It’s a new year and there’s wider appreciation for something we have valued for a long time – socialization. Who could have predicted that a virus would help us to appreciate the small talk, the jokes and “how are you” moments that some took for granted in our in-person world of early 2020?

Though lockdowns are a memory and restaurants have reopened, many daytime services for people with disabilities are operating remotely, and I’ve been quite impressed with our efforts. During virtual online classes, people are dancing in the background. We see parents and roommates participating and there’s laughter; laughter is good for the soul! The sessions are not tied to any ProAct location, so participants are making new friends from outside their area.

Move to six-hour days

For those who come to us for in-person services, we can now provide them for six hours per day rather than the three we were initially allowed, and some have made the switch. Our Shakopee location has almost fully converted to six-hour service days. In Eagan and Red Wing, some have chosen to stick with three hours and stay busy with other things at home. Of course, services depend upon the willingness of families to send their loved ones and trust us with a safe environment. We have many protocols in place for sanitizing, masks and social distancing.

Service hours are what keep us going as an organization and I am pleased to report that there were significant gains late in 2020. In addition to virtual offerings, we have center- and community-based services, care calls, group and individual employment supports. Financially, ProAct is on a good path. As we weather the situation, things are getting better and it seems we are rounding the corner. We started out strong before the pandemic, so that has helped. People are hoping that the COVID-19 vaccines bring back some normalcy by the fall, but we have to wait and see.

Honoring our retiring CEO, his legacy

This month marks a special moment in ProAct’s history with the retirement of our CEO, Steve Ditschler. I’ve been fortunate to have his input these past few months, drawing on the more than 20 years he spent building the organization. When our board met recently, we honored him with a 20-year plaque, mementos of his time here and a tribute video featuring many people from his ProAct career. A story and short video in this issue highlights his character, and his commitment to the organization.

Zumbrota

Another change you may have heard about was the decision to close our Zumbrota location, which had provided services since 1994. Many of the people we served there had high medical needs and the initial suspension of services hit this location particularly hard. The participants have been offered alternative services such as our virtual enrichment, or to participate in other options of their choosing. Zumbrota, which was managed through Red Wing, was the first location to adopt the ProAct name, which the entire organization adopted 19 years ago.

Thank you for your commitment to ProAct through these unpredictable times, for valuing what we do and playing your part. We are hopeful for a brighter future in 2021.

Judie Foster-Lupkin
President and CEO