The Arc Minnesota presented its 2023 Leader Awards as part of its annual conference in May. Individuals and organizations were feted for providing outstanding service in several areas. Winners reflected upon their work.
LeAnn Erickson received the individual leadership award for mission and vision. for her years of work in southwestern Minnesota. Her family has long ties to Arc. She has been an employee and her two sons have been greatly assisted. “Thanks to the Arc, our two adult sons with disabilities are living the dream. They own their own home, hire their staff and receive all of the support they need . . . together we made so many lives better.”
Jillian Nelson of the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) was honored for her extensive work in civil and human rights. “As an autistic adult, it is a privilege to get to do this work for my community every day. I hope we can continue moving toward equity and dismantling systemic ablism and system racism to improve the quality of life for everyone.”
Shakopee-based Ultimate Sustainability and Benjamin Benson were given a community recognition award for their partnership with the Arc Value Village stores. “The lives of the participants within our group have been enriched through the work that is offered each week. We have seen great strides in focus and accomplishments of tasks from each of our participants as they have volunteered.”
Eva Johnson was also given a community recognition award for working with students who work at Arc Value Village. She works in Independent School District 917. “Students are provided with the opportunity to gain confidence and comfort in a retail setting while receiving a wide range of employment skills. . . Arc Value Village is a classroom in the community.”
The Multicultural Autism Action Network, Fatima Molas and Maren Christenson were honored for work in disability and racial justice. They said, “We look forward to continued work together toward meeting our shared goal of disability justice.”
Community recognition also goes to teacher Melissa Paulsen and the Bloomington Transition Center, part of Bloomington Public Schools. “I love the collaboration of sharing resources and tools between the school and Arc Value Village so employees can experience success,” she said. Paulsen also cited the support of employees and how it creates a sense of belonging and inclusion.
St. Cloud-based diversity organization Unite Cloud was honored with a community recognition award for equity and belonging. A comment about the program was, “The mission of your work throughout the state is so needed – systems were built with certain people in mind but rarely do systems, at their core, concern themselves with the most marginalized folks in mind.”
Shelly McFadden Rohe was honored for self-advocacy and self-determination. She has been active on policy issues including housing. “Sometimes advocacy work can be slow and frustrating. I do this work because it matters. Disabled lives matter. To borrow a phrase for Rev. Teresa Soto, ‘All of us need all of us to make it.’”
Randall Oldenburg is the Intern Leader of the year. “When I arrived at the Arc Minnesota, I was a man in deep need of connection and purpose,” he said. “The Arc gave me all I was seeking, and so much more. The person I am now is not the same person who came to you last September.”