ProAct has been providing enrichment programming for over 20 years to help develop life skills, expand knowledge and enhance community inclusion but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it needed a new avenue to reach its participants with disabilities safely and consistently ‑ “Virtual Enrichment Services” delivered remotely.
The day service provider with sites in the Twin Cities, southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin was named for a 2022 Life Enrichment Award by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR).
MOHR President Julie Johnson said the Life Enrichment Awards highlight the innovative and effective ways programs foster inclusion, respect, and dignity for people with disabilities. “These award recipients represent the best practices we have to offer Minnesotans with disabilities. They provide great opportunities that we should strive to emulate.”
Johnson presented the award virtually at the end of April to staff members from all ProAct sites. “We were nominated by two participant family members and we were thrilled they could join us as well,” said ProAct VP Kim Feller.
“Reading their nominations made it very clear to me that lives are being enriched, whether the participant is attending virtually or in-center,” she said. Feller said it is the passion of ProAct staff members that drives its programming. “They are the reason ProAct is successful, and I am forever grateful! It was a good morning and I am so proud of this wonderful team we have assembled.”
ProAct Senior Program Manager Stephanie Osman said the nonprofit has received praise, gratitude and much appreciation for the service. “This particular team of instructors is really the best the business has to offer and are so creative and eclectic with their talents.”
The service grew five-fold in the first seven months, reaching 175 participants. Individuals with disabilities found new independence and confidence, while increasing their technology skills, Osman explained. “Sing Along” classes are among the most popular, along with “MoveNGroove” and “Friendship Club.” The nonprofit rented Kindle units to allow more people to participate.
The award nomination was led by ProAct parents Terri Berger and Carol Murray. Virtual enrichment helped Berger’s son bounce back from depression and fulfilled a need for routine. ProAct takes a thorough approach in offering class materials and other assistance to maximize the experience for each person.
Murray’s son, Tony Judd, was served pre-pandemic by ProAct’s Shakopee location. He has gained ideas from the virtual sessions for positive activities to engage in on his own time. “The best thing ProAct could have ever done for Tony and others is to create virtual enrichment classes,” said Murray. The virtual engagements have also helped Berger’s son to become a better self-advocate and communicate his needs, his mother said.
Johnson said day and employment service providers use person-centered, individualized approaches to help people live the lives they choose, bringing a sense of accomplishment, belonging, and pride to tens of thousands of people across Minnesota. “ProAct pivoted to create a strong remote service option that allowed people to connect with their peers, engage in creative activities and thrive during a time that people were unable to access in person services,” she said.
The program helped people develop technology skills, increase their independence, develop new friendships and actively engage in group activities, Johnson explained. The virtual option increases access to service and allows people to choose their preferred method to connect to the services that meet their interests. “Proact continues to innovate their service model to help people thrive.”
With four locations, ProAct provides person-centered services that enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities in the areas of employment, life skills, and community inclusion. It is one of nearly 100 members of MOHR. The association advocates for and supports its nonprofit members which provide meaningful services to persons with disabilities and communities across Minnesota. Members are committed to respect for each individual, a person-centered approach and expanding opportunities. More information is available at mohrmn.org.