January 2020
Upcoming Events
Bowl-A-Thon: Sunday, April 19, 2020 9:00 a.m.
Plant Sale: F riday, May 1, 2020 3 - 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 2, 2020 9:am - noon
25th Annual Golf Scramble: Monday, May 18, 2020 11:00 a.m.
Merrick Receives Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation (VHEDC) Community Partnership Award
Executive Director,  John Wayne Barker  (JWB) and 7 staff members accepted the Community Partnership Award on behalf of Merrick at the November 12 VHEDC Annual Dinner. The award recognizes collaborative partners that help the VHEDC to advance its mission of ensuring a prosperous local business economy in Vadnais Heights and the surrounding areas. 

On accepting the award, JWB voiced his appreciation this way, "I want to thank the VHEDC for this award recognizing Merrick’s involvement in the Vadnais Heights community. Having attended many award programs it occurs to me that awards serve two purposes. First, it affirms that something that has been done is worthy of recognition; and recognition by peers you respect feels good. So thank you for that feeling. Second, whether you are in customer service, retail, food services, manufacturing, sales, or human services; it reminds us that something done at the right time for the right reason is valued by the community. So, on behalf of my colleagues with me tonight, and the company as a whole, thank you for affirming that the work Merrick does makes our community better and I hope many in the room tonight are inspired to do the right thing."
Smoke & Fire

In late 2019, it came to my attention that Arc Minnesota was actively building a coalition of stakeholders to develop a 2020 legislative plan to phase out the commensurate wage regulation, known as 14(c), which permits a special minimum wage. After hearing strong opposition from many stakeholders this plan has been shelved for the time being. Still, there are several efforts at the federal level to eliminate the 14(c) regulation, and the Minnesota Disability Services Division (DSD) is moving forward with its plan to redesign Day Training & Habilitation (DT&H) services and impose a 36-month limit on prevocational services (with a possible 12-month extension) for anyone enrolled after 12/31/20.

It is my view that this DSD plan will eliminate the center-based work option for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) even if the 14(c) regulation is retained. To explain my reasoning I wrote a document entitled “Smoke & Fire” that is formatted in the style of a 2015 document entitled “Myths & Realities” written by the RTC on Community Living at the University of Minnesota. My hope is that a reader will better understand the issue if explained in a similar format and structure.

Both documents are attached as a pdf to this editorial and I suggest that the reader print both and read the same section of each before moving onto the next section. In this manner, the contrasting views may be clearer to the reader by the time they finish reading the documents.

At Merrick we have more than 200 clients that earned more than $750,000 last year through our 14(c) center-based work option who either can’t or don’t want to work in a competitive integrated work environment. It is my hope that others will strive to convince DHS to reconsider its DT&H redesign plan and proposed limit on prevocational services so that people with I/DD can make meaningful decisions about how to live, work, and interact with the community as promised in the Olmstead Plan.
Holiday Parties Are Double Success!
For a number of years, the Client Holiday Party has been a highlight for almost all clients at Merrick. Last year, we hosted TWO parties to accomodate all of the clients and staff. One was held at our building in Vadnais Heights which provided a calmer and quieter setting while still offering live music, dancing, a catered lunch, and a photo booth! The larger party at Jimmy's featured a DJ, dancing, catered lunch and also a photo booth. With such a positive experience, in 2019 we repeated the two-party scenario to great success once again.

Employment Services Manager, Valerie Boettcher leads a team of volunteers, who hold a "bakeless bake sale" fundraiser and do all the planning for the events. Thank you to this amazing team of "Elves!"

Most of the clients dress up for the parties and have an opportunity to have a professional portrait taken. The portraits are later printed as a gift from Merrick to each client who receives two copies. Many clients choose to share one of the photos with a loved one.

Along with the work of the elves, the parties would not be possible without the care and compassion Merrick staff show for the clients every day, but especially on this day of organized chaos. Staff join clients on the dance floor, assist with cutting food and personal hygiene, prepare clients for their portraits, and make sure they get on the correct buses at the end of the party. Way to go, everyone!
2020 Bowl-A-Thon in the Works

Mark your calendar for the most fun you can have on a Sunday morning in Minnesota! The annual Bowl-A-Thon on April 19, 2020, presented by IPS Cranes promises lots of fun for everyone. Join us for bowling, games, face painting, a pizza lunch, and raffles. To sponsor a team, volunteer on the planning committee, or help the day of the event, please contact Development and Communications Director, Karen Herrera at karenh@merrickinc.org or 651-789-6202.
Client Spotlight
Leon's Story: Merrick Provides Consistency of Support Services

Funny, hard-working, and smart are just a few of the words that might be used to describe Leon. When asked about his “dream job,” Leon replies that he would love to work at an airport. He could easily see himself lifting and moving luggage every day ensuring it gets to its final destination safely.

Though his “dream job” is at an airport, where the world’s many wonders are just a gate away, Leon’s devotion is to his family. He, not so secretly, has hopes of starting his own trucking business and continuing his family’s legacy in the truck driving world. However, for now, Leon is happy at his current job: working on a Merrick plastic recycling crew.

Leon came to Merrick seeking new employment 6 years ago after moving to the Twin Cities from Northern Minnesota where he previously worked as a cement laborer. It was his fiancé, herself a client at the time, who encouraged Leon to try Merrick. And he doesn’t for one second regret his decision. 

From the people he works with to the work itself, Leon greatly enjoys being on a recycling crew. Even more so, he appreciates the support and guidance he has received from Merrick over the years. In particular, Leon credits Merrick staff for providing consistency of support and helping him learn how to stay focused on his work and how to relax his mind. He is also pleased to be earning more money than ever before.

When work isn’t on his mind, Leon takes pleasure in trips to the movies and the mall, and going on family vacations to St. Louis, Missouri. He also has a new dream: to live independently. Now, Leon knows that not all dreams come true, but he has hope for this one because he knows Merrick will be there provide consistent support and guide him every step of the way.