Tag Archives: disabilities

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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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.


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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Where Should We Go for Lunch?

Submitted by: Kath Pengelly, volunteer and advocate coordinator at Lifeworks

Famous Civil Rights Activist, Cesar Chavez, once said, “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him.” Well every other Wednesday, Theresa and John Dahlberg have definitely extended their friendship to Scott Strohman(Lifeworks client) as they meet for lunch on the second floor of the Securian Building in downtown St. Paul for lunch.  

It isn’t exactly anyone’s house but instead a bustling gathering space on the second floor of a large corporation. A meal is shared, interesting conversation exchanged  and absolutely friendship has occurred. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Theresa, John, Scott and his job coach, Beth Coppock. Theresa and John have now been volunteering during their lunch time for one and a half years. I asked them, “Why do you do this?” Theresa was quick to respond,

“Scott is so friendly, fun and he amazes John and I with his knowledge of sports and music. This is an easy way for us to volunteer and give back to our community.”  

Scott shares the same enthusiasm about the lunch time meetings. He said, “ It is so nice to have someone to talk to, and meet someone new. John likes sports too. I like having the company of others and finding out what they are like.” 

Theresa added, “Recently I ran into Scott outside of work. We both went to the Winter Carnival on the weekend. What a nice surprise to see him there too.” 

Theresa, Scott and John pictured together

Theresa, Scott & John

I asked if they would recommend this volunteer opportunity to anyone else. “Both John and Theresa answered at the same time, “Yes, this is an easy way to volunteer while you are at work- meet someone twice a month for an hour at a time.”  

Scott’s job coach, Beth Coppock, said that Scott’s job as a Securian Mail Center Messenger requires him to be completely focused on his work. Having a scheduled day and time to meet with Theresa and John is an intentional time to make a friend. Beth went on to say that there are other people served by Lifeworks at Securian who also have Securian volunteers meeting them for lunch but she can certainly use more. 

Having a friend is something we all want. Friendship expands our individual worlds. To have a friend and be a friend brings more meaning to our lives. If you currently work at one of our employers, contact me if you would like to schedule a lunchtime volunteer opportunity. If you would like to come to one of our centers for lunch, conversation and friendship, there are people waiting there too for a lunch time friend. Call me at 651-365-3720 or email me at kpengelly@lifeworks.org

Who knows where things will go over lunch? When I left Scott, Theresa and John they were heading toward the food court at the Norwest Center.


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Global Health Ministries

Lifeworks client sorting mail for Global Health Ministries

Starting at the beginning of 2012, Lifeworks Brooklyn Park has found a way to give back to the global community by participating in a very special program through Global Health Ministries (GHM). Global Health Ministries, founded in 1987 by returning Lutheran medical missionaries, carries out its mission through the gathering and shipping of requested medical supplies and equipment to Lutheran partners in over thirty countries. Since then, GHM has developed a nation-wide network of supporters for Lutheran mission hospitals and health care programs in over thirty countries.

Every Wednesday Lifeworks clients who wish to participate take a trip to Fridley arriving at 9:30 a.m. excited to volunteer, have lunch on location, and work until 1:00 p.m. One task they perform is quality checks on baby kits. These kits are given to pregnant women in Africa who check into clinics to birth their child. The kits contain a blanket, an outfit and a hat, and are highly sought after. GHM says that women will travel great distances to go to these clinics especially for the baby kits.

Another project Lifeworks clients participate in is the assembling of hospice kits for AIDS patients. Once a month, they sort through donations received by mail and enter information into the database. GHM uses the information entered by clients to order supplies for their clinics. Angi Reisdorf, program supervisor at Lifeworks Brooklyn Park says that clients enjoy the idea of giving back and helping others. Lifeworks Brooklyn Park plans to keep volunteering every week for as long as GHM needs help.

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The Lifeworks 2011 Holiday Choir and Variety Show

Submitted by Adrian Freeman, interactive marketing and communications specialist, Lifeworks

What is the power of 20 red and green holiday clad singers belting out their favorite Christmas carols? How would someone go about grading the energy of the 2011 Holiday Choir and Variety Show? Can such a thing even be measured? We may not have an accurate measurement like horse power or Fahrenheit for such things.  We simply do not have a system to measure holiday cheer with any certainty.  That said, there was magic in the room at St. Luke Presbyterian church on a hazy, warm December morning in the deep and quaint backstreets of Wayzeta.  Holiday cheer was present in abundance, along with a good bit of joy, glee, exuberance, and maybe even a tad of jocundity.  It was electric. If it does indeed need to be measured, let’s just say it scores 101 whiskers on the Santa Beard Scale of Cheer. That means it was good.

Lifeworks Holiday Choir

The Lifeworks Holiday Choir from left to right: Johanna Schmidt, Jenna Horgan, Tavarrus Robinson, Judy Carnahan, Shelli Wickstrom, Jennifer Roache, Johnathan Straub, Alex Kim, Anna Phillips, Lori Schaller, Nicole Laufers, Heather Schullo, Racheal Crandall, Caleb Rasmussen, Angela Balfanz, Aaron Godzala, Sarah Debbins, Charles Duffney, Dustin Kiefer, Lindie Seleen, Andrea Hoopman

The 2011 Holiday Choir and Variety Show was a delight to those who attended and those who participated alike.  The show included holiday favorite songs like “Jingle Bells”, “Joy to the World”, and “Dreidel”, as well as dancing, comedy, a piano solo, artwork, and more.  The large center of worship was filled with family, friends, peers, and nearly the entire Lifeworks finance team, who reveled in the performance with cheers and applause. Heather Schullo, choir singer, said this of the show,

“It brought everyone together, and I think everyone really enjoyed themselves.  We worked really hard and came a long way, it was so much fun!”

Lifeworks Heather Schullo

Heather Schullo looking calm and confident before the performance

This was the general attitude of all the performers concerning the show.  For many it was their way of saying thank you to the community by giving the gift of holiday cheer to others. Some had a special reason for singing in the show.  Lindie Seleen said

“I hope I sang well.  My dad was in the audience, and I was singing for him the whole time.”

The 2011 Holiday Choir and Variety Show was the brain child of Jenna Horgan, music therapist at lifeworks, Service Facilitator Johanna Schmidt, and individuals served at lifeworks Brooklyn Park. This group of talented people with various abilities and expertise devised the Holiday Choir and Variety Show as a way to embrace performance while giving back to the community.  Originally, Jenna had the idea of a choir as a way to enhance services at Lifeworks Brooklyn Park. Singing has always been her thing, and as a musical therapist she understood that a choir could go a long way to further the goals of many people served at Lifeworks.  She approached Lifeworks Brooklyn Park as a potential home base to populate her choir, and there she was directed to Johanna.  Johanna, a long time fan of Lifeworks Brooklyn Park performance in all its forms, had been organizing a holiday variety show for the last few years.  This turned out to be a perfect match.  Jenna was looking for participants for her choir, Johanna had been organizing performers at Lifeworks Brooklyn Park, and those served at Brooklyn Park were chewing at the bit for an opportunity like the Holiday Choir to perform.

Lifeworks Jenna and Johanna

Johanna and Jenna, the Holiday Choir and Variety Show organizers celebrating after a job well done.

Before the show, the choir and performers were both professional and pumped up.  Everyone was decked out in either red or green attire to show that the holiday spirit was alive.  Caleb, an experienced singer, was a model performer sporting an elegant button top colored red Polo sweater and green tie.  Everyone was in their season’s finest, a site to behold.  The mood was jovial, smiles being the preferred expression.  Surprisingly, everyone was calm with only a smattering of tense, anxious energy.  This was because Johanna and Jenna had run a tight practicing ship in preparation.  This was no “get up and sing” improv concert, this was hard work, training, and preparation.  The laid back attitude of the participants was evidence to this point.

Lifeworks Holiday Crowd

The crowd enjoying the Lifeworks Holiday Choir

Kath Pengelly, Lifeworks volunteer/advocate coordinator handed out programs and showed guests to their seats.  With grace and poise she greeted arrivals and marveled at the turnout.  Many Lifeworks locations came out to see the concert.  Even Lifeworks Hasting showed up, braving the hour long winter drive to Wayzeta.  Many parents and family members were happy to attend and catch up with acquaintances before the show.  Judy Lysne, Lifeworks president and CEO was excited to see so many familiar faces and visit with old friends.

Lifeworks Holiday Solo

Jingle Bells performed by the Lifeworks Holiday Choir

The show began in a hush as Jenna quietly took the conducting stand and gestured for her choir to rise. The choir stood, lifting their matching red music folders and sang.  As voices filled the room with song, the audience’s attention was absolute.  Smiles and looks of adoration decorated the face of the watchers and camera flashes twinkled like tiny stars on a Christmas night. Each song progressed with skill and passion.  Many songs included solos by select singers.  After one such shared solo by Caleb and Aaron Godzala, they shook hands to congratulate each other for a job well done.  It was a touching moment.  The variety aspect of the show was a refreshing change of pace, adding a sense of adventure to the morning.  Dustin tickled the audience’s humor with his holiday jokes, a moving piano solo was performed by Alex Kim, and a special dance and drum performance was particularly tasteful.  Even posters for the show were made specially by Charles Duffney.

Lifeworks Holiday Choir

Soloists Caleb Rasmussen and Aaron Godzala knock it out of the park

The show ended with a standing ovation that obviously touched the performer’s hearts.  As the clapping died away, friends and family nearly barreled over each other in an attempt to reach the choir and congratulate them for a job well done.  The scene was suddenly filled with hugs, high-fives, and handshakes.  Angela VanKeulen met with her friend Judy Carnahan and said “You did such a good job, I had no idea you had such a good voice, but once you got the microphone I could hear it.  It was well done.” Caleb reflected about his experience, and had this to say about the choir,

“Singing is important because it helps other feel  good, and helps me do well in life.”

Now, the choir is continuing their journey.  They are in the process of learning new songs for their next show, soon to be determined.  Keep an eye here on this blog and also on the Lifeworks Facebook page to get information about upcoming shows for the Lifeworks Choir.

Watch a video of the choir performing Dreidal.

See more pictures of the 2011 Lifeworks Holiday Choir and Variety Show on our Flickr page here.

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Lifeworks Music Therapy

submitted by Jenna Horgan, MT-BC, neurologic music therapist


Music is a rich part of our lives and is important in cultures throughout the world. It has the ability to elevate our mood, decrease anxiety, and provide a sense of comfort. We might listen to music, sing, or play an instrument in order to raise our energy level, relax, or express ourselves.  In the words of individuals from music therapy sessions at Lifeworks Burnsville, “Music makes us want to dance and sing!”

Lifeworks Music Therapist, Jennie Delisi with Bobbie Jean Ashton in a music therapy session

Music therapy helps individuals develop cognitive, physical, social,and communication skills that encourage independence and build confidence.

Music therapists work in a variety of clinical settings including day programs, nursing homes, hospice, schools, correctional facilities, and rehabilitation centers. Components of music therapy include singing, music listening, moving, playing instruments, songwriting, and discussion.  According to the American Music Therapy Association,

“Music is processed in both hemispheres of the brain, (therefore) music can stimulate cognitive functioning and can be used for remediation of some speech and language skills” (http://www.musictherapy.org).

Lifeworks employs two board- certified neurologic music therapists, Jenna Horgan and Jennie Delisi. They provide group and individual music therapy at 6 Lifeworks locations.  A Lifeworks Career Development or Social Enrichment music therapy group often has the primary goals of improving social and communication skills. Each person in the group is working on specific and measurable objectives to reach their goals. Session plans are designed to address these goal areas, and data is kept on each person’s progress.

Lifeworks incorporates assistive technology into its music therapy program, making music more accessible for participants. Lifeworks music therapists use an IPod Touch, communication devices such as Dynavox, switches, and recording technology for music making and songwriting. One of our musical groups, the AT Real-Time Band, uses these technologies to perform songs like “Tequila” and “Hot, Hot Hot”!

Watch a video of a music therapy session:

If you would like more information about individual music therapy services at Lifeworks, please call Jennie Delisi at 651-365-3740 or email her at jdelisi@lifeworks.org.

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