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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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Client Spotlight | Chris

Chris packing COVID-19 tests at Merrick’s Utility Services area.

An expert in onsite services, Chris has been part of our center-based workforce since 2018 and spends most of his workdays performing various light assembly and kitting tasks. From assembling greeting cards to bundling x-ray cassette covers, to packaging COVID-19 tests, Chris has done it all.

Prior to enrolling at Merrick, Chris worked several jobs including jobs at Goodwill, Episcopal Homes of Minnesota, and a local golf course. But none of it seemed to stick. When Chris learned that he could receive solid support services by enrolling at Merrick, he was all in. After over two years of receiving services, it is safe to say that he made a good decision. He is proud of the money he makes and the sense of freedom that comes with a steady paycheck. Though often described as a sweet and shy young man, Chris doesn’t hold back on calling attention to new clothes or shoes that he purchased with his own money!

Apart from the joy of having his own spending money, Chris enjoys the chance to occasionally go on “field trips” and enjoys engaging with his peers. But most days, he is content to put his best effort forward on whatever work order he is asked to do. As long as he has his headphones and John Legend singing sweet tunes into his ears, Chris is ready to give his all to the task at hand.

Though he dreams of being a millionaire, for the present Chris is content with life as it is. In his spare time, he can most often be found playing video games in the comfort of his home. Like many young adults, Chris doesn’t know what the future holds, but can say with certainty Merrick’s part in his journey is far from over.

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Client Spotlight | Tim

Tim and his mother Cindie at Merrick’s 2019 Bowl-A-Thon.

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 specialized 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 relieved because Tim was not only doing better in school, he was excelling in it.

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 six years of working onsite at Merrick, Tim was ready for a change. With the guidance and support of our employment services team, he was soon independently hired part-time by Gordmans where he worked in the stockroom. 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 in Roseville, MN 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 at Beltmann helped create an environment that both validated Tim’s strengths and encouraged future growth. Even as the work slowed, Beltmann continued to be interested in Tim and asked him to consider staying with the company, in a different position. When asked about his professional goals, he expressed to us a desire to work with phones. Soon, he was doing less 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, MN, 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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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.