The Arc Greater Twin Cities has presented its Changemaker Awards to eight volunteers who have made a difference for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The recipients were honored at The Arc’s Annual Meeting and Volunteer Celebration on May 4 at Roseville Skating Center. Awards were presented in three categories.
“Our Changemaker Award recipients demonstrate that there are many different ways to contribute to the work of The Arc,” said Kim Keprios, chief executive officer of The Arc Greater Twin Cities. “In their own way, each one is helping to create more possibility and opportunity in the lives of the individuals and families we serve. We’re so fortunate that these exceptional people have shared their time and talents with us, and we want the whole community to know how much we appreciate them.”
The Changing Attitudes award recognizes those who positively change public perceptions of people with disabilities. The recipients are Trina Hendrickson, Blaine; Ron McCoy of McCoy & Associates, Minneapolis and Jim Nihart, Minneapolis. Hendrickson began volunteering with The Arc Greater Twin Cities as a college student in 2009. Every month since then, she has supported the ¡Adelante! Family Access Group for Spanish-speaking families, providing child care for children with and without disabilities while their parents attend the meetings. (Adelante is Spanish for “forward.”) She has shown great dedication to the families who participate and has continually asked for other opportunities to help, even while pursuing a doctorate in psychology.
McCoy’s most significant volunteer contributions are video and show production work. In 2006, he produced the 60th anniversary video; a key communications vehicle still used to shows the evolution of The Arc into a bigger, more vital organization. He has provided audio-visual producer services for all six Arc Galas at a discount. He has helped negotiate money-saving audio-visual arrangements. He has produced fund-a-need videos on employment, advocacy and abuse prevention for the last three galas, plus a public service announcement for Fox 9 in 2013.
Nihart is a professional photographer who has volunteered exceptional talents to capture people and events of The Arc Greater Twin Cities. He has volunteered for six years, photographing The Arc’s galas, summer picnics and more. When the 2011 Arc Gala featured a fashion show, he set up a backstage studio and took professional portraits of all models in their attire in addition to shooting the show itself. He has also taken still photos of people featured in the fund-a-need videos since 2011.
The Changing Policies award recognizes persons whose efforts have resulted in systems and policy changes that benefit individuals with disabilities and their families. The recipients are Jean Bender, St. Paul and Dr. Nancy Fitzsimons, Minnesota State University Mankato Bender has long been one of the disability community’s most dedicated advocates for legislation crucial to people with disabilities and their families. As the mother of an adult son with a disability, she has been tireless in telling her family’s story to legislators, attending public policy events and giving testimony on numerous topics. She has also helped countless others get engaged and tell their stories, including Spanish-speaking families who would otherwise be excluded from the process by language and cultural barriers.
Fitzsimons is a professor at Minnesota State University Mankato. Her academic focus is violence and abuse against people with disabilities. She was instrumental in helping establish The Arc Greater Twin Cities’ Abuse Prevention Initiative and helping The Arc determine its role in addressing violence against people with disabilities. She was the keynote speaker and moderator for The Arc’s 2012 forum on abuse, Breaking Down the Barriers, which she also helped plan.
The Changing Lives award recognizes long-term or intensive efforts that positively affect the lives of people with disabilities. Award recipients are Eduardo Montes, West St. Paul; Bridget Salmi, Minneapolis and Mike Williams, Burnsville. Montes has volunteered with The Arc Greater Twin Cities since 2006 and has served on its Finance Committee, Marketing Committee and Board of Directors. His award recognizes his impact on the life on one person, fellow board member Heidi Myhre. Myhre is unable to drive because of a disability, and Montes makes sure that she has a ride to board meetings and events. He has also been a friend to her in many other ways, both at The Arc and beyond.
Salmi has volunteered since 2009 as the facilitator of monthly Sibshops in Hopkins for kids who have brothers and sisters with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has gone the extra mile to get to know the children and their families in her group, as well as an associated networking group for parents. In addition, she has helped make the Sibshop program more meaningful for siblings by offering valuable feedback and sharing ideas with other facilitators.
Williams is a self-advocate who has taken extraordinary steps to further the disability and self-advocacy movements. He has volunteered with The Arc Greater Twin Cities since 2007 and is a founding member of The Arc’s Self-Advocacy Advisory Committee. He leads his own self-advocacy group at ProAct, where he worked, and he has hosted a home visit with legislators. A graduate of the Partners in Policymaking program, he works tirelessly to expand his knowledge of disability issues and engage others in developing skills as self-advocates.