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Author: Megan Kuneli

2021 Online Auction | Ready, Set, Bid!

Published October 25, 2021

Merrick, Inc., is pleased to announce our 4rd Annual Online Auction starting Monday, October 25, 2021.

All are invited to browse and place bids on available auction items at No account is needed to browse auction items, but you will be required to create one to place a bid.

The auction will close on Thursday, November 4, at 9 pm.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of our auction items.

  • 7-Night Stay at Select Resorts Worldwide
  • 14k Rose Gold Knot Pendant Donated by Wedding Day Diamonds
  • Lynx 2020 Team Autographed Basketball Donated by Minnesota Timberwolves & Lynx
  • Matt Dumba Autographed Wild Hockey Jersey Donated by BMO Harris
  • Minnesota Wild vs. San Jose Sharks Tickets Donated by Lake Area Bank
  • Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers Tickets Donated by Larry & Amanda Konsterlie
  • Pathfinder RPG Tower Donated by Jonathan & Megan Kuneli
  • Restaurant Gift Card Bundle
  • Wall of Wine
  • Wild vs. Sharks
  • Rose Gold Knot Pendant
  • Wolves vs. Pacers
  • Pathfinder Tower
  • DSC 0019 Cropped

Bark’s Bytes #42 | Being BOLD

Published September 27, 2021

In mid-March of 2020 our services were shutdown by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) as part of Governor Walz’s peacetime emergency plan to mitigate the transmission of the Covid-19 virus. Despite the best efforts of families and residential providers, we quickly understood how detrimental it was to the mental, physical, and emotional health of clients to be isolated at home 24 hours a day with no end in sight. In mid-June we were permitted to begin serving a limited number of clients and felt compelled to serve as many as possible within the DHS restrictions.

To manage the daily challenges of the pandemic it became necessary to have an expectation of how we were going to work towards resuming typical operations. To unify our management team of 18 professionals I offered the mantra of being BOLD which meant ~ Believe It, Own it, Lead it, and Do it and I will explain how this was used in our journey.

Believe it. Was the professional confidence that with a clear intention, sufficient resources, and a little good luck it was possible that each of us could contribute to a shared objective – in this case resuming typical services by 7/1/21.

Own it. With the intention known, each of us had to understand how the Covid-19 restrictions imposed on day programs by MDH and DHS could be met while maximizing the number of clients served. This required split shifts, using common space for workstations, and more frequent cleanings to name just a few adjustments.

Lead it. Perhaps the most difficult aspect was handling the frequent changes and obstacles with an attitude of “we can overcome” rather than “we are at the mercy of others”.

Do it. Can’t say it any better than we all had to step up and get busy doing what we could to serve more clients. It helped that every time a client returned to our program it was cause for a celebration.

I am pleased to report that on 7/12/21 we resumed typical operations serving 85% of the clients enrolled pre-pandemic and have had only one case of Covid-19 traced back to our program. We are working with a few business partners to bring our crews back to their operations and find new jobs for direct-hire clients that were displaced by the pandemic and should be back to full census in the near future.

I do not claim to be management guru and have no desire to go on a speaking circuit or write a book. Still, the BOLD mantra can be useful in coordinating a team’s intention for most challenges, securing each manager’s commitment, reinforcing that one can control their actions, and that any well-intended action is better than no action. Give it a try and I would be interested in any success stories.

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DSPs Recognized by Vadnais Heights City Council

Published September 12, 2021

On Tuesday, September 7, 2020, Vadnais Heights Mayor Heidi Gunderson and the Vadnais Heights City Council proclaimed the week of September 12-18, 2021, as 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.

View City of Vadnais Heights Proclamation

Merrick DSPs at Vadnais Heights City Council
Left to right: Vadnais Heights Mayor Heidi Gunderson and DSPs Shelly Newcomb, Maolanie Thao, Brady Mallek, and Joanne Valenzuela.

2021 Summer Social Picture Gallery

August 11, 2021

Donor Wall
Melissa and staff
John and baby
BOT President Crystal
John and Jim
Dollie and Travis
Tricia and Dorie
Old Friends
Andy, Emerson, and Laura
Terry and Stephanie
Alex and family
Corby and Ginny
Brian and family
Jim and Kristina
Sarah and David

2021 Empower! Lunch | Save the Date

Published July 27, 2021

We’re excited to announce that on Thursday, October 14, Merrick, Inc.’s Empower! Lunch will return to Vadnais Heights Commons after a one-year pandemic-induced hiatus. Even more exciting, this year’s keynote speaker will be Super Bowl champion and 15-year NFL veteran Matt Birk.

A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Matt Birk was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. A six-time Pro Bowl Selection and two-time All Pro, Matt proved to be an undisputed leader on the field and was named the sixth smartest athlete by Sporting News. More importantly, he has established a legacy of community service that will last far beyond his years of football.

If you are interested in hosting a table at Merrick’s Empower! Lunch, please contact Karen Herrera at (651) 789-6202 or Full details concerning this event including guest and sponsor registration may be found at

MN Peacetime Emergency Lifted

Published July 9, 2021

The MN peacetime emergency has been lifted effective 7/2/21 and temporary modifications by the Department of Human Services have ended. Merrick, Inc., has resumed typical operations.

Client Spotlight | Aaron

Aaron at Merrick’s Alternative Services area.

Aaron loves cookies. They are his favorite treat, and he isn’t afraid to let you know when he wants one. He will repeatedly make the shape of a circle with his fingers (likes he’s holding a cookie), and after placing his finger tips on the palm of his other hand, will make a twisting motion. However, Direct Support Professional Corey sees right through Aaron’s mischief. In response, she will raise both her hands, palms facing up, wiggle her fingers and say, “Wait.” Seeing this, Aaron will stop, but he isn’t one to give up so easily. A couple minutes later he will be back at it again. This interactive communication would not have happened six years ago.

Prior to enrolling at Merrick, Aaron was employed by a program where American Sign Language (ASL) was not used, not even with Aaron who is deaf. When he was first hired by the workshop, staff tried to teach Aaron some simple work tasks, but such tasks never held any interest for him. They eventually switched Aaron to sensory activities but sign language was out of the question. All that would soon change as it was around this same time that the workshop announced its intention to close.

In light of this news, Aaron’s mother, Sue, visited several programs in search of a new service provider. During her initial tour of Merrick, Sue was impressed by how in-tune staff were to clients’ needs and preferred communication styles. Shortly after enrolling Aaron at Merrick, Sue knew she had chosen wisely. Whereas staff at the workshop were reluctant to use sign language, the staff at Merrick used sign language with Aaron from the very beginning and even branched out into less explored forms of communication such as picture boards.

These days Aaron’s time at Merrick is spent engaging with a plethora of life enrichment activities such as jigsaw puzzles, coloring pages, and horticulture therapy. One of his favorite activities is playing catch. Except he doesn’t play catch with a baseball. Aaron plays with a large bright pink ball with white polka dots and makes little sounds of delight as he watches the ball fly through the air and bounce off his outstretched finger tips. Aaron’s life isn’t all fun and games though. Staff are continuously introducing him to new ASL signs, and most recently have been focusing on teaching him staff name signs.

After five years at Merrick, Sue can definitely say she’s noticed a difference. These days, Aaron is often described as laid back and easy-going, and that wasn’t always the case. Now whether that’s partly because he’s not as young as he once was or because of Merrick, Sue can’t say for certain. But she wouldn’t bet against either.

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2021 Charity Golf Scramble | And the winners are …

Published June 1, 2021

A big thank you to all who participated in Merrick’s 26th Charity Golf Scramble on May 24. Here is a list of the winners from the event. If you see your name listed and have not received your prize, please email Megan Kuneli at to arrange a pick-up date and time. Pictures from the event are also now available and may be viewed at

Team Winners

1st Place Team
Team 17B – Ferlic Filter

12th Place Team
Team 15B – Lindenmeyr Monroe

25th Place Team
Team 1A – Lake Area Bank 1

Golf Contests

Closest to the Pin
Women – Kelly Tanke
Men – Joe Kirk

Longest Putt
Women – Ceil Boesche
Men – Bob Davis

Longest Drive
Women – Kelly Tanke
Men – Tim Madison

On-Course Games

Beat the Boss – Kim Trenary

Chip for a Chance – Matt Lese

50/50 Cash Raffle – Marc Campbell

Can Raffle Winners

A Walk in the Golf Park – Keith Hisdahl
Amusement Park at its Finest – Mike Carroll
Black Russian Basket – Scott Lingle
Bourbon Basket – Chris Schumacher
Callaway Golf Stand Bag – Brent Lunke
Clothes Valet Stand – Jennifer Hilleren
Cousins Autographed Football – Jonathan Heimer
Invictus Brewing Donation Box – Brent Lunke
Let’s Have a Bowl – Kristin Mahre
Meat Bundle – Ceil Boesche
Mendakota Country Club Twosome – John Marzitelli
Minneapolis Brewery Crawl – Ron Ledoux
On White Bear Lake Time – Kristin Mahre
Smoke on the Water – Mary Morley
Take My Out to the Twins – Joe Trenary
Troy Burne Foursome & Carts – Jake Hauck
Wine & Dine Basket – Marc Campbell
Weber Grill – Mike Carroll
Zubaz for Two – Kevin Kelly

2021 Online AuctionReady, Set, Bid!

Starting on Monday, October 25, you’re invited to place bids at Merrick, Inc.’s 4th Annual Online Auction for the chance to come out on top when bidding closes on Thursday, November 4.

With the holiday season just around the corner, this is a perfect opportunity for you to find a unique gift for a loved one while also supporting a worthy cause.

Go to today to place your bids.