2021 MOHR DSP Award winners go to MSS, Epic Enterprise, WACOSA staffers
The Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) announced the state's top direct support professionals during the MOHR Annual Meeting and Conference in Duluth. Here are the 2021 winners.
Enrichment Focus – Metro
Daniel Hedstrom, Jr., MSS
Character qualities shine for Daniel Hedstrom, Jr. with MSS in St. Paul. Positive, creative, courageous, sympathetic and dependable, Hedstrom brings renowned knowledge and experience in arts and music to the individuals with disabilities he serves, explains MSS Program Supervisor Fawn Beckman.
Chief among Hedstrom’s recent accomplishments are his exemplary work ethic and diligent assistance to MSS, which collectively created remote programming during the pandemic closure, explains Beckman.
A drummer for 16 years and student of great bands, Hedstrom brings other artistic experience to MSS, which specializes in such programming. His personal style is pen and ink, charcoal and sculpting.
“Being able to facilitate my passion and having the chance to teach it is the most radical feeling to have,” said Hedstrom. The DSP has seen people grow and progress in their life skills and have fun, which he called “extremely rewarding.”
Enrichment Focus – Greater Minnesota
Amber Nord, WACOSA
Sparking imagination and creativity for people with disabilities in the St. Cloud area, Amber Nord's work is described as inspiring and mission-driven. The highly capable WACOSA DSP challenges people to explore their creativity outside of their comfort zones.
From crafting, sewing, various art mediums, performance art activities, event planning, video production and more, there is nothing Amber won’t attempt for our clients,” said Vice President of Quality Assurance and Program Nancy Betts. “She is approachable, reliable and capable.”
Early on in Minnesota’s COVID-19 dilemma, Nord worked with WACOSA clients to create a training video. She and the actors wrote a script, composed a rap song together, recorded acting sequences and audio portions, and edited it all to share with a wider audience, Betts explained. The process took weeks and Nord was there the entire time learning alongside the individuals with disabilities WACOSA serves.
Nord has worked with clients to design and create centerpieces for events. She mentors others to create watercolor paintings, leads volunteer food drives, health and safety activities, cooking and baking experiences and other efforts to teach independent living skills, Betts said. “She truly does everything with the clients’ best interests and capabilities in mind. Amber deserves to be recognized for her truly inspiring work with all people.”
Employment Service "Job Coach" – Metro
Hannah Foster, MSS
MSS Art Employment Coordinator Hannah Foster in Oakdale works one-on-one with individuals who have disabilities to find art employment opportunities. It’s a tall order
Her calm and organized approach involves listening and envisioning the steps needed to gain employment, said Lauren Hughes, director of arts development for MSS. In one example, she helped a student to start his own clothing business. Photoshop software was used to design the clothing and she helped him to create a website, while teaching him screen printing at MSS in St. Paul.
Foster was amazed by his motivation and focus from the start. “He knew what he wanted and had a style in mind,” she said. Offering him resources and meeting on Fridays for a few months, Foster was inspired by the time and effort he put into his art. The art employment coordinator said her goal is to help people with disabilities to know that their goals are just as valid and achievable as anyone else’s. “It validates their feelings, their ideas and their dreams,” said Foster. “And, it makes them feel seen and included.”
In the six months since Foster started her new role, MSS has hired two more art employment staff, said Hughes. She’s training them and “modeling how to provide these nuanced services in a straightforward way.”
Foster’s introduction to the field came in her early 20s, when she attended a dance for adults with disabilities with her mother, who was a volunteer. She quickly discovered that her personality fit well in this environment. So, after finishing a graduate school art program on the east coast, she moved to Minneapolis and started work as an art facilitator at MSS.
The energy and warmth of individuals with disabilities keep Foster motivated, she said. Helping people to accomplish their goals, feel more confident and integrated into society is an excellent use of time, she explained.
Employment Service "Job Coach" – Greater Minnesota
Jay Storlie, Epic Enterprise
Epic Enterprise job coach Jay Storlie in Northfield helped a man with disabilities employed by Target to boost his productivity and exceed the company’s expectations. Storlie has not let his disability and using a wheelchair stop him either.
“Being a disabled person myself, I get how the next person feels,” Storlie said. “Because, my life’s been all about change . . . and I thought, ‘well, maybe I could help somebody else to overcome their needs, as well.” He has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair to get around.
After working in a cabinet shop for 17 years and running a woodworking business at home, Storlie came to Epic Enterprise four years ago with a desire to help others with disabilities. During his interview, he said he would learn as much as the individuals with disabilities do, and they can figure it out together, explains Epic Enterprise Executive Director Linda Hibbard.
One employer said Storlie holds himself to a high standard and an even higher one for the employees he’s serving. Job coaches come alongside to train individuals with disabilities on the job, teach soft skills, interact with managers and provide other assistance. Hibbard said the job coach pays close attention to each person and learns how to provide supports for their independence and success.
Storlie’s introduction to the field resulted from a desire to get out of his wood shop. “I can get out and make a difference in somebody else’s life as well as my own, actually,” he said. The job coach still does some woodworking in his off time.
Human service work is all about patience, he said. It’s better to sit back and analyze a situation before jumping in, the job coach explains. He’s also seen how people with disabilities change the lives of others in work settings. Social skills increase, there’s camaraderie and people look forward to going to work.
“DSPs are the lifeline to services and supports for people with disabilities and we thank them,” said award organizer and MOHR Board Member Lynne Megan. “There are amazing creative supports that are happening each and every day by DSPs across our state.”
Megan encourages MOHR members to contact her regarding DSP Awards for 2022 and consider excellent staff who they might nominate.