People & Places – May 2014

  Zangara is Olmstead leader Darlene Zangara will lead Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan Implementation Office. She was hired in April. Zangara […]

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Zangara is Olmstead leader

Darlene Zangara will lead Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan Implementation Office. She was hired in April. Zangara is charged with implementing the plan and improving the way Minnesota provides services and support to people with disabilities.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to support the Minnesota’s Olmstead Implementation Office. I am looking forward to engaging Minnesota in this groundbreaking transformative plan in creating a stronger culture of empowerment, integration and inclusion for all Minnesotans,” said Zangara.

“Darlene Zangara is an excellent choice to lead Minnesota’s Olmstead Implementation Office. With decades of experience, Zangara has worked with people with disabilities extensively,” said Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. “I am confi dent that with Zangara leading the office, Minnesota will be able to effectively and efficiently implement the Olmstead Plan that was developed last year.”As the state’s permanent Olmstead director, Zangara will support state agencies and the Olmstead subcabinet as they work to implement the plan across Minnesota.

Last fall, Minnesota released a plan to help ensure that people with disabilities are able to live, work and enjoy life in the most integrated setting desired. More information about the plan process appears elsewhere in this issue of Access Press.

Most recently, Zangara founded Leveraging Your Voice, a consulting company dedicated to serving marginalized leaders and organizations. She also has worked with Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD) and headed the Ohio Resource Center on Deafness. She has served on numerous boards and commissions and as adjunct faculty member at several colleges and universities.

Zangara has a doctorate degree from Antioch University, a master’s degree from Gallaudet University and a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University. She is a native of Ohio.


Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota is crowned

The 2014 Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota-America is Kelsey Peterson. Peterson grew up on Bay Lake. She attended high school at Crosby-Ironton and the Perpich School for the arts. She graduated from the

University of Montana as a fine Arts, dance major. She will be a spokesperson for people with disabilities during the year ahead and will work to educate the public about disabilities.

Peterson sustained a spinal injury in summer 2012 after diving from a boat into Lake Superior. Her rehabilitation was at Miller-Dwan Hospital in Duluth and later in the Twin Cities. She lives and works in the Twin Cities, and continues her interest in the arts.

Peterson was crowned earlier this spring at a pageant at the Northwest Marriott in Brooklyn Park. One message shared by all participants of this year’s pageant was that living with a disability may be more challenging but it doesn’t mean contestants cannot strive to meet their goals and succeed.

The production firm Studio 120 is working on a marketing video to help raise awareness for the Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota Organization and fit its events. Studio 120 attended this year’s Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota pageant interviewing the participants and capturing the crowning of Peterson as the winner.



Run away and join the circus – Circus Juventas program gets grant

Five Twin Cities arts organizations were awarded grants for projects to make their arts programs more accessible to people with disabilities. Funding for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Access Improvement Grants for metro arts organizations comes from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Circus JuventasThe grant awards were announced in April. One of the groups funded is St. Paul’s Circus Juventas, which received $15,000. Circus Juventas will complete the development of and launch a new Out of the Chair circus performing arts program for people with physical disabilities. The program features “esprit” aerial acts utilizing harnesses and rigging to suspend the performer and minimize or eliminate dependence on arms or legs for performing. The program is currently being tried as a pilot project. It will be offered as a regular class to the public later this year.

O’Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, received $15,000 to remodel seating on the main floor of the theatre, doubling current wheelchair accessibility. The project will add wheelchair seating platforms to both sides of the theater accessible from new concrete ramps on both the north and south sides of the lobby. Moveable seating would be added to the existing wheelchair platform, increasing total wheelchair accessibility from six to 16.

Mixed Precipitation, Minneapolis, received $7,120 to invest in audience-building strategies to better engage people with disabilities. The theater company, which performs its picnic operetta in green spaces, will take a variety of steps to expand its audience and promote its shows.

Caponi Art Park and Learning Center, Eagan, received $2,625 to hire Scott Artley, an accessibility and community engagement consultant. He will help update the Art Park’s ADA access plan and address the opportunities that come from the new facility being built this year and the Art Park’s expanding programs. He will also help the park address the changing needs of its audience.

Kairos Alive!, Minneapolis, received $2,648 to pay for audio microphone and speaker systems. These will make interactive participatory arts experiences accessible to participants with disabilities, including those who are hard of hearing and have mobility impairments, and those with physical and cognitive disabilities.

VSA Minnesota administers the grant program for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. The grants were reviewed by a panel of persons active in the metro arts and disability communities. They read, discussed and ranked the applications. Panel recommendations were approved by the VSA Minnesota board.

The next application deadline is May 16. For grant application forms, go to, call 612-332-3888 or 800-801-3883, or email [email protected]



Conley wins Segal Award

Bill Conley has been honored by the Mental Health Association of Minnesota (MHAM), as the recipient of its 2014 Gloria Segal Award. The award recognizes Conley’s efforts to improve the lives of people with mental illnesses. Association members honored Conley at the group’s 75th Diamond Anniversary Celebration May 8 at the DoubleTree Park Place Hotel in Saint Louis Park, MN.

Since the 1980s, many people have played a role in the effort to change and improve Minnesota’s mental health care treatment, services, and supports, but a few of those Minnesotans stand at the top of the pyramid.

Conley is one of those few—one of the leaders in bringing better mental health care to Minnesota. When there was a mental health issue to be addressed by the Minnesota Legislature during the last three decades, Conley was there.

Conley was an unceasing driver toward the passage of the Adult Mental Health Act of 1987 and the Children’s Mental Health Act of 1989. He was at the forefront of the efforts that brought mental health parity for state regulated plans to Minnesota in the mid-1990s. He has worked with legislators, administrations, providers, health plans, and advocates to fill the gaps and remove the loopholes in mental health care. He has been a central player in supporting enhanced employment supports for people with mental illnesses.

Conley works to ensure that people with a mental illness have equal protection under the law. He believes that equal treatment for mental illness and equal rights under the law are both critical as the state and nation move forward to better address remaining shortcomings in mental health care and support.

The Gloria Segal Award honors the memory of Rep. Gloria Segal (DFL-St. Louis Park). Segal served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1983 until 1993. She died in 1993.

During her decade as a state lawmaker, Segal worked tirelessly to change the way people with mental illnesses are treated in Minnesota. She led the way in the passage of groundbreaking legislation, including mandating coverage of mental health treatment in group health insurance plans and the creation of the mental health division at the Department of Health and Human Services, the State Ombudsman’s Office for Mental Health, and the State Advisory Council.

Past recipients of the award are Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville), Robin Wold and Hope House in Bemidji (2011), Joyce Pesch and Ron Brand.

MHAM is Minnesota’s first mental health advocacy and outreach organization. Founded in 1939, MHAM’s mission is to enhance mental health, promote individual empowerment, and increase access to treatments and services for persons with mental illnesses.

MHAM provides individual advocacy to guide individuals and families through the mental health system, represents people with mental illnesses in public policy to increase mental health system capacity and protect individual rights, and offers educational programs and outreach to individuals, families, front line providers, faith communities, and the general public.



Helgeson marks 25 years

The Arc Mower County’s Executive Director, Dawn Helgeson is celebrating 25 years with the Austin-based organization. Helgeson was recently honored by Kathleen Huffman, chair of The Arc Mower County’s Board of Directors.

Huffman said that those served by The Arc Mower County gave Helgeson many compliments, describing her as “awesome” and as someone who “makes everyone smile.”

Helgeson said she is humbled by the many compliments she received from The Arc’s clients “It makes me feel like I can make a difference for the wonderful friends I work with,” she said.



Pioneering director takes new post

Jon Oyanagi, the longtime Brooklyn Park Parks and Recreation director, is the new Parks and Recreation director for Ramsey County. He began his duties May 5. He will oversee a staff of 80 full-time equivalent workers and more than 6,500 acres of parkland, including the Tamarack Nature Center.

In Brooklyn Park, he managed 1,500 acres of parkland and more than 40 employees. One highlight of his six years’ service in Brooklyn Park was the construction of a ground-breaking competitive wheelchair softball field, the first of its kind in the Twin Cities.

Oyanagi grew up in Maplewood and lives in St. Paul.

“Jon is really well respected in parks management. His leadership is well-known,” said Ramsey County Manager Julie Kleinschmidt. “He has a calm and steady approach to sometimes emotional challenges.

He really has the ability to balance the interests of many stakeholders. He has the proven ability to adapt services to changing community expectations and needs.”

Oyanagi replaces Greg Mack, who has retired.


Can Do Canines honors volunteers

More than 100 guests attended the Can Do Canines Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon April 5, 2014 at the Mahon Center in Edina. The annual event celebrates the hard work and dedication of more than 300 volunteers who make it possible for Can Do Canines to provide trained assistance dogs for people with disabilities, free of charge.

Four special people were honored with awards. Judy and John Schwab won the Foster Home Provider of the Year award. Mike Ferber and Betty Otto were honored as Puppy Raisers of the Year. Mark Falstad was recognized as Volunteer of the Year for sharing his filmmaking talent and creating many videos to help promote the work of Can Do Canines.




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