People & Places – November 2013

Rise’ing stars are among those celebrated The Celebrate Rise fundraising gala, held October 10 at International Market Square in Minneapolis, […]

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Rise’ing stars are among those celebrated

The Celebrate Rise fundraising gala, held October 10 at International Market Square in Minneapolis, drew more than 425 community supporters for a fun and festive evening of great food, music and inspiring stories. Rise was able to raise more than $50,000, which will be used to purchase new replacement vans for its transportation services.

Several people were recognized at the event. The Community Partner of the Year is the Emma B. Howe Northtown Family YMCA. In 2011, Rise moved its Retirement Alternatives program to the Emma B. Howe Northtown Family YMCA in Coon Rapids so it could further expand the program’s health, wellness, and fitness activities. The staff at the YMCA, led by Group Vice President Chad Lanners, have wholeheartedly embraced the program which assists people transition into retirement and addresses specific needs and interests of program participants.

The Employer of the Year is Savers Thrift Store, Columbia Heights. Rise works with hundreds of area employers throughout the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota to match up job-ready candidates with meaningful employment. Savers Thrift Store in Columbia Heights’ store manager Alan Hurd leads a team of outstanding managers who are open to giving people an opportunity to have a good job, hiring many qualified job candidates through Rise. The successful partnership built by Rise and the Columbia Heights Savers store has caught the attention of other Twin Cities Savers stores, and led to other expanded hiring opportunities.

Chris Goska and Lynn Noren, Pres. of Rise.Rise President Lynn Noren and Vice President Tim Dickie honored five Riseing Stars for their extraordinary attitude, achievements, and perseverance of a self-determined life. Scott Aho has been making a difference in the lives of children for the past six years in his job as a substitute paraprofessional in Twin Cities area schools. Students respond to his energy and enthusiasm as he challenges them to learn. Chris Growska is not only a quality-conscious worker at Rise’s Community Integration Program in Coon Rapids, he uses his many valuable to handle important community service projects. He also founded Shears to Stop Tears to help people who have lost their hair due to illness.

Jenny Johnson is a hard worker by day yet still finds time to volunteer to many local and state self-advocacy groups. She has developed great leadership skills through her many important community projects and helps others advance their own self-advocacy skills. Adam Look gives his all to his job at the new Blaine Wal-Mart. He was especially proud to be part of the grand opening ceremonies, leading Wal-Mart associates and managers in the “Wal-Mart Cheer” for a large crowd of community dignitaries and shoppers. Aundrea Splittstoser is a very determined woman. After completing her professional training and passing her licensure tests, she works two jobs as a certified nursing assistant, purchased a car, and is working on her GED. She is planning her move toward independent living.

Four Rise staff were honored at the Celebrate Rise Fundraising Gala for their innovation, positive attitudes and special professional Brigid Alsethcontributions which further Rise’s mission. Brigid Alseth is program coordinator for two Rise programs which serve adults with brain injuries. She has worked in the field for more than 20 years. Alseth is the chairperson of the board of directors of Access Press.

Terri Anderson-Webb has worked at Rise for 16 years and currently is a service team leader with Rise’s Data Ability program, helping clients to greater self-sufficiency. Sixteen-year employee Jennifer Gajewski currently is coordinator for Rise’s Midwest Ticket to Work program and works with other community rehabilitation agencies throughout Minnesota. Diana Gangl works closely with people in Rise’s Internal Services program, providing them with the support they need to live more self-determined lives.



University marks 15 years of disability awareness 

University of Northwestern–St. Paul is celebrating the Disabilities Office for Support Services’ 15th year of service to Northwestern students. Over the past 15 years, the office has built a bridge of accessibility for students with disabilities–brick by brick.

Just a few years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became federal law, Northwestern opened the ALPHA Center in 1995. It offered tutoring to students in need of extra academic assistance. In 1999, Northwestern held its first disability awareness week, hosting special events and spreading knowledge about challenges that students with disabilities face.

The program has grown immensely over the years, from serving as few as seven students in 1998 to serving nearly 100 students each semester today. That’s more than 775 students since 1998. The office provides a broad spectrum of services to students, ranging from simple academic tutoring to resident and facility accommodations.

This year’s Disability Awareness Month featured faculty- and student-driven events that illuminated the diverse culture of needs at Northwestern. A student panel discussed their disabilities and experiences finding support in Northwestern’s Christian community. The month featured a showing of Soul Surfer, an inspiring film about one young woman’s ability to thrive with her disability.

University of Northwestern Disabilities Office for Support Services is thankful for the growing community of disability-aware students, faculty and staff and looking to a future of continued service.

The university is also promoting its upcoming event with Joni Eareckson Tada, founder and Chief Executive Officer for Joni and Friends International Disability Center. She will visit Northwestern’s campus March 3, 2014 as part of a Lessons for Leaders series. To purchase tickets, visit  



Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities Co-Chair awarded community media award

Mark Hughes awardedSt. Paul Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities Co-Chair Mark Hughes and his “Disability Viewpoints” television program were honored by the City of St. Paul for winning the Alliance for Community Media’s Hometown Media Award. This is the seventh time “Disability Viewpoints” has won a Hometown Media Award.

The Hometown Awards promote civic engagement and recognize the best in community media programing. In October, “Disability Viewpoints” will celebrate its 15th anniversary of being on the air. Since 1998, “Disability Viewpoints” has advocated on behalf of the disability community and presented disability issues and educational information.

“Disability Viewpoints’ winning the Hometown Media Award gives me a real sense of accomplishment, the highest accomplishment in my life,” saidHughes. “I hope that the disability community finds the show and the work of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities beneficial. We hope to continue helping organizations better communicate with the disability community.”

Hughes and the advisory committee did outreach to remind everyone that October was National Disability Employment Awareness month. Disability Employment Awareness month seeks to raise awareness of disability employment issues and celebrates the many contributions of individuals with disabilities.



True Friends announces new name, 2014 schedule

Campers now have True Friends. The new name and logo replace the name Friendship Ventures, a name adopted in November 2012 when Camp Courage in Maple Lake and Camp Friendship in Annandale joined forces. As the new logo indicates, the organization provides “Camps. Respite. Programs. Travel.”

True Friends has announced its combined 2014 camp schedule. Camp Courage in Maple Lake, Camp Friendship in Annandale and Camp Eden Wood in Eden Prairie, Camp Courage North near Lake George and Camp New Hope near McGregor will each retain camp numbers under the umbrella of True Friends.

The camps have rich histories of providing exceptional and much-needed services. Camp Courage was established in 1955 to serve individuals with physical disabilities. Camp Friendship was established in 1964, serving participants with developmental disabilities and special needs. By combining strengths, methods and assets, the five True Friends camps are the region’s largest and most comprehensive camp provider for people with disabilities. The organization serves nearly 4,000 individuals and their families annually, with more than 100 camp sessions year-round. True Friends’ mission is to provide life-changing experiences that enhance independence and self-esteem to children and adults with disabilities.

True Friends also offers respite programs. Respite services are provided multiple weekends a year. This program offers 1:1 care for children and adults with disabilities, allowing families a reprieve from 24/7 care giving. The camp environment provides an active yet comfortable setting for participants.

Ventures Travel provides trip planning and group tours for individuals needing assistance. New ADHD/ ADD sessions, Saturday-only camps and spring break sessions are among the new additions for 2014. True Friends is funded through donations and supporting services. For more details, see



The ARC Minnesota names leader

Don Lavin is interim executive director of The Arc Minnesota. His appointment was announced by the organization’s board. He served for 36 years as vice president of Rise, Inc., where he managed housing, independent living, school transition, supported employment, and other services in the community for youth and adults with significant disabilities.

Recently Lavin founded Strength@Work, a management consulting organization designed to support agencies, individuals, schools, and policymakers as they promote and secure independent housing, competitive jobs and fuller community participation as the first and preferred outcomes of people with disabilities.

“I am honored The Arc of Minnesota’s Board of Directors is placing its trust and confidence in my ability to lead the organization. We are in a period of serious public budget constraints, yet there are incredible possibilities for transforming services for people with disabilities,” Lavin said. “I recognize many challenges lie ahead of us, but I also see excellent opportunities to advance The Arc’s mission to new levels.”

At The Arc Minnesota Lavin will work on strategic planning, support for and collaboration with local chapters of The Arc, increasing financial resources, and analyzing future opportunities for programming and financial support.



Minneapolis presents awards to community members

The Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities handed out several honors October 16 during its annual recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The committee recognized individuals and organizations for their work, knowledge, advocacy and passion in the disability community.

The Minnesota Twins received the Erik Peterson Advocacy Award for the organization’s efforts to make Target Field accessible to all. The Lee Parish Award was presented to the Minnesota State Council on Disability for their unwavering work to educate on behalf of the disability community.The Community Service Awards, which focus on organizations or individuals whose work in the disability community in Minneapolis has been exceptional, were given to Southside Services, Pam Nygren Wellumson of American Sign Language Interpreting Services, Target Corporation and Target employee, Scott Miller and Affinity Plus Credit Union and Affinity Plus Credit Union employee, Brayden Witt. Twelve certificates of appreciation were presented to those who participated in the development of the Minneapolis Police Department 2013 Service Animal Awareness Training Program.

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