Melissa HassebroekDakota Communities is proud to announce that ANCOR, a prominent national disabilities organization, named Melissa Hassebroek as Minnesota’s Direct Support Professional 2011. She will be honored along with the winners from other states during the June 2011 ANCOR: Leading Cultures of Innovation Conference in Washington DC.

Community integration, advocacy, health and wellness and public policy work…for Melissa Hassebroek these activities are a right, a commitment she has made to the people she has supported for the last 24 years of her life. The Direct Support Professionals Recognition Award program was founded by ANCOR in 2007. It acknowledges the humanitarianism of direct support professionals (DSPs) who ensure community inclusion for hundreds of thousands of Americans with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities.

Melissa’s commitment to people with disabilities shines the brightest through her relationship with Dennis, pictured left, who lives at a Dakota Communities home in Brooklyn Center. His love of politics and desire to have his voice heard was strengthened when Melissa coordinated and supported him to complete the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities’ Partners in Policy program. This 8 month course in political advocacy brought Melissa and Dennis to Washington and our State Capital in 2010 where Dennis met with federal and state representatives to lobby for the rights of people with disabilities. With Melissa’s unending support Dennis achieved his dream of self advocacy, assuring that his voice was heard during tough economic times.

Through community integration with a focus on health and wellness, Melissa has developed unique programs and relationships in our community. These efforts, often developed on her days off, have fostered a culture of wellness resulting in increased physical fitness, dramatic weight loss (over 50 lbs. for one individual) and a greater social network.

Melissa has taken on many roles during her time with Dakota Communities. She has been an advocate, a friend, a role model and caregiver. She has helped to develop the Employee Council for Quality, BASIC (an internal committee passionate about community integration), and has trained hundreds of employees on the importance of community inclusion and advocated for the 250+ people supported by Dakota Communities. But Melissa’s greatest role has been the one she assumes every day she comes to work and continues to advocate for the people she supports to live their dreams, break down barriers and experience their lives to the fullest.

Melissa is the second Dakota Communities employee to win the award since its inception. Aaron Oden (Senior Advocate-Kennelly) received the award in 2009.