Author: Megan Kuneli

Vadnais Heights City Council Recognizes Direct Support Professionals

Published September 3, 2020

On Tuesday, September 1, 2020, Vadnais Heights Mayor Heidi Gunderson and the Vadnais Heights City Council proclaimed the week of September 13-19, 2020, as National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week.

We’re so pleased that the City of Vadnais Heights recognizes the importance of these amazing individuals who are the heart and soul of what we do at Merrick, Inc. Without Direct Support Professionals, our mission to empower adults with disabilities through employment support and life enrichment services would not be possible, and they don’t often get the recognition they deserve.

You can view the actual proclamation by the City of Vadnais Heights by clicking here.

2020 Charity Golf Scramble Picture Gallery

August 26, 2020

Lake Area Bank 1
Lake Area Bank 2
Warners' Stellian
Blue Sky Vitamin
Ferlic Filter
Joseph Murphy 2
Joseph Murphy 1
Erich Hartmann & Ben Wallace
Jeff Norsted
Peoples Bank Midwest
Jamey Austad
John Jacobson & Rob Weber
Mike Greenbaum
The Steen Family
Derek Gavigan
John Marzitelli
Cashe Software
Brausen Family Enterprises
Phil Sanfilippo
Redpath & Co
Heather Harding
Ceil Boesche
Clapper, Francisco, Hallgren, & Schlichting
Pattianne Demaray
Health System Cooperative Laundries
Kim Trenary
Koch NationaLease
Pat Hanson
Lindenmeyr Munroe
Twin Cities Metro CDC
Attorneys Title Group
SevenHills Cleveland
Bill Gangl
John Selvog
Merrick Golf Scramble New Date

2020 Charity Golf Scramble | And the winners are …

August 18, 2020

Thank you to everyone who joined us at Troy Burne Golf Club yesterday for Merrick’s Charity Golf Scramble. Because of your support, we raised nearly $3000 from can raffle ticket sales alone. That’s amazing. And now for what you’ve all been waiting for … the winners.

Team Winners

1st Place – Based on a Scorecard Playoff
Team 10B – Kyle Sommer’s Foursome
Score 60, -11

12th Place
Team 14B – Kim Trenary’s Foursome
Score 66, -5

25th Place
Team 12A – Heather Harding’s Foursome
Score 71, Even

Contest Winners

Longest Putt
Women’s – Heather Harding
Men’s – Erik Bredesen

Closest to the Pin
Women’s – Amy Givens
Men’s – Tony Cavallaro

Longest Drive
Women’s – Tracy Elstad
Men’s – Ryan Steen

On-Course Game & Raffle Winners

Yellow Ball Game
Team 13B – Pattianne Demaray’s Foursome

50/50 Cash Raffle
Ben Wallace

Chip for a Chance
Tom Frankenfield

Putting Contest
Team 8A – The Steen Foursome

Beat the Boss
Joe Kirk

To claim your prize, please drop by Merrick, Inc., Monday-Friday between 8 am and 4 pm. To arrange the pick up, please contact Megan Kuneli at (651) 789-6207 or

Bark’s Bytes #40 | Fishing on Lake Covidtogoma

Published August 12, 2020

John Wayne Barker with fish at lake

“Fishing for an answer” is not an uncommon phrase here in Minnesota and is certainly one way to describe what the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) has been doing since mid-March, with the support of 67 Senators and a few Representatives, in getting Covid-19 guidance from the Commissioner of DHS and emergency funding from the Governor. I recently went on a fishing trip with two-day program colleagues that gave me the opportunity to put the last 5 months into some perspective.

The story takes place on Lake Covidtogama in Northern Minnesota. A place that is often referred to as “God’s Country” for its pristine water, solid shoreline, beautiful forest, and quality lifestyle. The two-day expedition was to catch some Lake Covidtogama “gold” otherwise known as clarity in how to accomplish our missions in serving people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) despite bureaucratic irresponsibility (slot limit) and gubernatorial shirking (poop). One colleague has a cabin on Lake Covidtogama and was our fishing guide for the weekend. His name is Bill and I will call him B1. He has decades of experience with a very large boat (program) that has all the technology needed to fish in different depths and conditions. The other colleague is also a Bill and I will call him B2. He has decades of experience in a medium-size boat with all the gear needed to fish in many different lakes and rivers. Myself, I have 22 years of flyfishing experience wandering in small streams.

After talking to some localtors, one a very Able guide, about the fishing regulations, the first day started by trying to catch some “keepers.” All we saw that morning was a huge blip on the fishfinder screen that we dubbed the Fishioner along with a particular Gullernor that was perching on all the other boats. We made many attempts to catch the Fishioner knowing that with her “in hand” it would keep our boat afloat and also kept hoping for a visit from the Gullernor to make sure enough fuel was in our tank. After what seemed like 6 weeks of nibbling on our bait the Fishioner disappeared from the screen and the Gullernor only refueled other boats. We took a lunch break to discuss options, talk to some localtors and boatives, and gathered our collective resolve before heading to a bay known for catching keepers. I thought I had caught the first keeper of the day when suddenly the Fishioner snatched it off my hook. Still, we kept fishing and, although it seemed like weeks went by, B1 and B2 did eventually catch a few keepers. B1 even took us to a remote section of Lake Covidtogama but only B2 caught a keeper. While fishing B1 shared his concerns about having to reorganize his boat, B2 was frustrated that none of his gear was working, and I was just pissed at being skunked by the Fishioner. We called it a day when the Gullernor flew over and pooped on our boat. Back at the cabin we filleted our keepers knowing that it was not enough for a meal, cleaned the boat, and vowed to do MOHR.

With localtors and boatives cheering on the docks, the second day we headed for deeper water hoping to find some bigger fish. After 3 hours of no luck, we went back to the bay and caught a few keepers but were well below 50% of our limit before heading back to the cabin. We noted that at 2 p.m., on both days the Gullernor perched on a rock near us, flapped his wings mightily, screeched something we could not understand, and pooped on our boat as he flew away. We never did see the Gullernor again and guessed he was probably covering his beak while bargaining with some of his favorite boatives. Running out of time, and determined to save our boat, we headed for the deepest water that afternoon. It was almost dark when I hooked something big that we had not seen on the screen. It was powerful, cunning, and very evasive. Still, with B1 maneuvering the boat, B2 on the net, and a lot of support from the localtors we CAUGHT the Fishioner. The localtors and many of the boatives celebrated with us that, having been caught, the Fishioner could no longer avoid being clear on how we could resume our mission in serving people with I/DD and the Gullernor would have to refuel our tank. We were wrong. Even after being pinned down there was no way to avoid the slot limit and the Fishioner had to be released. Adding insult to injury, there was new poop on our boat. Discouraged, we went back to the dock. That night we shared a few adult beverages, were reassured by the localtors, and uplifted by comments from others on how satisfying, safe, healthy, and important our fleet of boats are to people with I/DD having a quality life. We left for home encouraged that with the ongoing support of most of the localtors and boatives, along with the many heart-wrenching stories about our fleet being overlooked by the Fishioner and Gullernor, MOHR would find a way to keep our boats afloat.

The story does have somewhat of a happy ending. MOHR went on a third fishing trip and, with pressure from all 67 localtors and all but 1 of the 130 boatives, got the Gullernor to refuel our fleet. It was too late for two boats that had already sunk and might not be enough for many boats seriously leaking. Still, it was a good day for hundreds of boats that have a better chance to operate. However, the Fishioner is lurking in the deep water and hard to catch; and we need to share how much our boats were missed when the 26,000 people we serve were in isolation so that the localtors and boatives dispute her claim that we are outdated models that need to be retired. Instead, she needs to leave them as an option on the dock for those that want pristine water, a solid shoreline, beautiful forests, and a quality lifestyle of their choice and add whatever new-fangled expensive toys they want to the marina. The people that use our boats have spoken and change is not what they want nor is it required by the dockmaster. Will the Fishioner continue to evade the issue and let a few misguided and outspoken critics sink the boats that 26,000 people with I/DD use to have their best life or use the Olmstead Plan to protect informed choice? Perhaps Judge Frank needs to go fishing?

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Client Spotlight | Tim

Published August 4, 2020

It was 2006, and Tim had just graduated from high school at the age of 21. Like most recent graduates, he had a decision to make, but for Tim, it was an easy one. After having toured four local day program providers, one stood out from the others. He couldn’t explain it, but one of them called to him in an almost spiritual sense. For Tim, the decision was already made. He was going to Merrick, Inc. Little did he know he was about to embark on a journey of empowerment.

From a very young age, it was apparent to Tim’s mother, Cindie, that he was different from his peers as he experienced frequent outbursts in the classroom. Tim would repeat kindergarten twice, and Cindie would endure two and a half years of overwhelmingly negative school reports before a diagnosis of autism would be made. Shortly after his diagnosis, he was transferred to a special school program. Initially, Cindie worried about placing her son in a program alongside children whose disability was more noticeable, but within a month she was convinced. Tim was not only doing better in school, he was excelling in it.

Tim (right) and his mother Cindie (left) at Merrick’s 2019 Bowl-A-Thon.

Upon first enrolling at Merrick after high school in 2006 at the age of 21, Tim chose to work onsite at Merrick where he performed light assembly tasks, but it was his involvement in Merrick’s Self-Advocacy program that would have the greatest impact. To his amazement, it was not long after joining a Self-Advocacy group that Tim was nominated and elected as president. He had never been president of anything before! In the years that followed, Tim repeatedly found himself speaking at places and in front of people he never thought possible: legislators at the Minnesota State Capitol, members of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, and fourth-grade students at local elementary schools.

After 6 years of working onsite at Merrick, Tim was ready for a change. With the guidance and support of Merrick’s employment services team, Tim was soon independently hired part-time by Gordmans where he worked in the stockroom. However, a couple years later, Tim once again experienced restlessness at work and wanted something more challenging to occupy his time. That’s when he first learned about and was soon hired by Beltmann Relocation Group as a digital imaging assistant.

From the beginning, Beltmann and Tim were a perfect match. His love for technology along with the consistency of the job and the amazing coworkers and leadership team helped create an environment that both validated Tim’s strengths and encouraged future growth. Even as the work became scarcer, Beltmann continued to be interested in Tim and hoped he would consider staying with the company albeit in a different position. When asked by a Merrick team member about his professional goals, he expressed a desire to work with phones. Needless to say, it was not long before Tim was devoting less time to digital imaging and devoting more time to answering the phone at Beltmann.

Outside of work, Tim has no shortage of hobbies to occupy his free time. Whether it’s kayaking down the Chicago River, vacationing in Las Vegas, or taking a trip to Duluth, Tim is always up for an adventure as long as it includes his mother, Cindie, and PCA and long-time friend Paul. When not traveling, Tim enjoys participating in a local bowling league, making frequent visits to the Science Museum of Minnesota, and taking afternoon walks with his mom.

As he looks back on his journey thus far, Tim is quick to acknowledge the many people whose guidance and support helped him become the success that he is: his mother, his teachers, his supervisors, and his support staff at Merrick. At the same time, he also acknowledges the part he played in his own success. According to Tim, “The best person to help you is you.” More and more, Tim has come to realize the power of his own words, and is amazed at how far he has come. But the journey is far from over. Tim knows this, but instead of feeling anxiety, he feels calm. Because he knows he will not be traveling alone.

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Direct Support Professional — Vocational/Enhanced (Center-Based Work Crew/Plastic Intake)

Assigned to Enhanced Services located at 3210 Labore Road in Vadnais Heights. Our Direct Support Professionals working in the vocational programs support, train, and supervise adults with intellectual disabilities who are interested in performing facility-based work contracts and/or community-based work opportunities. Specific duties include:

  • Training and supervising individuals with intellectual disabilities while they are engaged in work/vocational tasks and occasional rec/leisure activities;
  • Overseeing the work performed by the individuals to ensure that they are performing their duties in a manner that meets/exceeds business expectations;
  • Implementing a variety of person-centered planning goals and outcomes;
  • Documenting on service delivery, progress on goals, outcomes, relevant events, activities, and payroll;
  • Assisting with personal cares as needed; and
  • Driving company vehicles.

It is also important to note that this position will be working directly with individuals with disabilities who can become frustrated, noncompliant, and/or aggressive.  To best ensure the clients’ success while they are working or participating in other activities, this staff must:

  • Be sensitive to the clients’ frustrations;
  • Demonstrate proactive behavioral approaches;
  • Possess excellent behavior management skills and the ability to deal with crisis situations; and
  • Basic sign language skills are a plus.

Qualified candidates must possess the following:

  • A minimum of a high school diploma or GED. A community college AA degree, technical school degree, Human Services degree, or a four year Bachelor of Arts/Science degree is preferred;
  • A minimum of six to 12 months of work experience supporting individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities is preferred;
  • A sincere and passionate desire to work with persons with disabilities;
  • Committed to self-advocacy and person-centered planning principles;
  • Proven crisis management and de-escalation skills;
  • Basic computer and data entry skills;
  • Comfortable and respectful when assisting individuals with personal cares;
  • Ability to problem solve and work independently;
  • Meet the physical demands of the position, with or without a reasonable accommodation, including regularly standing, walking, and bending as well as assisting persons with personal cares, ambulation, etc.; and
  • Focused on the quality of work at all times.

Candidates must also pass a criminal background check, a motor vehicle record check, a DOT physical, and a drug screen.

The position is full-time (40 hours per week, M-F day hours, is benefit eligible) with the hourly rate of pay starting at $15.09. Position includes paid time off and paid holidays. 

Grand Reopening & Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Picture Gallery

July 30, 2020

Ribbon Cutting Scissors
John Wayne Barker, Executive Director at Merrick, Inc.
John Wayne Barker, Executive Director at Merrick, Inc.
John Wayne Barker, Executive Director at Merrick, Inc.
John Wayne Barker, Executive Director at Merrick, Inc.
Jason Isaacson, Minnesota State Senator
Heidi Gunderson, Mayor of Vadnais Heights
Kevin Watson, City Administrator
JWB & Scissors
JWB & Scissors
Getting ready to cut the ribbon
JWB & Karen Herrera, Development & Communications Director at Merrick, Inc.
JWB & Herrera with sciccors
Ready to cut the ribbon
The ribbon's been cut!
Presentation of Certificate
Presentation of Certificate

Revised COVID-19 Preparedness Plan & New Health Screening Checklist

Updated September 18, 2020

View Merrick, Inc.’s revised COVID-19 Preparedness Plan by clicking here or below. We are also asking that homes screen clients each day using Merrick’s Client Health Screening Checklist to determine if they should report to their program. The checklist can be accessed here or below.

Program Update

June 17, 2020

A Message to Families, Residential Providers, & Guardians:

We are happy to announce that we have received further guidance from the MN Department of Human Resources that allows us to begin providing remote services and also onsite support services for a limited number of clients at our programs. This guidance includes the following:

  1. To help ensure physical distancing can be implemented, for each licensed site onsite occupancy will be limited to no more than 50% of the licensed capacity or a maximum of 50 people at a time, including employees, whichever is less.
  2. Clients can be onsite for a maximum of a three (3) hour shift and program must document the start and end time of each shift, the DSPs who worked those shifts, and disinfect client areas between shifts.
  3. Each client program area will have their own plan supplement detailing how they will implement the plan.

Our staff is reaching out to clients and their families to determine when they will return to Merrick.

We have created and updated a Covid-19 Preparedness Plan that follows the Minnesota Department of Health template and guidelines. Our Covid-19 Preparedness Plan can be viewed in its entirety here, along with the Client Health Screening Checklist. We believe we are well prepared to meet the needs of the clients we support and understand that homes will decide when clients can return to our programs and hope that our plan provides you with details that are helpful in making this decision. We welcome any suggestions to improve the completeness and/or clarity of the plan and are happy to answer questions.

We will continue to update you as we receive additional information from DHS. As always, please contact me at 651-789-6209 or with any questions or concerns.

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