Social services veteran to lead Hammer Residences, Inc.

Hammer Residences, Inc. has selected John Estrem as its new chief executive officer. The appointment was announced Jan. 27. He replaces the late Tim Nelson, who passed award unexpectedly in August 2011.

“Our diligent search process led us to an exciting choice in John Estrem,” said Jon Matejcek, Hammer Board President. “His business acumen and experience in advocacy, fundraising and public affairs are what Hammer needs right now. John’s experience will be an excellent complement to the quality and operational expertise already in place at Hammer.”

Estrem’s background includes 24 years’ experience at local social service organizations. As CEO for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Estrem led 550 people and 42 different programs serving families in crisis and managed a $36 million operating budget. Most recently he served as executive director of Episcopal Community Services, a multi-service social services agency in Minneapolis.

“Joining Hammer is a great honor for me,” said Estrem. “I worked as a direct support professional early in my career. I have always held in my thoughts that I might return to this field and support people with developmental disabilities once again.”

“John’s passion for our mission was evident at our first meeting. His dedication to serve and to provide exemplary services closely mirrors mine and that of all of our employees. I look forward to working with him as we begin a new chapter at Hammer,” said Armstrong. Estrem is a servant leader with a passion for advocacy.

He has significant leadership experience in operational effectiveness, fundraising, public affairs, volunteer management and working with boards of directors. Estrem began his academic career at St. Cloud State University studying special education; he completed his undergraduate work at St. Thomas University. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Divinity from St. Paul Seminary and a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Notre Dame.

“My vision is to continue a legacy of service in the disability services field unmatched in Minnesota,” said Estrem. “Since Alvina Hammer founded this organization in 1923, this organization has held a unique place in the hearts and minds of Minnesotans.

Hammer is a community that breathes life into words like ‘respecting an individual’s abilities and realizing dreams.’ It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to work side by side with the men and women who have made Hammer the thriving organization it is today.” Nelson had served as the organization’s leader since 1998. For the past several months Lisbeth Armstrong acted as Interim CEO at Hammer. Armstrong will resume her position as the Director of Program Services when Estrem begins his responsibilities as CEO on Feb. 21.

Hammer is a nonprofit organization with a passion for providing quality services for adults and children with developmental disabilities. Hammer currently supports 275 individuals in both residential and in-home settings, and more than 500 individuals through customized support services. It manages 36 residential sites and runs 9 apartment programs throughout the western suburbs of the Twin Cities. Hammer has 443 dedicated employees and 550 active volunteers.

At the time of its founding, Hammer was one of only two Minnesota organizations at that time to offer people with disabilities the opportunity to thrive in a school and home setting.

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