Report to the Community 2019-20

Published January 7, 2021

We’re proud to announce that Merrick, Inc.’s Report to the Community 2019-2020 is now available for your viewing pleasure and can be downloaded by clicking here. Readers will encounter the following in this year’s Report to the Community:

  • A Message from the Executive Director
  • A Summary of Our Programs
  • Volunteer, Business Partner, and Client Spotlights;
  • Merrick By the Numbers;
  • and more.

Download 2020 Report

2020 Online Auction | Ready, Set, Bid!

Published November 9, 2020

Merrick, Inc., is pleased to announce our 3rd Annual Online Auction starting Monday, November 9, 2020.

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 19, at 9 pm.

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

  • Autographed Kyle Rudolph Football
  • Autographed Matt Dumba Minnesota Wild Jersey
  • Haskell’s Wine Basket
  • Restaurant Gift Card Bundle
  • Troy Burne Golf Club Foursome & Cars
  • Wedding Day Diamonds pendants

NewTrax Wins 2020 VHEDC Community Partnership Award

Published November 5, 2020

We’re so proud of our non-profit partner, Newtrax, on receiving the 2020 Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation Community Partnership Award. Way to go, Mike Greenbaum, Scott Olson, and the rest of the Newtrax team!

Check out the article “A Different Sort of Meals on Wheels” written by the White Bear Press to learn more about the amazing things happening at NewTrax.

2020 Annual Client Awards Ceremony

Published October 8, 2020

On October 1, 2020, Merrick, Inc., held our annual client awards ceremony. Though it looked significantly different this year, the event continued to be a special opportunity to recognize the contributions and achievements of clients supported by Merrick. We recorded this special occasion and uploaded it to YouTube for all the proud parents, family members, case managers, and caregivers who were unable to attend the event in-person. Please join us in congratulating these amazing individuals for their hard work and dedication.

During the ceremony, we also took a moment to recognize and remember Bobby Petersen and Leslie Polister. Both would have been celebrating their 35th year with Merrick and have been dearly missed since their passing. Stories from Merrick staff were shared in loving memory of Bobby and Leslie who touched our hearts for so many years. You can view the tributes to Bobby and Leslie by clicking here.

In this unusual year, some families observed their loved ones getting awards via FaceTime or Zoom. Other clients who are participating in remote services are receiving their awards on their doorsteps with social distancing. We have heard from one family that is planning to show the video at their own celebration. We are happy that these client successes are still being recognized and celebrated!

Governor Walz Proclaims October Disability Employment Awareness Month

Published October 1, 2020

On the 29th of September, Governor Tim Walz proclaimed October 2020 as Disability Employment Awareness Month and in doing so reaffirmed the value of individuals with disabilities in the workplace and the importance of employers who provide opportunities for work experience. You may view the proclamation for yourself by clicking here.

It is reaffirming to know that the needs and contributions of individuals with disabilities do not go unnoticed, but the fact remains that the unemployment rate of this group is double that of people without disabilities. There is still a great deal of work to be done, and that’s why we hope you will join us this October in celebrating the employers in our community who have made a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Follow Merrick, Inc., on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to watch for more posts about National Disability Employment Awareness Month or, better yet, create your own posts celebrating these amazing employers. Just be sure to include #NDEAM in your posts to help spread the word.

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.

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

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.

Tim and his mother Cindie 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 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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