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Bark’s Bytes #16 | Outreach


With the 2012 Legislative Session in our rearview mirror, I am more convinced than ever that DT&H programs need to be educating their communities about how they make a positive difference in the lives of citizens with disabilities. As an example, whether you were a proponent of the stadium bill or not, it is clear that Vikings’ fans contacting their legislators in the last few weeks made a difference in the result. It is no longer acceptable to just do good work. We must also work hard to tell others about the good we do or accept not being valued by policymakers.

Outreach became a focus at Merrick, Inc., in March of 2011 when the Board of Trustees approved a plan to engage a communications consultant for a period of 13-months to accomplish some very specific deliverables. After soliciting for proposals, an internal ad hoc committee selected Kristi Hamilton of En Root Marketing & Communications as our consultant and she began her contract on 6/1/11. Her work with us has included conducting focus groups to refine our key organizational messages, leading us through a refresh of our branding, launching a virtual tour on our website, and laying the groundwork for proactive outreach with the community at large and potential business partners. 

In addition to the communication consultant, we planned for a 20-hour communications specialist position and in late September of 2011 welcomed Emberly (Em) Hermann-Johnson to the company. During the interviews, I asked each applicant their thoughts on my Bark’s Bytes editorials. Em’s response was the best with, “You seem to know what you are talking about and it was TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read).” I knew then we had found the right person for the job.

As our communication specialist, Em seems to be involved in most everything happening at Merrick and is principally responsible for:

  • training Trustees and Managers to effectively use social media to advance the company’s mission;
  • managing email messaging, enewsletters, social media pages, and the website;
  • producing program and annual report print media;
  • coordinating the company’s stakeholder database;
  • tracking and reporting web and social media analytics; and
  • supporting my civic and business outreach activities.

A goal of mine is to make at least one presentation a month to a local business about the capabilities of our client workforce and to one civic organization about the benefits of our program. To do this, we use a “Point of Entry” model to identify, research, qualify, and schedule presentations with potential business partners and civic organizations in our community. All of this to accomplish two primary objectives:

  1. To find meaningful work for clients at Merrick, which we define as work preferred by the client, done mostly by the client, in a setting of the client’s choice, with consistent desired hours, and satisfactory wages.
  2. To have citizens understand that the clients we serve and their communities are better for the services having been delivered.

A reality for the clients we serve is that work is an essential part of being genuinely integrated in their communities because either they work at a business and/or their earnings give them the discretionary income needed to be an active citizen. Modifying a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., “True integration will be achieved by true businesses who are willingly obedient to unenforceable obligations” encourages us to educate businesses on the benefits of employing people with disabilities and they will then voluntarily find those opportunities.

For the eighth straight year, client earnings went up and in 2011, clients paid through Merrick earned over $565,000. Still, we seek meaningful work for about 16 clients on-site, 18 clients on work crews, and six clients looking for independent placements. So, if you know of a business and/or civic group we should be driving home our messaging to, please send me your leads at I firmly believe through networking and spreading the message of the good work we do, we will be able to successfully continue our journey of empowering adults with disabilities.