People and Places - October 2012

Evenson honored as Minnesota’s Direct Support Professional of the Year

Lisa Evenson believes that the most powerful tool she has is her voice. For 10 years, she has used her voice and dedicated herself to advocating for the rights and freedoms of people with disabilities as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

During DSP Week Sept. 9-15, Evenson received the DSP of the Year Award. She was honored at a Sept. 15 event in Edina.

The award is granted each year to one outstanding Minnesota service professional by the Direct Support Professionals Association of Minnesota (DSPAM), a coalition of DSPs, self-advocates and their families who work together to promote the development of the highest quality services that support individuals with disabilities in achieving their life goals.

The award spotlights people who have demonstrated exemplary service and commitment to helping people with disabilities lead full lives as valued members of their communities.

“Lisa Evenson was a clear choice for DSP of the Year because of her long tenure and dedication to supporting individuals to grow, reach their potential, and fulfill their dreams,” said Bridget Siljander, Co-Chair of DSPAM. “It is clear that Ms. Evenson is a team player and thoughtful advocate who goes out of her way for others. She is an excellent role model for direct support professionals.”

“We are really proud to have Lisa as our colleague,” said Rhonda Larson, Supervisor for Personal Support Services at Lutheran Social Service. “Lisa is highly dedicated and her mission is always to ensure that the people with disabilities we support have full opportunities to make their contributions in our community.”

Through Lutheran Social Service, Evenson has served as a mentor, guiding individuals she supports in the southern Minnesota community of Adams as they learn to advocate for themselves at the state capitol She works hard to help people adapt successfully to new environments and is a strong encourager of people with disabilities—offering words of support to help them reach their personal goals in life, including graduating high school and attending college.

“It’s an honor to receive this award,” Evenson said. “I feel incredibly blessed to work for an organization that is so committed to ensuring that people with disabilities have opportunities to live full lives in our community.”

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota serves 1,400 people with disabilities through supervised community homes, in-home support and respite care.


Grants announced for Minnesota groups

The American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) has announced the recipients of grants totaling $25,000 to two Twin Cities-area organizations whose work is consistent with the mission of the ABTA.

The grants were awarded in conjunction with the ninth annual Humor the Fight the Tumor gala at The Depot in Minneapolis Sept. 24. They were funded through proceeds generated at last year’s event. The gala is held annually to benefit the American Brain Tumor Association.

The Angel Foundation received $10,000 to provide emergency financial support for non-medical basic needs such as food, transportation, housing and utility payments for adults in treatment for brain tumors. The Sister Kenny Foundation received $15,000 to study the ways in which patient and family rehabilitation priorities change over time, in order to improve the quality of life of brain tumor survivors.

Humor to Fight the Tumor began in 2004 and is among the premier fundraising events benefiting the ABTA on behalf of those living with brain tumors and those researching more effective treatments. To date, the event—stories of determination and courage by brain tumor survivors, along with live comedy, dinner and silent and live auctions—has raised more than $1 million.


Duluth area gets sled hockey team

The fledgling Duluth Area Special and Sled Hockey organization got an assist in September from the University of Minnesota- Duluth men’s team, thanks to a free exhibition benefit game at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center. The group provides hockey opportunities for those in the Duluth area with physical and developmental disabilities. It began in January with the help of Christian Koelling, UMD’s director of hockey operations, and Kelly Erickson, assistant professor in occupational therapy at St. Scholastica.

The benefit game included photo sessions with UMD players, exhibits, an on-site silent auction and a game with UMD players. The game gave the new group its first experience as a sled hockey team.

The first full season for the Duluth Area Special and Sled Hockey athletes will include approximately two sessions per month at the Heritage Center during the winter, Koelling told the Duluth News-Tribune. The group has 30-40 participants.


New adult day services site opens

After years in the “wishing” phase, months in the planning phase, and weeks in the construction phase, the second program site of Merrick, Inc., housing Adult Day Services and the new Memory Care Services is open in North St. Paul. The program includes a first of its kind program for people with memory loss issues.

The new space is outfitted with color choices and enhancements suggested by staff and clients. Design strategies uniquely suited for people with intellectual or development disabilities and care of people with stage 1 or 2 Alzheimer’s/dementia were utilized to create a functional and welcoming environment that also meets licensing requirements. 27 clients and six staff members moved from Merrick’s main program site in Vadnais Heights to their new location.

“I am absolutely thrilled with the new space in North St. Paul and excited for the adult day services clients to engage in relationship-building with the dynamic community of downtown North St. Paul. I look forward to the program finding a variety of ways to explore, expand, and strengthen the valued roles they will assume in local community life,” said Merrick Program Director Colleen Timbers.

At full capacity, the new site will serve 40 clients, 31 in the adult day services program and nine in the newly formed memory care services program. The daily routine will not change much for clients. They will still articipate in on- and off-site social/leisure activities; therapies; self-advocacy activities; health and fitness monitoring, and current events. An advantage to being part of the community in North St. Paul is the proximity to other businesses and the ease of interacting with others.

The new memory care services program is unique. People with Down syndrome are more at risk for developing dementia than the general population. In the past year, the rate of new Alzheimer’s/dementia cases among clients at Merrick has tripled to one new case every six weeks, or approximately eight to nine new cases a year. The program will focus on enabling clients to maintain life skills, decelerating the progression of Alzheimer’s/dementia, participating in community life, and engaging in proactive and satisfying activities of their choosing.