New ProAct board chair talks funding, improvement, future focus

As a key provider in the disability services field, one of ProAct’s main tasks as an organization will be to keep a good handle on the changing landscape of funding sources and the emphasis being placed on programming, says new ProAct Board Chair Dr. John Christiansen.

“It’s not just saying ‘This is what we do, and we always do it this way.’ We are looking at better ways of serving the needs of our clients,” he said.

Special ed veteran knows system, watching changes

The former Intermediate School District 917 superintendent who served in such roles for 50 years said ProAct will continue to find ways to assist people with disabilities who need services as the number of providers continues to diminish.

Over the coming few years, Christiansen said it’s not yet clear how things will settle into the next iteration of day and employment services.

The work ProAct did prior to the pandemic was very much face-to-face, said the board chair. Participants came to ProAct’s facilities for programming, working on enclaves (crews), and received other work assistance.

Return has been positive for participants

Starting in 2020, things went mostly virtual for a time and now both formats are being offered as ProAct has adapted and improved through the experience.

“Coming back into a more settled environment . . . I think that’s healthy for people’s morale and enthusiasm,” the board chair said.

The provider is not alone as it interacts with other day service and employment nonprofits and the organizations learn from one another, said Christiansen. Programming options tend to be greater in the Twin Cities.

“We are fortunate to be here in the metro area where there are more opportunities to do things to develop the clients.”

Capable staff, planning for future

Christiansen said he is also impressed with the commitment and dedication of ProAct’s board members, who bring a mix of professional experiences, which enhances the board’s quality. Many have a long history with the leadership group.

For the future, the board chair says succession planning for ProAct’s administration will be a focus. ProAct will need to do a good job of recruiting and interviewing to bring in appropriate staff when these individuals retire, he explained.