Target’s Model Behavior

By Emily Robillard, Assistant Program Manager

Emily Target 1

Say CHEESE!!!

FLASH!

Look up here!!!!!

FLASH!

WOOOO!!!

FLASH!!! 

Loud, energetic, exciting – all words I would use to describe a Target photo shoot. My daughter Harlee (pictured above) has been modeling for Target since she was about nine months old. She thoroughly enjoys the excitement and goofiness the photographers and “baby wranglers” (yes that is an official title for the person whose job it is to make the children laugh and smile) bring to each photo shoot. What I think she likes most is being in a room with people and other children.

Target Ad

This past holiday season, Target ran an ad with a beautiful little girl who lives with Down syndrome. When I saw the ad I was thoroughly impressed with Target! Then a few weeks later, we were at a shoot, and two children with Down syndrome were there. My heart was so full to see that Target had chosen to continue hiring children with developmental disabilities; it wasn’t just a onetime thing. Watching my daughter interact with these other little models was amazing, and it got me thinking: “Why can’t we all see each other as little children do?” The three of them laughed, colored and ran around as if they were best friends. The fact that two of them had a disability did not stop them. Not once did they stare at each other or shy away from one another.

This experience also reminded me of my childhood. I grew up in Wayzata next to a group home of adults with disabilities. I’m not sure what organization supported/supports these individuals, but my parents still live next to them. From a very young age, my siblings, neighborhood friends and I would always go ring their doorbell and ask them to come out and play. None of us ever saw them as disabled. We actually thought they were way cooler than any adults we knew because they would play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with us!

Emily Target 2Fast forward to when I moved home after college and was looking for a job. I had worked in a group home with children while in school and loved it. I knew of Hammer so I applied, and the rest is history. A few winters ago I had the privilege of participating in Ralph in the Schools. It was an amazing program! Teaching children from a young age about differences and similarities is a wonderful idea. Young minds are so open and eager to learning. Helping them understand abilities and disabilities really shapes their empathy and kindness later in life.

I am so proud of Target for opening up jobs to children of all abilities. It not only helps get the word out about disabilities, but it shows that anyone is capable of anything. In fact, I recently read about a young woman who walked in a fashion show for New York Fashion Week. She has Down syndrome and didn’t let that define her life. Watch out fashion world!

A March Toward Awareness

By Jason Jenkins, Wayzata Community Editor of the Sun Sailor

Hammer Residences reflects on advances, obstacles as it celebrates Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Hammer Residences has made a mission out of giving adults and children with developmental disabilities the opportunity to live life to its fullest. And all through March, the Wayzata-based nonprofit and residents of Hammer’s 46 homes and apartment programs are celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

John and WayneJohn Estrem, Hammer’s CEO, said the 92-year old organization has helped shape the landscape of developmental disability care in Minnesota.

Hammer’s settings of care include group homes, apartment complexes and in-home services. Apartments are typically reserved for those able to live more independently, with on-duty staff providing help as needed. Group homes settings are set up for more constant care. Hammer also provides staff for in-home care for those living in their own home or with someone else like parents or a guardian.

Through its apartment program, Estrem said Hammer has been able to offer a higher level of service to those unable able to live completely on their own.

“They’re able to live in their own apartment, but still have a sense of community and the support that they might need,” Estrem said. “That’s been somewhat innovative. We now support 120 people in 10 different apartment programs… That’s something that we’ve been kind of developing and refining along the way.”

Whatever the living situation, Estrem said Hammer’s goal is simply to help those living with developmental disabilities lead their own lives.

“I think that’s probably one of the biggest changes in our field in the last couple of decades,” Estrem said. “Today, we look at people as individuals and we try to design support for the individual rather than getting the individual to fit some predetermined program.”

That notion of crafting individual-based support was laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act, which marks its 25th anniversary this year. Signed into law in 1990, the wide-ranging civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on disability. It’s a law similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that called for the protection against discrimination based on race, religion or gender.

To celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Hammer will role out social awareness campaigns throughout the year and is inviting people to join through its website and social media.

Tony Baisley, Hammer’s director of communication, said the hashtag #DDAware will be used on Hammer’s Facebook and Twitter pages to connect those supporting or looking to learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act and the services Hammer provides.

“Throughout the year, we will be unveiling some more public awareness campaigns acknowledging people with disabilities and how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go,” Baisley said.

‘How far we have yet to go’

While those connected to Hammer are celebrating Developmental Disabilities Month and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Estrem points to several ongoing challenges organizations like Hammer are facing.

“It’s always an issue for people with disabilities to find employment, gainful employment particularly, that pays at a living wage and is in the community,” Estrem said. “That’s been a longstanding struggle and it continues to be a struggle going forward.”

AARM 064Funding for services is another challenge Hammer and other nonprofit organizations face. With decreases in state and federal funding, organizations are finding it more difficult financially to provide the same level of support offered in the past.

“Funding that, 15 years ago, was really quite robust is now actually not enough,” Estrem said. “And that’s a pretty big change for us well.”

Currently, there is a statewide moratorium on group homes that are licensed corporate adult foster care facilities. Reasons for the continued state restrictions, Estrem said, have likely centered around the cost of building group homes and a mistaken belief that there is enough capacity within the current number of group homes.

“Our point of view is there needs to be, what I sometimes call, a continuous continuum of housing options for people with disabilities,” Estrem said. “There has to be things all along the spectrum as far as levels of support.”

While the moratorium has sped up the development of Hammer’s apartments, it has made it more difficult for people who need the higher level of support provided in a group home.

And as the next generation of people living with disabilities look to move out of their parents’ homes and into a more independent living situation, Estrem said he’s seeing the need for more space.

“While funding is a huge issue around access, the truth of the matter is, we just don’t have any openings. So, even if people had funding, we have a hard time getting them in because there just aren’t enough group home beds, at least in the Twin Cities….We take a call a week probably from families who are often very much in distress because they cannot find services,” Estrem said.

While there are no bills currently at the state legislature that would lift the moratorium, Estrem said he’s beginning to see support, particularly among families looking for services.

“It hasn’t gotten to the point yet of generating any public policy stances on it, but there certainly is a groundswell,” Estrem said.

Olmstead Plan

Another challenge Hammer and other organizations providing care to the developmentally disabled is around the state’s current efforts to comply with the Olmstead Act, a federal law requiring states to ensure the most integrated settings for care in an effort to eliminate unnecessary segregation of those with developmental disabilities. Writing an Olmstead Plan is how states document what needs to happen and what they plan to do to comply with federal rules.

dr zangara

Estrem noted that there’s been tension around what it means to comply with the federal Olmstead regulations and how Minnesota’s plan should be written.

Dr. Darlene Zangara, executive director of Minnesota’s Olmstead Implementation Office, said the system the state sets forth needs to be respectful and responsive to the choices of people with disabilities. Zangara said the Olmstead Plan should be about choice.

“We need to have a full range of options available for people with disabilities. For some, a group home may be the most integrated setting. Other people with disabilities may choose to live in a group home. But for some people, they may want services that would allow them to live in their own apartment,” Zangara said.

Questions remain among states and organizations like Hammer over what it means to be compliance with the Olmstead Act. Does the act’s “more integrated setting” requirement mean moving away from the group-home model? Does it mean having to offer the most independent settings possible?

“Every state is grappling with that and trying to figure it out,” Estrem said.

The Martinkas

Joy Martinka and her mother Ann sit in the living room of their Eden Prairie home. Joy, a sophomore at Eden Prairie High School who was born with Down syndrome, recaps her busy day. Among the subjects studied in school, she said, were math, photography and social studies.

Joy, like others around the word living with Down syndrome, is also getting ready to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day Saturday, March 21.

Ann and her daughter Joy stand in the backyard of their Eden Prairie home March 12. Joy is a sophomore at Eden Prairie High School and Ann works in the travel department at Hammer Residences. (Sun Sailor photo by Jason Jenkins)

Ann and her daughter Joy stand in the backyard of their Eden Prairie home March 12. Joy is a sophomore at Eden Prairie High School and Ann works in the travel department at Hammer Residences.

Ann works in Hammer’s travel department where she helps plan vacations for Hammer residents.

“It allows everybody to have the chance to go on vacation like everyone else … Just because you need extra support doesn’t mean that you can’t do things,” Ann said sitting across from Joy. “And we tell her all the time. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, we just do it modified.”

And when it comes to texting, Ann said her daughter is no different than any other teenager. Ann said Joy loves to type out messages and that getting a cell phone has actually helped her daughter communicate. It’s also helped Joy keep in touch with her brother, who is attending his first year of college in Madison, Wis.

“For somebody with disabilities, that form of communication is so awesome,” Ann said.

When asked about her plans for after high school, Joy replied with one word, “TASSEL,” referring to Eden Prairie School District’s TASSEL Transition program designed for students 18- to 21-years-old living with special needs. After that, Joy hopes to go to live with roommates, maybe go to college and then get married.

While the 16-year-old is living at home, Ann said where Joy will go once she’s ready to move out is a lingering concern.

“You don’t know who’s going to care for your child as much as you do,” the mother said.

It’s a fear that Ann said her four years of working for Hammer has helped alleviate.

“I’m not as afraid of the future as I used to be because I’ve met people at Hammer and I know that good care is out there,” Ann said, “And Joy certainly doesn’t want to live with us for the rest of her life, and we don’t want that for her. So, we were kind of stuck not knowing where to go, but now I feel good.”

Contact Jason Jenkins at jason.jenkins@ecm-inc.com

Rich Roots Grow a Learning Partnership

By Cate Saracen Peters, Director of Training and Education

It’s no coincidence that Hammer’s leadership has always supported providing our family members with an avenue to expand their knowledge and network of connections related to their loved ones. You see, it is deep in our roots as an organization. This rich history and legacy of shared learning goes back to our founder Alvina Hammer and Evelyn Carlson, a nurse and a teacher respectively. They developed learning partnerships with professionals and family members alike, in order to realize the outcome of fulfilled lives for individuals living with developmental disabilities.

Family Ed logoFast forward to today where our commitment to this Learning Partnership continues to grow stronger than ever. Hammer’s Family Education Forum, established as an annual event in 2014, has become that official avenue for family members to learn and grow. The Training and Education Team has a passion for providing a format that fits just right, as we approach our second Family Ed Forum on Thursday, April 30th.

School is in session this spring, with a menu of choices to support attendees in getting the answers they need. Matching needs with the latest service innovations in our field, coupled with the vital importance of the shared story and relationships, will ensure rich content that is current. Aside from the traditional classroom, hand-in-hand story sharing is where the greatest impact can be made.

Mayor5Our new “On the Spot Conversation Tables” that are topic based give this Hammer forum a personalized touch, while delivering resources on a variety of topics. As Director of Training and Education, I thought it best to include this “back to basics” approach with a conversational format designed to re-emphasize the importance of connection and the power of sharing through stories. The more traditional breakout sessions will also be available, and for the first time we will open with a keynote address focusing on the Person Centered Life.

We recognize this as a unique opportunity to connect, to learn, and to work together with family members into the future. As our CEO John Estrem shares: “We have learned from our family members and guardians over the years that this collaboration naturally strengthens these vital relationships and speaks volumes to partnership we all value.” So, if you are a Hammer family member or guardian, please join us in building upon our strong roots as we share a common goal to walk beside someone, helping them do this thing called life.

Big Adventures in the Big Apple

By Kelly Bosch, Program Manager

Broadway 1New York City. This had always been Karen’s dream, always. And, Karen’s plans for this dream were not small. They included all the fun touristy things do to, but at the top of the list was auditioning for the historic Apollo Theater. For ten years, Karen has been singing/dancing/acting for a decade now at Interact for the Visual and Performing Arts. She is a self-proclaimed “diva,” performing 2-3 plays a year for large audiences in grand theaters. So, when Karen found out they were holding open auditions at the Apollo the week we were going to be there, all the stars aligned!

The early departure day started off flawlessly. We breezed through airport security and even had time for a quick breakfast before boarding the plane. Once the wheels hit the tarmac in New York, Karen flashed me the biggest smile and quietly said: “We are in New York City!” Then, the adventures began.

Karen 2Once we got settled at our hotel, we hit the streets of the Big Apple. There was so much shopping, walking and stuffing our faces with endless amounts of good food on every block. We even squeezed in Karen’s very first massage – much needed relaxation in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city streets. Thursday, audition day, was fast approaching.

That day started with breakfast and meeting up with an old friend from Interact who had moved to New York. She was so excited to hear that Karen was auditioning for the Apollo that morning. The studio where the audition was being held was only five blocks from our hotel. Was this fate or what? We arrived 10 minutes before the doors opened for sign up with just enough time to thaw out a little. Karen was 38th in line so she continued her warm-ups. Those two hours were slightly nerve racking, hearing what seemed like every click of the second hand of the clock on the bare, white wall.

Apollo 2

Finally, it was time. Karen stood in front of three judges and belted out the classic tune “On Broadway.” The judges sang along and really enjoyed her performance. Karen ROCKED it! One of the judges told Karen to “keep doing what you’re doing.” She could not have been happier after hearing that.

Her day had already been made after the audition, but it was about to get even better. Our next stop was actually on Broadway to see “Mama Mia” – Karen’s favorite musical! We were one row away from the stage. SO close! The show wrapped up with Karen showing off some sweet moves to “Dancing Queen” in the aisle. As it was the last night of the trip, we ended it with a fancy dinner of filet mignon!

Broadway 3I have worked with Karen for nine years, and I have heard about this dream for nearly as long. It was such an amazing experience to see all of this through Karen’s eyes and enthusiasm. She crossed off a lot of things on her dream list, and it was beyond rewarding to be there with her. This was truly a vacation to remember and we want to extend a huge thank you to Joe and Kathy Reis for the incredible support in making this dream a reality!

Respect: the Other, Better R-Word

By Kris Miller, Self-Advocate

Kris 1My name is Kris. I have been supported by Hammer Residences for about 25 years. I would like to share some of my thoughts and experiences about bullying and why I hope everyone will stop using the R-word.

I want you to know that no one should use the R-word. If you do not know what the R-word is, R stands for Retarded, and I will only refer to it as the R-word going forward. It is an awful word, and it causes pain to many people, myself included. R should stand for Respect.

Stop saying the R-word. It hurts my feelings. Be respectful about disabilities. Be nicer. Treat us as normal people.

Kris 2When I was in school, people teased me a lot. In high school, people put tape in my hair and spit on me while calling me the R-word. Someone even punched me in the stomach while calling me that word.  That made me upset. It made me cry like crazy. When they called me the R-word, it made me feel ashamed, like I was less of a person.

I hear the R-word in the movies. I hear it in music and on television. I have to turn off the television or stop listening to the music. It is a painful, negative word.

10.29 Community Life 104

Yes, I have a disability. But like everyone else, I feel really good and happy when I am treated with respect. I think people do not always understand. I encourage people to ask me questions. I tell them that I have a learning disability and that makes it hard for me to learn things. However, I still have feelings and try very hard to learn new things. Things usually turn around for the better when people begin to understand. Afterwards, it can be a very positive relationship.

I want people who may be bullied to know that they can stand up for their rights. Say: “Stop saying that!” or “Stop teasing me” or “Be respectful and treat me like everyone else!”

I respectfully ask that everyone speak with words that are not hurtful and not support or allow others to spread the R-word. One person at a time, we can stop the use of this negative word! Make your pledge here.

A Hammer Connection: Volunteer Turned Lifetime Advocate

By Lindsay Grome, Hammer Volunteer & Account Supervisor at Weber Shandwick

Giving back.

It’s one of those things we all hear we should be doing, and deep down many of us truly want to do. However, it can be hard to choose a cause.

You have to ask yourself:

1) What do I care about?

2) What do I want to be doing in my spare time?

3) What brings me fulfillment?

What’s even harder is once you find that cause, sticking with it.

As a volunteer at various organizations throughout the past decade or so, for me the reason I do it has always been about the connection I’ve felt with the people I’m volunteering with.

imageBut Hammer changed the game for me. The connection I feel to both the residents I’ve volunteered with and to the organization itself is a whole new experience that, for fear of sounding cliché, has changed my life.

I first heard about Hammer at a volunteer fair, of all places, when I had just moved to Minnesota. In college I’d volunteered with disabled persons at Passion Works Studio in Athens, Ohio, a small Appalachian town home to Ohio University. I would stop in, clean old newspaper metal and watch the inspiration flow through the hands of true artists – who happened to be paralyzed in a wheelchair or have a cognitive disability – yet far sharper than I could ever be with an artistic mind expressed through a paintbrush.

It was at that point I knew I had found a cause I cared about #1: Check.

When I moved on to my first job out of college, I began volunteering again in my spare time at Opportunity Enterprises located in Valparaiso, IN. Opportunity Enterprises, like Hammer, is dedicated to helping people with disabilities live enriching lives. There I found joy once again being around such an inspiring environment. #2: Check.

imageThese wonderful, inspirational experiences are what motivated me to actually seek out an organization serving people with disabilities. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect fit.

Despite the fact that I spent several evenings a month volunteering as an exercise partner to one amazing, funny, caring woman in particular…then a few more nights as a softball coach, communications committee member, marketing member for the Reach for Ralph gala (see how they just stick with you!)…what has stuck with me about Hammer, and keeps me coming back, has been their true appreciation of everyone they come in contact with.

From the individuals Hammer serves to the program managers, to staff at the central office, to the families and the volunteers – all of them, every single one – truly cares. They care about the people. They care about the mission. And that shows – verbally and through the lovely collection of watercolor cards designed by those Hammer supports sent to my house just to say “thanks.” Hammer is really the one I should be thanking.

Tony at Weber ShandwickMy relationship with Hammer has recently evolved to a whole new level, as I’m now the lucky one who gets to work with Hammer and its “lean and mean” communications team. In my professional life, I work in public relations at Weber Shandwick, a global public relations agency. Hammer was chosen as the Minneapolis office of Weber Shandwick’s pro bono client of 2015, which means I get to help tell Hammer’s stories to the Twin Cities and beyond. With this year marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have a lot of ideas and a lot of great stories to tell. To say I’m excited is an understatement.

Hammer brings me fulfillment and I simply can’t wait to share their inspiring stories. Fulfillment: Check.

My Life As a DSP

By Patience Zelee, Assistant Program Manager

ADVOCACY 063My name is Patience Zelee. I am a single parent of a six year old, and I have worked full-time as an Assistant Program Manager/Direct Support Professional (DSP) at Hammer Residences for seven years. I came to the U.S. from Liberia, West Africa, in 1998. I am also a full-time student.

When I first applied for a job with Hammer, I told myself I would work here long enough to get back on my feet – 6 months tops. But within those six months, I fell in love with my job. Now, I cannot imagine myself working anywhere else. I have come to think of the individuals that I serve as my second family. I love joking around with my second family, going to movies or dances with them, having WII parties and many other things. But, it is not all fun and games. As a DSP, I also cook, clean, order and administer medications, drive to and from medical appointments and help with bathing, grooming and budgeting. I am trained to use a lift van, a Hoyer lift, stair lift (to transfer individuals up and down the stairs), bed baths and seizure protocol for one of the individuals that I serve. It is both rewarding and exhausting work.

DSCI0143Because of the wage structure, most of us who work in this field need to pick up extra shifts or have a second job in order to make ends meet. For those of us who are single parents, we sometimes go days without seeing our children. It’s unbearable for me not to see my daughter for days at a time because I have to work so much. It’s hard for me and her not to see be with each other as much as we would like, but that is how it has to be if we want to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table.

A simple pay increase, of even 5%, would make a difference in all of our lives. I would not have to work so much, and I would be able to spend time with my daughter. It would also decrease DSP turnover, which would greatly benefit those I support.

Still, I continue to do this job because I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I believe it is one of the best things a person can do in their life. It matters to me and the people I serve.

So, please, help support a 5% rate increase for Direct Support Professionals in 2015 to better the lives of my daughter, my second family and myself.

Patience 1

Hammer Conversations: A Look Behind the Camera

By Gerick Engle, Video Producer at EideCom

I was first introduced to Hammer Residences in early 2014. At that time, I had been working part-time for EideCom assisting on video shoots and doing some filming. So, I was thrilled when I was offered me a full-time position as a Video Producer. The excitement of finally having a job in my field of study and being able to work on my craft full-time was amazing. Needless to say, when our Director of Accounts, Ben Peterson, told me about our project with Hammer, I was very excited and had a lot of questions.

10384211_10152304325216076_3550801433329631154_nAfter receiving an email outlining the Hammer Conversations project, I did some research on Hammer and the developmental disability services industry. My excitement was still strong, but I was also a bit worried, wondering if I was up to the task. I had limited experience with individuals living with disabilities. I distinctly remember an occasion at Buca di Beppo when I said hi to a young girl with a disability in the booth next to mine. She had been staring over at our table and I just wanted to be friendly. I inadvertently scared her and she ended up crying until she left with her family. It wasn’t the most positive of memories, and was really all I had to go on regarding what my project with Hammer might be like. However, it became obvious to me that I had been given a great opportunity. I would be able to help give individuals who are misunderstood and underrepresented a voice to tell their stories.

After some planning, Don, our Director of Photography and I packed up and left for Hammer Residences central office in Wayzata. We unloaded and met up with Tony Baisley, the Director of Communication who showed us where we would be conducting two of the interviews. The first man that we met was the ever-popular James McKune. He has lived with Hammer since 1948 and is their longest-served individual. He was very interested in the large film lights we had set up and, as expected, was a bit shy in front of Don and me. Tony had planned for this and had printed a large number of photos of James to help spark conversation and in turn tell the story. James’ guardian and longtime Hammer employee was also a part of the interview, sitting next to James to ask questions and spark conversation.

IMG954828Personally, the interview was one of a kind. The filming went on for over an hour, yet the main subject of the interview spoke less than a hundred words. As the conversation began, I remember thinking that this was going to be impossible to edit. Luckily, the power of old memories got the better of James, and I saw the story start to tell itself. An image of James and a red truck makes James chuckle as he recollects the scenario in which the picture was taken. Later, in editing, I would really start to get to know James as the same authentic smile appeared in almost all of the photos he looked at with Sue.

Hammer had become James’ family. Almost his entire life had been with Hammer and some staff knew him almost better than he knew himself. He told us about the friends he had made and he started to cry when he was shown the photograph of a recently deceased friend, Jim Finney. He cried again, only this time tears of joy, when he thumbed through several pictures of his friend and housemate, Gretchen, whispering, “she’s pretty.” My eyes certainly watered up a few times during the editing of these parts.

I love this part of my job. Working with companies like Hammer Residences, American Heart Association and The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation gives me an intimate look into the lives of people who have challenges most of us can barely understand but who live incredibly full lives. My time spent as a filmmaker has forced me to think from different perspectives and I am often humbled by the people I capture on video.

Clockwise: The Martinka family, Leslie Fish and James McKune were the featured individuals in Hammer Conversations 2014.

Clockwise: The Martinka family, Leslie Fish and James McKune – 2014′s featured individuals in Hammer Conversations.

We shot two other videos for this first installment of Hammer Conversations. One was of a mother and daughter who talked about life before moving to Hammer and how great it was that they were now part of the “Hammer Family.” The other was of a family of a Hammer Travel employee. The daughter, Joy, has Down syndrome, and it was a unique experience to see each family member’s perspective on Joy’s future and the endless possibilities all those living with a disability have through Hammer’s support.

As 2014 came to an end, I was deeply honored when I was asked, once again, to direct the Hammer Conversation videos for 2015. In fact, we are set to begin filming next week, and I cannot wait. With another year of experience and practice, I can do an even better job at telling the stories of these fellow Minnesotans. What I will continue to learn from this experience is that it is always worth the extra effort to tell someone’s story, especially the really good ones.

Hammer believes that all people deserve to be treated with love and given the same benefits and opportunities as everyone else. They encourage the people they support to live independently, find love, work, and follow their hopes and dreams. If you ever get the chance to connect with anyone from Hammer, I suggest you seize the opportunity!

Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan: An Update

By Devin Harrington, Communication Specialist

This past December, at the Department of Education, the Olmstead Implementation Office (OIO) held its bimonthly meeting. Subcabinet members and Dr. Darlene Zangara, Executive Director of the OIO, presented updates, the highlights of the bimonthly report, and plans for the coming year.

Amy loading the dishwasherThe primary focus was to ensure everything was set to present the most updated, 250+ page report to the designated court monitor. Subcabinet members emphasized the importance of inter-agency coordination, community engagement, and accountability. Dr. Zangara shared charts highlighting the progress of moving people with disabilities away from remaining institutions. Testimonies of three individuals that Hammer has supported in moves to independent, apartment settings were included. They added a personal and human element to the report.

Another topic of conversation was the choosing of a quality of life assessment tool. The OIO and the subcabinet create plans and guidelines they think will work for the state and disability community; however, they acknowledged the importance of gathering baseline information and firsthand input from those who live with disabilities. The proposed tool comes from the Center for Outcome Analysis, but many questions, such as cost, ease of use, and method of data collection, were left on the table. The OIO and subcabinet agreed that an assessment tool should be introduced after these are answered.

Anthony cooking a healthy meal 1 - smallerUpdates on the state’s Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program and its respective five year transition plan were also shared. With the introduction of 245D and changes to the Disability Waiver Rate System, Minnesota is nearing the end of year one of this five year plan. More input is needed from providers and individuals with disabilities to make sure program changes focus on the individual as opposed to a specified setting. A report was scheduled for submission at the end of 2014, and by 2016 those leading the way hope to move from the planning phase to application.

Two things were very clear to me following this meeting – this will be a long process that will require attention from all of those in the disability services industry, and we still have the opportunity to provide valuable input.

Katie Jo staying active playing Wii gamesMinnesota’s Olmstead Implementation Plan officially began in January of 2012 as a settlement of the Jensen v. MN Department of Human Services case that began in 2009. The US Supreme Court ruled that the state of Minnesota needed to come up with their own Olmstead Plan to provide services to people with disabilities in the “most integrated settings” appropriate to their needs. In 2013 Governor Dayton officially formed a subcabinet for the committee. An initial report was submitted in October of 2013 but was denied by a federal judge for being vague and not measurable. The OIO and subcabinet have continued to edit and better define the state’s plan, but they recognize the work that still needs to be done. The final report for 2014 was submitted on Friday, December 19. The subcabinet’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 9, 2015 from 3:00-5:00pm (location TBD).

Pictured above are the three self-advocates whose testimonies were shared during the meeting. Amy moved to her own apartment last October, Anthony successfully advocated for a move to his own apartment and Katie Jo has made remarkable progress to improve her overall health since moving to an apartment. Click on each individual’s name to read their personal stories.

Tribute Envelopes: Creative Giving to Help Others

By Sue Oreck, Hammer family member

Sue Oreck 1My name is Sue Oreck, and I am the sister of Jeffrey Orenstein who lives at the McGlinch house in Plymouth. Whenever I go over to Jeff’s house, I see the wonderful staff that cares for the six individuals who call McGlinch home. I also see the amount of upkeep that goes into these homes so that they accommodate everyone’s needs. For example, last year, donations were received to help replace all of the flooring in the home and provide new furniture and interior paint. These home improvements have a direct impact on Jeffrey’s quality of life and I’m so thankful for the generosity of so many.

All of these home improvements could not happen without our help. That’s why I think it is so important not only to give a once a year donation but to give throughout the year. The way I am able to do this is with tribute envelopes. Tribute envelopes are a wonderful and creative way to honor friends and relatives while at the same time support Hammer.

Sue Oreck 2I send in tribute envelopes throughout the year for birthdays, anniversaries, sympathy notes and recently to congratulate someone on their new job. Hammer then sends a personalized card to my honoree – the amount of the gift isn’t disclosed. Sending these cards creates awareness for Hammer, and for people with disabilities. Hopefully, those we send cards to will remember Hammer when it is time for them to remember someone’s special event.

Packets of tribute envelopes are available at Hammer, just stop by the central office in Wayzata or give them a call at 952-473-1261.

Hammer holds a special place in my heart and I will continue to help by sending tribute cards. To me, there is no better gift than the gift of helping others!