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Advocates for elders, people with disabilities honored

Awards to recognize those making lasting difference in lives of others

7/31/2019 2:05:34 PM

A large aging and disabilities conference that opens Wednesday in Duluth will recognize advocates who work with older Minnesotans and Minnesotans with disabilities. 
The 2019 Age & Disabilities Odyssey Conference is expected to draw about 1,800 professionals who work with older adults and people with disabilities. The Age & Disabilities Odyssey Awards recognize outstanding efforts to bring possibilities to life for older adults and people with disabilities. The awards will be presented at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Lake Superior Ballroom at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
“The work of these advocates make real and lasting differences in the lives of people with disabilities and older adults,” said Claire Wilson, Human Services deputy commissioner.
The award winners, selected from 44 nominations, are:
  • Raj Chaudhary, founder and chief operating officer of SEWA-AIFW (Asian Indian Family Wellness). Chaudhary started the organization in 2004 to bring total family wellness to the South Asian Indian community in Minnesota. The organization supports elders to live with dignity and respect, empowers the community to be healthy and free of violence, helps families in crisis, and reaches out to the underserved. She has helped recruit and train volunteers sensitive to the ethnic and cultural needs of the Asian Indian community.

  • The Northland Foundation’s AGE to age Program. Launched in 2008 as part of a national initiative focused on civic engagement and wellbeing for older adults, this program gives youth, older adults and those in between a path to interact, form friendships, maintain social connections and improve their communities. AGE to age has spawned more than 1,000 community programs across 15 rural communities and three tribal nations in northeastern Minnesota. These include the Reading Pals program for older adults and children, community gardens involving all ages and technology education sessions between older adults and youth.

  • The Center for Excellence in Supported Decision Making, a program of Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin. The center works to shift Minnesota away from one-size-fits-all reliance on court-appointed guardianships and toward supported decision-making, an approach where people make their own decisions with the support of a trusted team. By bringing together professionals, people with disabilities and their supports, the center has educated and trained thousands. Its work to change perceptions about guardianship and to promote person-centered decision-making practices continues.

  • The Hennepin County Homeless Access team. This team collaborates with nonprofit agencies running shelters in Hennepin County for single adults with mental health conditions who have experienced trauma. The team helps get individuals into shelters and breaks down barriers to find and maintain secure housing.
The awards are a highlight of the Odyssey conference, the largest joint event sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Board on Aging. The training and development conference is held every two years. Those who attend include government workers, providers and other stakeholders. 
“Our mission is to support choice and quality in long-term services and supports,” said Kari Benson, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging. “The conference is a great opportunity to recognize people who are excelling in this work.”
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