Wide Range of Service – 2014 Charlie Smith nominees deserve applause

DAVID HANCOX David Hancox, longtime executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL), is known for his strong […]

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David Hancox, longtime executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL), is known for his strong work ethic, his interest in innovation, and his ability to motivate and inspire others.

Hancox is leaving MCIL, after 17½ years there. That tenure has been a highlight in a plus-40-year career advocating for and working with people with disabilities. He is praised for having a mind for business and a heart and soul for clients. Hancox has accepted a the position of COO at AccraCare, a client-centered home care organization.

The board of MCIL is grateful for Hancox’s years of dedicated service, his stewardship and commitment to leading staff efforts to provide quality services to metro area residents with disabilities.

Among the many highlights of his tenure at MCIL are the growth and expansion of in the core services and the PAS program. Of particular note is his leadership in IL/VR Collaboration, a unique partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development that allows MCIL to embed independent living specialists in each of the metro area workforce centers. This collaboration is a national model unique to Minnesota. Another outstanding example of innovative expansion is the operation of the Disability Linkage Line, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, a one-stop call center for disability and chronic illness-related information, resource and assistance.

Additionally, for more than eight years MCIL has been a leader in the nursing home relocation coordination effort, averaging more than 220 consumer relocations annually. It is a national success story. The mission of MCIL is to assist people with disabilities in the Twin Cities region to lead productive self-determined lives. Founded in 1981, MCIL is dedicated to the full promotion of the independent living philosophy by supporting individuals with disabilities in their personal efforts to pursue self-directed lives.

MCIL has about 30 full-time and 200 part-time employees, many volunteers and a volunteer board of directors. Programs and services are meant to promote the independent living philosophy through innovative projects and direct services that meet the needs of MCIL consumers. Information and referral services, skills training, peer mentorship, self-advocacy, housing referrals, transition programs and a consumer-directed personal care attendant program are offered and overseen by Hancox.

MCIL served nearly 36,000 individuals with disabilities in 2013 reporting year, including 2,200 individuals for whom specific independent living plans were developed and implemented. Under Hancox’s leadership the nonprofit moved to downtown St. Paul in 2013.

Hancox has also worked as an independent consultant on disability issues, working with government agencies, school districts, corporations and nonprofits. He was also chief lobbyist for the Minnesota Association for Centers for Independent Living and for the Association for Supportive Living Residences.

He has worked as a program director for the Minnesota Institute of Public Health. For seven years Hancox coordinated the day-to-day operation of Minnesota’s Partners in Policymaking project. He has been active with the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities and on the College of Direct Support’s National Advisory Board, and has been a fixture at the capitol.

David R. Johnson, director of the University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration, has known Hancox for more than 20 years. “I have the highest regard for Mr. Hancox as a professional who has had a major impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities, their families, and the professionals who serve them,” Johnson said.

“[Hancox] currently serves on the Institute’s Community Advisory Board, making substantial contributions in reviewing our many projects and in supporting us in strategic planning. Mr. Hancox has made numerous presentations at the University of Minnesota, supported the development of key publications and products of the Institute, and has been an active member of the Community Advisory Council for several years. I rely extensively on his knowledge and his energy on getting things done on behalf of individuals with disabilities,” Johnson said. He also praised

Hancox’ s role in influencing public policy, programs and services that individuals with disabilities and families rely on, and help to promote the self-advocacy movement in Minnesota and nationally. Hancox is sought after to consult with other agencies and providers when they are struggling to utilize their limited resources more effectively while maintaining the integrity of the service to the end user. His nominator, Julia Washenberger, said he listens fairly and is open to hearing new ideas and information.

“He is always open to change,” Washenberger said. “He is always seeking thoughtful interaction and is always mindful of something needing to be considered to change a course or build more collaboration. David does so with a sense of calm and professionalism that is to be admired and respected.”

Hancox is also described as an energetic person who motivates other and who has helped many people through difficult times. He is passionate about his work and has worked hard on behalf of MCIL and other centers for independent living and the clients the centers serve.

Staff members at MCIL said they value Hancox’s ability to network with collaborators and engage them in what the true needs of people are is what is most highly valued. He is meticulous about the bottom line, scrutinizing every mileage report, every budget amount and time spent on anything that is done. “Every dollar needs to be considered and held in high value for those that we serve who matter,” said Washenberger. She said this is done with an eye out for resources that could help clients.

In the near future, the MCIL board will engage in a national search for a new permanent executive director. The board will select a candidate with a demonstrated ability to continue MCIL’s efforts to foster and develop new partnerships, as well as, support community-wide initiatives which promote a strong, healthy and focused disability community. The new director will also be expected to sustain MCIL’s priority of retaining its leadership role in the metro area disability community. MCIL will continue its focus on interdependent consumer directed services providing innovative, collaborative and forward thinking initiatives that promote quality choices and opportunities for people with disabilities, and which impact public policy and systems change.




The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide, there are more than 20 million people with disabilities in need of a wheelchair. Don Bania knows from personal experience how important it is to be mobile, with a working wheelchair, a walker or a sturdy cane.

Bania is a dedicated volunteer, using his time and talents to find wheelchairs, canes and walkers for people in need. He sometimes wears a t-shirt stating “Got Wheelchairs?”

The suburban Minneapolis resident has been quadriplegic since 1970. Not long after Bania completed high school, the motorcycle he was driving was struck by a drunk driver. After years of struggle, he turned his life around. He has since spent many years pursuing his career as an artist, using his mouth to sketch and paint beautiful pictures. He is well-known for his work as an artist, and sells prints and notecards of his work.

What many people may not know about is his commitment to the mobility of others. Since 2002, Bania has volunteered for an organization called Wheels for the World. Its volunteers collect manual wheelchairs throughout the United States. As of 1994, 140,000 wheelchairs have been collected and more than 100,000 of them have been distributed into 99 different countries.

Nominator Judy Clark is area director of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Joni and Friends International Disability Center. She said that Bania deserves recognition because of the outstanding job he has done. In his dozen years as Wheels for the World area chair for Minnesota, he has assembled a network of volunteers to collect hundreds of wheelchairs across the Twin Cities, Greater Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In that time, enough wheelchairs, walkers, and canes have been collected to fill 10 semi-trailers, impacting thousands of lives with the “gift of mobility”.

Working by phone and computer, this go-getter has assembled a strong network of individual, nonprofit and business world volunteers. He works as a traffic controller, directing the flow of the donations. He is tireless in his outreach to obtain items that are no longer needed by some and yet badly needed by others.

Numerous volunteers throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin pick up the donations. BJ Transportation of Afton provides key assistance with the collection. Bobby and Steve’s Auto World on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis provides free storage space. Teen Challenge supplies the manpower to load the wheelchairs into semi-trailers donated by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart, in turn, transports the equipment to various state prisons throughout the United States. Trained inmates restore the wheelchairs to showroom quality. The distribution teams deliver them around the world and hand fit them to waiting, anxious disabled children and adults. It is truly a life-changing event

Earlier this year Bania made a key connection during a series of phone calls to local care facilities in the east metro area. A receptionist transferred Bania to Tim Bush, vice president of operations with Tealwood Senior Living. Tealwood provides care in more than 40 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in communities across five states in the upper Midwest. Tealwood Senior Living has now teamed up with Wheels for the World and is on a campaign to collect wheelchairs and wheelchair parts from each of its 40 nursing facilities.

Many local medical organizations and care facility have used the services of Wheels for the World. Bania’s nomination stated, “And of all the stories these wheelchairs have to tell, the most touching comes from the families who have held onto their loved one’s wheelchairs until the grieving period had passed. It is at that time, when the tears of sorrow are turned to tears of joy, do the parents then know that their children’s wheelchairs can ‘live on’, serving a child on the other side of the world.” “To experience this first-hand is a joy to behold,” said Bania.

Joni Eareckson Tada, founder of Wheels for the World, profiled Bania for her radio program. She said, “When I asked him about his incredible ministry, Don explained to me that he believes he and his team have “a little part in eternal salvation of those who receive our wheelchairs. Plus, we’re also helping them restore their dignity and liberty.” To hear more, go to http://tinyurl.com/q9noqm8 Bania also donates time to speaking to groups about his life and his volunteer work, and about his life with a spinal cord injury. He shares his story with groups of all ages.




The Disabilities Concerns Ministry of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area has been helping faith communities for almost 30 years, providing consultative and educational services to the congregations of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. The presbytery is the regional group for the Presbyterian church. It has its offices in Eagan

The Disabilities Concerns Ministry assists churches in making facilities modifications to make buildings more accessible. It advises pastors and church leaders on how they might deal with a congregation member or members with a specific disability. It offers educational programs at presbytery meetings to acquaint clergy and other church leaders with disability issues

Helping people with disabilities use their gifts and talents, in the church and in the greater community, is another focus. The ministry works with other faith groups and with secular disability organizations in conducting seminars, conferences and educational events. It provides leadership to the Presbyterian Church USA on disability issues and is recognized as the most effective disability service group in the church nationally. The Disabilities Concerns Ministry’s educational and advocacy programs have increased awareness of disability issues to church members, who then spread the word through their own contacts. Its website states, “It is not enough to enable people with disabilities to enter the buildings. The body of Christ is not whole when we are not able to embrace the gifts of all members. Like all Christians, persons with disabilities have been given gifts to use in the service of God. In addition, persons with disabilities may have gifts of patience, creativity, and perseverance they have learned by living with disabilities.”

The ministry is a mixture of people: clergy, lay leaders and church members. Some members are people with disabilities. White canes, service dogs and wheelchairs are prominent at meetings. Other members have hidden disabilities. Still other members are or have been primary caregivers for a person with a disability. Members hold other leadership positions in their home congregations, in the regional church and nationally. Over the past two decades, members of the Twin Cities ministry have participated in planning or providing leadership for national events centered on disability

Nationally, the Presbyterian church has been a leader on access issues. In 1978, the national church adopted a major policy statement on access. But until concerned volunteers founded the Disabilities Concerns Ministry in the Twin Cities, there hadn’t been a group that functioned at such a high level of service and commitment

Before the Disabilities Concerns Ministry was established, few churches were active in meeting the needs of people with disabilities. Inaction and inaccessibility forced people with disabilities to not be involved with churches. The experience of Presbyterian churches and other faith-based groups is that there must be a catalyst for changes to take place.

Without the encouragement, education and advocacy of the Disabilities Concerns Ministry, it is not likely that the churches would be as welcoming and supportive of people with disabilities as they are today.

The ministry began as a committee at North Como Presbyterian Church in Roseville, in 1986. In the days before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the focus was on awareness and physical accessibility of buildings. Education, consultation services and surveys of programs and facilities were offered.

In the 1990s it began to work extensively with other religious groups on disability issues as well as with secular groups. One accomplishment was a “Beyond the Ramp” conference, held with the National Organization on Disability.

As more churches added features for physical accessibility, the Disabilities Concerns Ministry broadened its approach to emphasize how churches could recognize and use the gifts of members with disabilities.

It also emphasized the role attitudes and perceptions play in showing the extent to which persons with disabilities were excluded from meaningful involvement in congregational life. The ministry has expanded its focus from physical disabilities to issues of autism, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, developmental disabilities and aging.

One of the ministry’s strengths has always been its ability to change with the times, to better serve congregations and the community. The 2014-2015 program year includes a multi-denominational conference on children, a program for the presbytery on veterans’ issues and moral injury, and development of new programs for adults. One member will be working the national church organization to implement a program to help staff become more attuned to disability issues.





Through an art career spanning almost 30 years, Jane Elias has always strived for involvement in the community where she works and lives. Most recently she has led the expansion of her South Minneapolis open studio, Simply Jane, into the nonprofit organization of Simply ArtAble. As the creative director of Simply ArtAble, Elias is moving closer to her vision of teaching and\ sharing the healing aspects of creating art with and for people all ages and abilities.

Nominator Carol Marshall wrote, “Jane Elias is truly the creative spark for turning the concept of providing a painting experience for people of all ages and abilities into a reality. Without her dream and dedication, ArtAble would not have been created. She is working tirelessly and selflessly to make this new nonprofit become relevant and self-sustaining because she believes artistic expression is truly important for expressing one’s identity and is a healing activity.”

Growing up in a large family influenced Elias’ life path. Her father was a school guidance director and her mother was an art and music therapist. She grew up being aware of people with disabilities, helping with her mother’s work and being aware of other students helped by her father.


At age 13, Elias began volunteering at the Dakota County Children’s Home, spending time helping and playing with children with disabilities. She later had a niece with cerebral palsy, and experience with mental illness with other family members. On her website, Elias said, “When I look back at my life, the path that I have taken seems pretty straightforward, but honestly, I just blindly took one step after the other, faithfully following the spirit that moved me.

Elias is a tireless advocate for using art to help everyone, regardless of ability, to express and heal themselves. She ends all of her painting sessions by saying, “Everyone is a Fabulous Artist.

Simply ArtAble classes and workshops are offered in association with Simply Jane open artist studio and all are taught by professional teaching artists who give the attention that students need to move forward in the creative realm. Participants will learn a variety of skills in arts and crafts, important social skills as well as learn to engage creatively with other students.

The studio may also be reserved for groups, parties, field trips, private lessons, classes and more.

The studio began in 2007 and has evolved over time. Elias offers low-cost art programming for adults and children with disabilities. Participants can buy items to paint

Elias has worked to make her studio ADA-compliant so that professional paints, brushes, equipment and artistic techniques are available for everyone. The studio is wheelchair accessible. Ramps were installed as well as an automatic door opener. Equipment was purchased for accessible art programming.

While the studio offers ample space for creative expression for artists of all levels of ability and space for special events, Elias also is reaching out to do workshops off-site. She has led workshops at Fraser, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Children’s Hospital, nursing homes and other places

With diligence, commitment and empathy, Elias provides a creative and life-affirming experience for individuals of all ages and abilities. In 2013 Simply Jane and Simply ArtAble reached more than 6,000 artists. Art healing programs served 710 people. Summer camps attracted 135 children. The number of pieces of art produced was impressive, with 2,000 birthday canvases painted and presented, 2,500 paintings made in a drop-in painting program and 435 masterpieces created in adult classes. Many budding artists have enjoyed these programs. Professional artists provide guidance and encouragement.

The studio and its programs have grown to the point that Elias was able to hire her first full-time staff member last year. She has been able to expand the studio and its offerings through state and regional arts funding, and a grant from her neighborhood business association.

Elias produced a coloring book, Art Simply Heals. The whimsical coloring book, which is a fundraiser for her programs, allows people to experience the healing therapy of art.

Elias holds a B.S. degree in fine art and design from the University of Minnesota. She is a board member for the Tangletown Neighborhood Association. She has served on its committees for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, arts and murals. She has been active at Linden Hills United Church of Christ and in the Minnesota Arts in Healthcare Network.




Can Do Canines is celebrating 25 years of service to Minnesota residents. Throughout that time, Alan Peters has been instrumental in enhancing the lives of people with disabilities by creating mutually beneficial relationships with specially trained dogs.

Beginning with the first dog adopted from an animal shelter and trained to be a hearing assist dog, Peters has tirelessly led Can Do Canines in finding new and innovative ways to help people with disabilities. He envisions a world in which everyone who needs and wants an assistance dog can have one. His vision expands with every new program Can Do Canines adds to its services.

The organization Peters founded continues to train dogs for people who are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing, and has broadened its scope to provide dogs for people with mobility challenges, seizure disorders, type one diabetes and children with autism.

Because of Peters’ single-minded dedication to finding new ways that dogs could help people, more than 450 individuals and dogs have successfully graduated from Can Do Canines’ training programs to become certified assistance dog teams.

Peters was a successful business man in the Twin Cities when he discovered how the deep bond between a person and a devoted dog could transform a life. One of his first goals was to develop financial support for the organization that would allow him to place dogs with people at no cost. He knew that the people he wanted to help wouldn’t likely have financial means to purchase a fully trained assistance dog. Can Do Canines continues to place assistance dogs at no cost to their human partners.

Leading by example, Peters looks beyond perceived limitations in his quest to find new ways to train dogs to help people. Can Do Canines client service coordinators consider each client’s individual needs before setting up partnerships. The trainers then teach the dog the special skills needed for each client.

As an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), Can Do Canines is on the cutting edge of the newest assistance dog programs. Peters pioneered the training of diabetes assist dogs in Minnesota. After learning of a Canadian organization training assistance dogs to help children with autism, he brought the program to upper Midwestern families.

As executive director, Peters strives for the highest standards of quality in all of Can Do Canines’ endeavors. He continues to ensure that every member of the organization upholds standards of respect for each individual, and personal accountability for outcomes. he insists that every assistance dog team graduating from Can Do Canines represents a win-win future for the client and the dog.

Clients praise the assistance they have received. Krista M. said of her seizure assist dog, “Dexter makes me feel safe; I can function. He’s changed my life—physically and mentally.” Individuals and families have greater freedom, independence and peace of mind. Their dependence on medical caregivers is reduced, cutting down on healthcare costs. Multiply their experience by the thousands of positive interactions

Can Do Canines graduates have with family, friends, volunteers, neighbors, employers and coworkers, and the importance of Peters’ dedication and the positive impact Can Do Canines has on the community becomes clear.

In 2005, Peters began a training program that brought puppies into correctional facilities in Minnesota to be trained in basic obedience skills by selected inmates. The program has shown to not only result in superbly trained puppies, but benefits inmates as well. Many say it is the first time in their lives they have felt they’ve had a positive purpose. Wardens and prison staff report greater compliance with the rules and fewer behavior problems in the cell units where puppies have lived.

Peters is also a national assistance dog community leader. Last year Can Do Canines hosted an international Diabetes Alert Dog Training Seminar at their facility in New Hope, for more than 40 professional assistance dog trainers from 20 organizations in North America and Europe.

Peters is described as single-minded in his purpose, and focused like a laser on his vision for the future of Can Do Canines. His persistence has paid off in a talented, tireless staff, dedicated volunteers, and a state-of-the-art facility for training dogs and pairing them with the people they can best serve. Without Can Do Canines founder and Executive Director Alan Peters at the helm, none of this would have happened.





Steve Quinn is a man who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help others. He has worked for and with the clients of Courage Center, now Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Center, for more than 30 years. He has built strong and lasting relationships with clients, providers and vendors. His work in the driver assessment and training program is based on principles of respect and loyalty.

Quinn specializes in the prescription of and training with the use of adaptive driving equipment for cars and modifications for vans. He provides behind-the-wheel evaluations and in-vehicle training along with behind-the-wheel services at Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center in Duluth.

He is active in the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists.

He goes with students when they go for their drivers’ examinations and understands the importance a getting a driver’s license has for people who have not had a license before

One client, Amy, was a driving assessment and training client. She said of Quinn, “I appreciated your help because my continued employability is important to me. My ability to drive means a great deal to my non-working life as well. The work you do is important and matters.

Another client, Benjamin, said Quinn helped him every step of the way. “I was nervous, but Steve was calm, laid back, and very easy to understand. He quietly told me what to do, giving me plenty of time in advance to do it. And he gave me many smart driving tips, like, always using all the mirrors and continuously scanning around me to anticipate any hazards.” He also has had to give people the difficult news that they can no longer be behind the wheel, after conducting driving assessments

Quinn became involved with Courage Center as a teenager. His aunt was one of the first people in its residential program and he’d ride his bike to see her. He became a resident assistant at Courage Center after high school graduation and helped residents learn daily living skills. He continued to work at there while attending college. He later became involved in transportation programs there and was involved with the start of the adapted driving program. Quinn once told a reporter, “Teaching a new driver is an indescribable feeling.”

Quinn has spearheaded programs and policy changes to help the community recognize the importance of driving independence. Being able to drive not only creates self-worth, it also makes people feel like worthwhile community members. People who gain the independence of driving are more integrated into the community. They can work, attend school, see family members and be active.

Program participants are assessed to see if they can maintain control of vehicles. A variety of tests are also given. If participants get through the assessment successfully, it’s on to driving lessons. Participants are also evaluated to see if any assistive technology is needed.

“How many people do you know that have stayed at a job helping those with varying abilities, for over

30 years?” said Chris Becker of Cummings Mobility. Becker nominated Quinn for the Charlie Smith Award. “It can be a frustrating job due to funding limitations, community acceptance and the part of the job that requires him to tell people ‘no.’ Many people burn out, but he just picks up speed every year.

In 2010 Quinn was recognized by the Minnesota STAR Program for Excellence in Assistive Technology.

Their recognition included statements indicating Quinn was the first ever Lifetime Achievement Awardee. At that time Ray Griffin of Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services said “I am continually impressed with his dedication to assisting people with disabilities regain their transportation independence. I have worked with dozens of people that he has helped, and all have high praise for his competence and easy demeanor. He has often worked extra time and longer hours to assist our mutual consumers in acquiring and ensuring safe operation of adaptive driving equipment. He has a way of making the process go easier for the consumer, vendor and assisting agency.”

Quinn has also been given a Congressional Commendation for his dedication to assisting people with disabilities and has also been honored by the Minnesota Legislature.

Quinn lives in Brooklyn Park. He and his wife Amy, who attended Park Center High School together, have been married for more than 30 years. The family includes two children.





A dedication to their son and others with disabilities inspired Anoka residents Chet and Gladys Tollefson and in turn helped them to inspire others.

The Tollefsons were instrumental in starting Rise, Inc. 40 years ago. The Tollefsons’ son Loring was developmentally disabled. The Tollefsons wanted their son to have the opportunity to go to work when he was finished with public school. But years ago very few meaningful work opportunities were available.

The Tollefsons believed it would be great if Loring and his peers in the Anoka County area could experience how good it feels to put in an honest day’s labor and earn an honest day’s pay. But, there needed to be services and programs developed to help Loring and others reach their own personal potential and become active, contributing members of the community.

Chet Tollefson was determined to make a future for his son and others so they would not be relegated to institutions or stuck at home with little to do. He started asking other parents and local community leaders to help him with a “little project.” And they did.

On August 2, 1971, Rise opened its doors for business with four trainees, all of whom had developmental disabilities, and two trainers. The first office was in a little room at the Anoka County Fairgrounds in Anoka.

Rise grew from there, hiring its first executive director in 1976. Although the nonprofit has had its ups and downs in its early years, the Tollefsons were among the key leaders who kept the agency on course. They led efforts to help Rise grow and to become what it is today.

Today Rise has 19 office locations throughout the Twin Cities and Central Minnesota areas. Its corporate offices are located in Spring Lake Park. Rise now serves people who have a wide range of disabilities, including mental health, intellectual/developmental, physical, emotional, sensory (hearing and visual), learning, traumatic and acquired brain injury, and other disabilities.

Rise also serves refugees and immigrants who have other barriers to employment such as language, culture, lack of transferable work skills, little education, transportation, and diagnosed and undiagnosed disabilities.

In addition, Rise serves people who are receiving Minnesota Families Investment Program assistance, who are striving to move from welfare to employment.

Rise offers a wide variety of career planning, training, employment, school-to-work transition, job placement services, and follow-up support services. It also offers mental health housing support services such as independent living skills training, transitional housing, outreach to people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, and other housing supports.

Rise also recognizes the importance of personal growth in all aspects of one’s life. People participating in Rise’s day training and habilitation programs have opportunities to engage in life enrichment activities as part of their weekday schedule, including community volunteer projects, art classes, and participation in the Consumer Advisory Council.

In 2013, Rise served more than 4,000 people in more than 40 programs offered throughout the Twin Cities and Central Minnesota.

Since 1971, Rise has served more than 22,000 people. Rise has 360 people on staff. But it all began with one family. Loring Tollefson died in 2002 but not before he and many others reaped the benefits Rise provides.

Without Chet and Gladys Tollefson’s will and determination, Rise would not be here today. They brought together people of various disciplines to serve as volunteers — business people, policymakers, government officials, employers, transportation providers, special educators, social service professionals, community leaders, as well as family members. With their urging, these volunteers were willing and able to lend their expertise, time and energy to get Rise off the ground. They hung tight through the early turbulent years, and hired a great team to lead them toward a successful future.

In 2011 The Arc Minnesota presented Chet and Gladys Tollefson with the presented the Betty Hubbard Family Advocacy Award for their leadership and vision in creating Rise, Inc.

The Tollefsons were also instrumental in starting special education classes in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Gladys Tollefson, who died in 2013, worked as an aide in the school district for many years. She was also a woman of strong faith and was active in Zion Lutheran Church in Anoka, serving as Sunday School teacher and in the women’s group  She worked with the Rise Woman’s Auxiliary raising money for the sheltered workshop.


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