Eken honored by ARRM
The Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM) honored Sen. Kent Eken (DFL – Twin Valley) with its 2015 ARRM Leadership Award September 24. The presentation at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge recognized Eken for his ongoing dedication to supporting people with disabilities across the state. The ARRM Leadership Award was created more than a decade ago to recognize innovative leaders whose advocacy work has significantly impacted Minnesotans with disabilities. More than 200 people were on hand for the presentation.
ARRM CEO Bruce Nelson praised Eken for his strategic legislative efforts including rate reform and authorship of The 5% Campaign’s Senate bills in 2014 and 2015. Eken’s strong advocacy was instrumental in securing a five percent rate increase for Home and Community-Based Services in 2014; these essential services support 90,000 people with disabilities and older adults in Minnesota. The bill helped address a crisis, with the bulk of the funds going to underpaid direct care workers.
“I got involved in politics to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Strong unity is so vital to our success,” said Eken. He urged disability providers in attendance to continue advocating for needed reform and funding by telling their personal stories to legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton during the 2016 session. “A lot of people don’t realize the severity of the workforce crisis we are in. Surpluses give us the opportunity to make up for cuts to Home and Community-Based Services in the past.”
ARRM is a nonprofit association of more than 200 Minnesotan providers, businesses and advocates dedicated to leading the advancement of community-based services that support people living with disabilities in their pursuit of meaningful lives.
Grants assist two programs
Two Twin Cities programs that serve people who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind have each received a $500,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
DEED’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services unit awarded one of the grants to the Minnesota Employment Center for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (MEC), a program that is managed by Spring Lake Park-based Rise Inc. and Lifetrack Resources of St. Paul. The funding will help the program provide ongoing employment services statewide.
For 22 years, MEC has been delivering long-term support services in the metro area. The program provides clients with free on-the-job training and works with employers and employees for successful job placements.
The second grant went to the Vocational Education Community Training and Occupational Relations (VECTOR) Program, which is managed by Independent School District 287 in Brooklyn Park. The funding will provide school-based communication, access and employment services.
The VECTOR Program provides transition services to young adults ages 18 to 21 with disabilities as they progress from an educational setting toward living and working as independently as possible in the community.
DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. The grant program was approved by the 2015 Minnesota Legislature. Grants are for work through June 30, 2016 and are renewable for a second year, pending program outcomes. Vocational Rehabilitation Services will oversee the grants.
Hunting accommodations unveiled
Gov. Mark Dayton, Attorney General Lori Swanson and retired Major General Harry A. Sieben joined members of the public and Carpenters Union representatives September 13 at a dedication ceremony held in honor of a new wheelchair-accessible shooting dock specifically designed to accommodate disabled veterans. The ceremony was part of the Carpenters Annual Shotgun Tune-Up at the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club in Prior Lake. The ceremony launched a day of shooting sporting clays to raise money for Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors, Pheasants Forever, and the Youth Hunting Club of Minnesota.
Union members who frequent the club recognized that almost all of the existing shooting stations were inaccessible to military veterans with disabilities, so they decided to do something about it. They found willing partners in the Horse and Hunt Club’s management.
The dock was built by union volunteers. They used materials donated by more than a dozen construction companies. The result is a five-stand shooting station duck tower wide enough to safely and easily accommodate persons in wheelchairs.
“I want to thank and congratulate all of the union volunteers that made this project possible,” said John Raines, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. “They saw a problem and knew they had the skills to fix it. It’s a great tribute to the men and women who have put their bodies on the line to defend our freedom.”
“This partnership between the Carpenters Union, various construction companies, and our facility will mean that our wounded heroes will be able to enjoy outdoor shooting sports along with all of our community,” said Randy Travalia, co-owner of the Horse and Hunt Club.
Wood receives national award
Jean Wood, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging and director of the Aging and Adult Services Division, Minnesota Department of Human Services, has received national recognition. At the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD) annual conference in September, Wood was presented with the association’s first-ever Executive Director’s Award.
Wood was recognized for outstanding leadership nationally and her commitment to NASUAD, first as a staff member and then as a long-standing member of its board of directors. Her leadership is credited for helping the association evolve and expand its membership to include disability service groups as well as those serving elders.
“As one of the most tenured state officials on aging programming, Jean has served as a national expert, a peer mentor, and a voice of reason on many issues,” said Martha Roherty, NASUAD executive director. “I am certain that without her consistency and strength on the NASUAD board, our association could not have achieved the level of success we have.”
NASUAD represents the nation’s 56 state and territorial agencies on aging and disabilities and supports visionary state leadership, the advancement of state systems innovation and the articulation of national policies that support home and community-based services for older adults and individuals with disabilities.
Wood began serving in her current position in 2006. She had working in other aging-related positions in the Minnesota Department of Human Services since 1993. She earlier served with NASUAD and was a state long-term care ombudsman in Ohio.
Wood, who will retire at the end of 2015, also recently received the Dutch Kastenbaum Outstanding Gerontology Award from the Minnesota Gerontology Society. She is a resident of Excelsior. ■