It’s official, Living Well Disability Services has been helping transform the lives of people living with disabilities for 5o years! It is a great honor to spend every hour of every day helping to create safe and welcoming homes for people with disabilities, while supporting their families as they navigate the challenges that come with caring for people who need extra supports. The work is important, and the milestone a reminder of how far we have come.
Back in March of 1972 Living Well was granted its 501c3 status and officially started as a nonprofit in the state of Minnesota. Since the start we have provided innovative and person-centered care for people living with disabilities. Formed by a group of parents who were determined to find something better for their children, whose only option at the time was institutionalized care, Dakota’s Children was created as an alternative to the stark environments that were the norm at the time. We pioneered the care for children, and to this day continue to be pioneers in the field.
The original Marie Avenue location was unlike anything in the market. Instead of housing hundreds of people and offering limited activities and enrichment—we opened with 45 beds, and three respite beds. For those unfamiliar with respite care, it is a way for caregivers to get a break from time to time and offers short term care for people who primarily live at home. From the start care was centered on personal choices and being part of community, not being hidden away. The original home served 403 people over the span of 1972-2001, and 38 of them still call Living Well home. The location closed and was split into multiple homes when it was decided even smaller environments were better. As we can all attest, more intimate settings help us all flourish. The beauty of what we do is when there is a better way, we make it happen. We make every effort to make the lives of the people we serve better and have done so for five decades.
Over the years we have changed more than the size of our buildings to create homier living spaces. As government assistance changed, so did our organization. We no longer focused specifically on children, who could now get help at home versus back in the day, and now serve adults who have outgrown the school system and whose parents no longer have supports. We changed our name from Dakota’s Children to Dakota Communities in 1997, and then to Living Well Disability Services in 2014. Our name today better encapsulates the work we do, and the goal of helping everyone truly live well. We now have 37 homes in the metro, serve 300 people, employ 500 of the hardest workers on the planet, and have almost 600 volunteers. We have come a long way!
At our core we are disability advocates. We believe that everyone deserves a home filled with joy and opportunity, and a community to call their own. We proudly provide person-centered care aligned with specifically designed individual care plans. Our staff provides safety, structure and a life filled with laughter. And they also provide comfort and a sense of belonging. It is our mission to provide exceptional services that help to create fulfilling lives for the people we serve. Many of the people in our care spend years with us because of the level of comfort and service provided is unmatched, and we take our roles in their lives very seriously. It is a great honor to be of service to the people who call Living Well home, and those who allow us into their homes via customized services. We believe, and guardians and families would agree, that people thrive when supported and truly seen.
We are grateful to all of you who have been part of our journey, and everyone who cares deeply for people living with disabilities. You do not have to be disabled to dedicate time and resources to the work, you do not have to have a relative or a friend dealing with the struggles either—you simply have to be dedicated to inclusion and diversity to fully appreciate what we do, and why we do it.
Help us celebrate our 50th:
—Come to our corporate office April 18-22 and help us collect stories and photos. Families, guardians, former and current staff, board members past and present, volunteers and supporters are encouraged to join us from 9-4:30 that whole week to jot down memories and help us collect great materials for our history books. We will have refreshments. Northland Office: 1168 Northland Dr, Mendota Heights, MN 55120.
—Coffee with the Oldtimers, May 11, 10AM-Noon. Join us for donuts and coffee and meet some of our long-term employees and people served. We have been around a long time and have several employees with 40+ years on the books, and 38 of the people we served in the early years still call Living Well home! Hope to see you here (1168 Northland Dr, Mendota Heights, MN 55120).
—Notice the 50th logo on our website and letterhead, we are proud of this milestone. We will be having weekly Flashback Friday Social media posts dedicated to the past 50 years. Please like and follow us on Facebook and share our blogs with your friends. Growing our network helps us and disability advocacy in general.
—Mark your calendar for our Transforming Lives Gala on August 19th. This year we will be celebrating 50 years of innovation, advocacy and wellness. We cannot wait to share some great stories, and raise money for our programs that enrich the lives of the people we serve.