Taking a Break With Melanie Horner

Submitted by Kath Pengelly, Lifeworks volunteer and advocate coordinator

Once a week, Tuesdays at noon to be precise, Melanie Horner never misses lunch and we are so glad. Melanie uses her lunch break from Northwestern Mutual in Mendota Heights to volunteer at our Lifeworks Eagan center.

Melanie volunteering on her lunch break at Lifeworks Eagan, working on art crafts

She first came to Lifeworks three years ago to help at a holiday party while she was working for a different employer. This year, she began working for Northwestern Mutual and discovered that she could use her lunch break to volunteer, so she reconnected with us to help during a weekly art class.

I asked Melanie what she liked best about spending Tuesdays with us, and she said she enjoys sharing her personal hobbies and interests with us. She and our clients and staff have a common passion for exploring eclectic crafts. The day that I caught up with her they were using photographs and card stock to make postcards for friendship notes.

“It is so nice to have this to look forward to each week, it is my get away to do good,” she said. She was quick to add, “I have a very flexible boss and he helps to make this possible.” Melanie added, “Jean, the staff that I work with, has great ideas, has everything organized, this is so easy to do during my work day.”

Studies have shown that people who take a break for lunch from work feel rejuvenated when they return, experience less stress and may be more focused on their tasks.

We benefit in so many ways by Melanie’s generosity, having her with us allows extra one to one support for the crafters. Our clients talk about Tuesday,” Melanie is coming”, and smiles are everywhere when she walks in the room. Her gift is more than the hour, it is genuine camaraderie.

How about you? Do you have an hour that you would like to share with others? Please call me at 651-365-3720 or email me at kpengelly@lifeworks.org Take a break.

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Ice Cream, Ice Cream, We all Scream for Ice Cream!

Submitted by Kath Pengelly, volunteer and advocate coordinator at Lifeworks

Lifeworks client Peter Goldberg, singer for the Lifeworks Rock of Ages band

Picture a hot sunny summer day, 90 degrees out and steamy. Now think about frosty ice cream treats, water balloons, water blasters, fun crafts and great music to boot. Sounds like fun to me. On June 27, Lifeworks Eagan hosted a wiz bang ice cream social complete with ice cream and a water balloon toss. It was a glorious day to celebrate summer and cool off from the heat. We were supported in our celebration by employees from Uponor in Apple Valley. They came to help, celebrate and have fun too.Music was provided by two of our Lifeworks bands, The Rock of Ages and also the AT Real Time Band. While the music was heating up the ice cream was cooling us down.  

The Rock of Ages band with Lifeworks President and CEO, Judy Lysne (far right) and PCA Joe Bernes (lower left)

Groups like the Uponor employees are an important ingredient to making events a success. Thanks Uponor for making the fun time more fun. In my opinion, ice cream is happiness condensed, thanks for helping us find happiness.

Uponor volunteers, Melony Denson and Jon Mendel at the crafts table

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Breathe Just Breathe

Submitted by Kath Pengelly, volunteer and advocate coordinator at Lifeworks

“Lift your arms, let’s do some breath work. Try to keep your balance and don’t forget to breathe.” That’s Kristen Blinkhorn, our yoga instructor from the Prairie Yoga School in Eden Prairie talking to our Bloomington clients. Every Monday morning Kristen comes, sometimes alone and sometimes with Stephanie Braunwarth to help us stretch and work on balance, but most of all, relax.  

Yoga instructor and Lifeworks volunteer, Kristen Blinkhorn

Kristen responded to a volunteer posting I had placed on a volunteer website, Yoga Instructor Wanted sometime last March. She explained that she and Stephanie were students at Prairie Yoga studying to become instructors. Part of their education is to also bring the practice of yoga to underserved populations. It was the perfect match for us, I thought. 

Kristen and Stephanie have been coming now for seven weeks, and when I asked what surprised them most about the people in their class, Kristen said, “I was very surprised that several in the group have previous knowledge of yoga. I had never considered that they might already be practitioners.” But she quickly went on to say, “I try to teach them one new thing each week, they are so willing to try new poses and work on focus and concentration…Of course, everyone’s favorite pose is shavasana, the relaxation pose at the end of all yoga sessions.” 

Ethel Cartier, our Bloomington Program Supervisor, talked about the benefits of having Kristen and Stephanie volunteer with us. “Everyone looks forward to Monday and doing yoga, it helps our clients with flexibility. They are so appreciative and it has a wonderful calming effect on the group. It is a great way to start the week.”

Lifeworks clients practicing yoga at Lifeworks Bloomington

I also asked the clients in the class what they liked best about doing yoga. Renita was quick to say,” It makes me feel great, for my whole body.” Ryan added, “I think it helps my attitude.” And finally Sarah chimed in, “I like everything.” 

Each class session ends with the instructors facing the class, everyone’s hands flat, palms together at chest level, a small bow and then the word, Namaste.” Namaste, derived from Sanskrit, can be used as a greeting or as a farewell but here I want to use it as a thank you. Thank you Kristen and Stephanie for volunteering with us, your gentle spirits have created memories that will linger forever.   

If you would like to volunteer at Lifeworks, I can guarantee that there is someone who would like to learn about your talents, interests and hobbies. Please call me, Kath Pengelly, at 651-365-3720 or send me an email, kpengelly@lifeworks.org

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E-volunteer Network Equals Excellent Volunteers

Submitted by Kath Pengelly, Lifeworks volunteer and advocate coordinator 

Did you know that in Hastings there is a web site where you can see amazing volunteer opportunities throughout the city all in one place?

The Hastings E-volunteer Network is celebrating its first year of posting and placing volunteers. The web site is sponsored by the United Way of Hastings and can be found at www.unitedwayofhastings.org. There are opportunities for everyone: individuals, groups, and families, with the option to participate during the day, evening or on weekends. Take a peek, you will be surprised. You could be an everyday hero right in your own community. Lend your muscle, open your heart, and make a difference.  

Patti Kieffer, volunteer at Lifeworks Hastings

Patti Kieffer, a retired nurse, found her volunteer opportunity through the E-volunteer Network. Once a week she volunteers at Lifeworks Hastings. Patti helps in the art room, offering encouragement and support while Lifeworks clients create, explore and discover their passion for art. When asked why she volunteers, Patti said, “Going to Lifeworks enriches my life; I always leave feeling like I get more than I give.” “The staff are so creative and caring; I am honored to be there.” Patti also went on to say, “Hastings has many wonderful charities, it is a tribute to our community that so many people volunteer.”

I asked Patti if she had an, ‘Ah Ha,’ moment after spending time with us and she said, “All of the people served by Lifeworks are so proud of each other and their work. I feel very humbled and blessed to be a small part of their life. Life does work.”

How about you? Someone once said, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” Live United, volunteer today. Please call me at 651-365-3720 or email me at kpengelly@lifeworks.org. There is an opportunity waiting for you.

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At the Lifeworks Annual Celebration presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, 925 guests joined in celebrating the evening’s theme of Empower, Inspire,  Achieve. The Annual Celebration was held on April 19, 2012 at The Depot in Minneapolis honoring people who have triumphed over adversity and those who have championed their cause – the people we serve, our business partners, employers, donors, volunteers, and other members of the Lifeworks community.

Lifeworks Annual Celebration

View more photos from the Annual Celebration on the Lifeworks Flickr page.

Due to the generosity of guests and sponsors, Lifeworks was able to raise over $26,000 through the live and silent art auction, and over $83,000 during the special ask for transportation funding – helping purchase a new bus for Lifeworks clients! Additionally, event sponsors whose generosity totaled $137,000, made the Annual Celebration possible.

The evening began with an open cocktail hour for all guests in the Depot’s Great Hall including a silent art auction, viewing of the Lifeworks Traveling Art Show, a special presentation of sculptures from the Diversity is Enrichment exhibit, and a networking reception room sponsored be SCICOM Data Services. Guests later moved to The Depot’s Pavilion for dinner and the evening’s program. In addition to The Depot’s delicious menu and skill in accommodating nearly 1,000 hot dinners, Peace Coffee donated the evening’s coffee and created charming center pieces that were later gifted to guests whose birthdays corresponded to the event’s date.

In her opening remarks, Judy Lysne, president and CEO of Lifeworks Services, drove home the theme of the evening with her inspiring words,

“Lifeworks believes that we all carry the power to achieve- regardless of ability, and we aim to light the spark of inspiration for each and every person we serve. The simple belief in one’s ability to achieve is the foundation for self esteem, the building blocks for inspiration, and most importantly, achievement provides a vessel to inclusion and participation in the community.”

These words were exemplified throughout the evening as guests watched inspiring videos highlighting the achievements of Lifeworks Annual Award Winners, including:

Unitron Hearing, Employer of the Year

Gary Grundy, Advocate of the Year

Larry Olding, Personal Achievement

David Spragg, Personal Achievement

Click on the names above to watch any of the Lifeworks Annual Award winner’s videos on the Lifeworks YouTube page.

Following the award presentation, auctioneer Glen Fladeboe took the floor for a live auction. As always, Fladeboe expressed charm and pizzazz as he hosted the auction of several titillating items leading to intense bidding wars, including a locked battle for the famous Dinner with Judy item.

Lifeworks Annual Celebration

To end the evening, a special ask was conducted to help shoulder the burden of transportation costs with the goal of purchasing a new Lifeworks bus. To add meat to the ask, the bus in question was actually in the parking lot presented to the guests through a live video feed. The response was overwhelming, with guest contributing amounts from $25 all the way up to $5,000, ensuring the goal of $80,000 was met and exceeded!

In the end, Judy Lysne offered her heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all the guests of the Lifeworks Annual Celebration for empowering individuals to believe in themselves, inspiring each person to explore their deepest ambitions, and providing support so that every individual can experience the satisfaction of achievement.

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Lifeworks Social Skills at Anoka Technical College

Lifeworks client Tavarrus Robinson smiling on graduation day

Submitted by Kath Pengelly, Lifeworks volunteer and advocate coordinator 

Do you remember your first days at college, finding your way from classroom to classroom, deciding what the best thing to eat in the cafeteria was or remembering to turn in your assignments on time? In September 2011, Lifeworks began a partnership with Anoka Technical College to offer a similar college experience for clients wanting to work on their social skills. A series of classes were developed to cover a broad variety of topics including: reading and understanding nonverbal cues, addressing a problem, how to politely interrupt and finally, “the business lunch.”

Fast forward to April 2012 – This week I had the pleasure of attending a graduation ceremony for the second group of Lifeworks clients who have completed the eight week long Business Social Skills class. Thirteen Lifeworks clients along with their staff attended this series. 

The Lifeworks classroom sign at Anoka Tech

I watched with curiosity and interest as the instructors led our group through the last session which included a mock interview. “Watch for eye contact, good posture, tone of voice and smiles,” said both Craig Asche and Jean Juelich, the college instructors. At first I was not sure if everyone was listening to the instructions, but it was clear that they were at full attention as I listened to the critiques, “Good eye contact Tavarras.” “Good job on your smile, Judy.” “You look very nice today, Steven.” 

Good reminders to all of us. Practical information that will contribute to success for everyone- make eye contact, be an active listener, and most importantly, smile. I can say without a doubt that everyone’s face wore a smile as each student accepted their certificate of completion from Jean and Craig.  

In the next few weeks, Lifeworks program supervisor, Angi Reisdorf, will be meeting with the Anoka Technical College instructors to plan future classes. We want to foster a culture of lifelong learning for all people. Everyone benefits from continually building their skills and knowledge whether it is through experiences or classes. There is a Chinese Proverb that says,

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”

Thank you Anoka Technical College for partnering with Lifeworks, who knows what treasure lies behind those doors.

Left to right: Lifeworks staff Jamie Kauppi and Andrew Felicilda, Lifeworks client Judy Carnahan, and Anoka Tech instructors Craig Asche and Jean Juelich

 

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When you leave someone out, what are you missing?

At the invitation of the University of St. Thomas, Lifeworks and Midwest Special Services (MSS) joined forces to create an art exhibit for America’s largest diversity and inclusion conference, the Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Diversity is Enrichment is an art installation of works presented by Lifeworks and MSS.

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The exhibit celebrates diversity and innovation in the workplace highlighted by a collection of human form sculptures created from reclaimed and found materials by artists with disabilities. Using re-purposed and recycled supplies demonstrates diversity and invites the viewer to consider innovative solutions.

The installation places over 35 sculptures in a circle – representing community, interdependence, and reliance on one another. Within the circle, each unique work of art represents the distinctive role of the individual in life and in our community.

Each figure plays an important role in the arrangement – which leads the audience to ask, “When you leave someone out, what are you missing?”

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