. This award recognizes public policy leadership, advocacy and education dedicated to improving the quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities. The ElderCare Rights Alliance received the award for developing and implementing the Vulnerable Adult Justice Project. This project was successful in passing legislation that tackles the growing problem of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults.

The Innovation Award was presented to Karen Conrath, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation self-determination grant manager for Dakota County Social Services. This award recognizes the recipient’s innovations in direct service, coordination of services and community-based partnerships that increase the resilience, interdependence and quality of life for seniors, people with disabilities and their communities.

The Service Award was presented to Polly Owens, program consultant, of PossAbil-ities of Southern Minnesota and an Olmsted County leader in person-centered planning, for exemplary practices, services and advocacy for seniors and their communities.

The Community Award was presented to the Rochester/Olmsted County Falls Prevention Coalition. In collaboration with the Rochester Fire Department and Olmsted County Public Health and Community Services, the coalition brought together numerous partners to coordinate an assessment of falls in their county and to discover the common causes for falls. Their focus has been on keeping people living in their homes through falls prevention efforts, improving individual quality of life and reducing the burden on medical and first responder resources.


Nonprofit groups are feted

The Minnesota Council on Non-Profits and MAP for Nonprofits have announced the winners of the 2009 Nonprofit Awards for Mission. The awards will be presented at a joint annual conference Nov. 5-6.

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota is the winner for Advocacy. Caring-Bridge of Eagan won the Innovation Award. Carl and Eloise Pohlad Family Foundation will be honored for Responsive Philanthropy. Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is the honoree for Anti-Racism Initiative.

Dakota Woodlands is the winner for Excellence in a Small Organization. Simpson Housing Services is honored for Excellence in a Large Organization.


New book by Raymond Luczak

“Whispers of a Savage Sort and Other Plays about the Deaf American Experience” is the latest book by Access Press contributor Raymond Luczak. Luczak is a Minneapolis author, film maker and playwright, whose work was featured in the 2009 Minneapolis-St. Paul Fringe Festival.

“Oh, why can’t the deaf community be more like a family?” is the plaint of a character in Raymond Luczak’s title play Whispers of a Savage Sort. It also goes far in characterizing the main thread that runs through his remarkable collection of work offered in this new volume. “Whispers of a Savage Sort and Other Plays about the Deaf American Experience” presents a progression of plays that depict Deaf people in situations well-known by the com-munity’s members. Written to be signing-driven, these plays feature Deaf characters from the various strata of Deaf society. Each play centers on different yet equally familiar issues.

Snooty brings to life the difficulties of surviving the social pecking order in a deaf residential school. The main character’s only escape is a rich fantasy life in which he is in control. Doogle confronts its characters with the intrusion of technological communication devices parallel to the virtually forced intimacy of such a small, close community. Brought into stark focus by the specter of AIDS, Love in My Veins explores how trust, betrayal, and ultimately forgiveness can transform a Deaf couple’s love for each other in a Deaf community. The collection’s eponymous Whispers of a Savage Sort reveals the relentless damage that rumor and innuendo can do to a diverse group of Deaf individuals. The emotions, identities, and consequences created by Luczak in these dramas illuminate the Deaf American community in fascinating detail rarely seen in any medium today.

The book is available on and through Gallaudet University Press, the publisher.


New Community Shares director

Community Shares of Minnesota announced that Matt Hunter has been hired as its new Executive Director, starting Oct. 1. “Being chosen to serve as Community Shares’ Executive Director is both an honor and a privilege,” said Hunter. “For the last 30 years, Community Shares of Minnesota has been rallying community support for social change in Minnesota. I am excited to join the members, board and staff to keep the social justice movement in Minnesota strong and growing.”

Hunter comes to Community Shares from Friends for a Non-Violent World (FNVW), a Community Shares member organization, where he served as their Executive Director. Hunter is an ordained minister with the United Methodist Church with a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Oklahoma.

“We are very excited that Hunter will be joining Community Shares. His skills and abilities are a great fit for us as we continue our work to raise financial support and increase awareness for the valuable social change work of our member organizations,” said Carol Watson, chair of the Community Shares of Minnesota Board of Directors. “Matt is joining Community Shares following a transition where we reorganized to meet the challenges facing our community. With his leadership, and with the support of our members, board and staff, we are poised for growth built upon our long history of funding and support of social change in Minnesota. Access Press is a Community Shares member.


MDA auction brings in almost $350,000

An impressive collection of unique and one-of-a-kind specialty items sparked bidder interest, bringing in almost $350,000 through the Telethon Online Auction to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Tucson, Arizona.
From Sept. 1 – 15, hundreds of items donated by celebrities, sports figures, MDA sponsors and other friends of the Association were sold in such categories as Celebrity and Sports Memorabilia, Unique Experiences, Travel, Electronics, Kids and Baby Items.

During the 15-day auction, held in conjunction with the 44th annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, MDA and celebrities with items in the auction helped spread word of the auction by taking to their Twitter accounts. “Days of Our Lives” star and “Biggest Loser” host Alison Sweeney tweeted daily to her almost 37,000 followers about some of the “Days” items available for bidding, prompting retweets from her friends actress Denise Rich-ards (1.1 million followers) and entertainment news personality Giuliana Rancic (1.3 million followers). “Access Hollywood” host Nancy O’Dell also asked her Twitter and Facebook followers to donate items to the auction, which resulted in multiple children’s packages and celebrity items. “General Hospital” star Brandon Barash also tweeted daily about the auction.

“These celebrities are part of our MDA family,” MDA President & CEO Gerald C. Weinberg said. “The fact that they helped promote the auction through Twitter added to the fun and excitement, and helped us reach out to a new audience.”

Items with some of the best final bids included a VIP package to the 2010 Telethon, $10,050; a 2009 Softtail Cross Bones Harley-Davidson motorcycle, $15,050; a 2010 Honda Fit, $13,800; an auto-graphed Roger Staubach and Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys photo, $3,867; tickets to see ventriloquist Terry Fator at The Mirage in Las Vegas and have a meet and greet with him, $2,949; and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) event tickets and meet and greet with WWE Superstars and Divas, $2,525.

MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to curing muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education.


New leader for foundation

Sheila O’Brien, formerly executive director of NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, joins the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs, leaders in the field of assistance dogs for people with disabilities, as of Sept. 14.

O’Brien began her career in the field of assistance dogs in 1978 after working as a special education teacher. During her 30-year tenure at NEADS, she was the architect of several innovative programs to expand the use of service dogs for people with disabilities.

An accomplished public speaker, O’Brien has been honored with the Massachusetts Governor’s citation and the Brookline community Foundation’s Unsung Hero award for her work on behalf of people with disabilities.

“We’re very excited to have Sheila become a key member of the team at the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs,” said Wells Jones, CEO of both organizations. “In her role as director of external relations, she will work in a variety of areas, from fundraising to program development to relationship building.”

In addition to her work with NEADS, O’Brien also serves as an assessor for Assistance Dogs International, a worldwide coalition of assistance dog schools. “I am honored to be part of these amazing organizations that bring independence to so many through the use of canine assistance,” said O’Brien.

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