The team from Living Well at the DCR Chamber Event. Back: Rod, Alison, Heather & Tom. Front: Beth, Devan & Anh.

Living Well is honored to tell the world that we were voted the Nonprofit of the year by the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce during their Business Excellence Awards held last Friday, October 28, 2022, at Radisson Blu MOA. Each year the DCR Chamber chooses winners in four categories—large business, small business, emerging leader and nonprofit—and lucky us, we WON the Nonprofit of the Year Award!

Heather and Devan showing off The Morning Show shirts. Guests were asked to dress as their fav talk show hosts, so they channeled Jennifer Aniston and Reece Witherspoon.

Never to be outdone, the team at the DCR Chamber went all in on this year’s theme of late night, as in an awards celebration with a Late Night talk show twist. The program was a spoof related to talk shows greatest moments, and it was truly epic. With Carpool Karaoke, Stupid Human Tricks, and an appearance by Carnac the Magnificent (for those old enough to get the reference) a fun night was had by all.

What fun is a party without a photo booth?

Per the DCR Chamber nomination guidelines, the Nonprofit of the Year award is presented to a nonprofit or philanthropic organization that exemplifies excellence and innovation in their programs, services, and projects, as well as their efforts to be self-sustaining. All nominees dedicated focus should be on achieving a social vision and mandate that makes an outstanding contribution to the social, cultural, or economic well-being of their community. Nominees must be a registered nonprofit organization that has exceptional community service and leadership which broadens education of their service, innovative services, community involvement, promotes volunteerism, and contributes to society with social and community advancements. Lucky for us the selection committee saw all of that in us and chose Living Well as the 2022 winner.

Katie Bernjhelm, Chair of the Business Excellence Awards Committee, Tom Gillespie, Living Well CEO, and Maureen Scallen Failor, Chamber President.

Maureen Scallen Failor, Chamber President says, “The Business Excellence Awards Celebration was a great success! We are proud to recognize the companies, organizations, and individuals for all the great work they do in the community. Their continued commitment and support are positively affecting the life and work of residents, companies, and individuals throughout the area.”

Anh with her former Radisson Blue coworkers.

All of us at Living Well agree with Maureen, as we were honored to have been nominated and to be in such good company with fellow finalists Kids ‘n Kinship and The Open Door Pantry. To win felt sublime, especially during our 50th anniversary year. The last few years have been full of challenges as we navigated Covid, the economy and an ever-growing employee shortage. This win made us feel supported and seen in a way that just feels like a huge group hug. And, as if this win wasn’t enough, Living Well’s very own HR Manager, Anh Phan, was a finalist in the emerging leader category. She was surrounded by coworkers past and present, as a crew from Living Well was there, as was her team from Radisson Blu where she worked for almost three years before joining the Living Well Family. Smiles, hugs, and deep appreciation for work that matters and people who show up for their jobs were on display throughout that entire ballroom. Congrats to all finalists and winners, and a huge thank you to the DCR Chamber for making a difference in Dakota County and providing this opportunity for organizations and individuals to shine!


Here are the nominations that helped Living Well, and Anh Phan, become finalists:

Living Well Disability Services Nomination for Nonprofit of the Year: Living Well began as Dakota’s Children in 1972 and is celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. Started by parents and community partners in West St. Paul, the founders saw a need for longer term care that put people with disabilities, and families that support them, first. Respect for individual and family needs has been their philosophy from the beginning.

But regardless of the celebrations surrounding their 50 years, they are in a workforce crisis. Across the country, direct care workforce shortages have worsened due to stagnant Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement rates keeping wages artificially low amid a competitive labor market, burnout, and high turnover. In Minnesota, vacancies for home health and personal care aide jobs increased by 70% by the end of 2021. Living Well faces an immediate industry crisis threatening the health, wellbeing, and independence of people with disabilities as more and more providers scale back services and close their doors.

Winning this award, at this point in the organization’s history, would show the world that disability services are worthy of our time, volunteer hours, giving dollars and advocacy. More importantly it would show people living with disabilities, and their families and guardians, that they are fully seen and believed worthy.

Anh Phan, Nomination for Emerging Leader of the year: Anh is an HR professional who helps lead the charge of recruitment and retention in an industry decimated by the employment crisis. She took initiative when Living Well was working without a full HR team, including during the search for an HR Director. She also pitched in when the benefits manager position was empty. Her team now consists of two recruiters, an HR assistant, Payroll Manager and the newly hired HR Director. She is natural leader who brings enthusiasm and vibrancy to the role—which is first and foremost a disability advocate.

As the HR manager she leads hiring and orientation and handles employee relations and personnel issues. She is the bridge between policy decisions and employees and works seamlessly with leadership to make messaging regarding expectations and culture concise and attainable.

With 500 employees, 37 group homes and a main office, the job is never the same. Each day offers an opportunity to learn more about the industry of long-term care, and opens the door staff and culture engagement so employees want to show up every day. Nearly 80% of the staff are women, and just over 50% are POC. Anh leads with diversity, inclusion, and equity in mind.