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Touchstone Finalist: Lake County DAC

Updated: September 13, 2018 08:24 AM

It's always a happening place at the Lake County Developmental Achievement Center in Two Harbors. Folks are busy making rugs with looms, creating mosaic art or watercolor paintings, or even shredding paper for work.

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"This population is so untapped with their abilities," explained Cheryl Hedine, executive director of the DAC. "I've seen them do things that they never thought possible. Like the art program, it's brought out so much in everybody."

About 30 consumers of varying abilities come the center daily. And there are six volunteers who come on a regular basis, to help out. Lauri Twining, who comes on Wednesdays, said it's a really fun, rewarding place to be."They just enjoy so much and appreciate life." She was helping get the fabric ready for the weavers.

The Lake County DAC has started a formal volunteer program, which has inspired the consumers to give back too.

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In a nearby room, Paul Gangelhoff was leading the communication club. He was helping Taylor and Carl play a memory game. Taylor uses sign language, something Paul took it upon himself to learn. "I got a book and taught myself sign language. It's opened up some new doors so we could communicate with people who knew sign language. Without a voice, you are nothing. And I wanted to give a voice to the people."

Volunteers had been coming in for decades, informally. But in January of 2017, the formal volunteer program launched, thanks to a grant from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. The program focuses on recruitment and consistency, and has improved the programming for the consumers. Then, an unexpected bonus!

"It didn't take more than a few months, after volunteers became a regular thing, for the consumers to say, we want to be volunteers! We didn't expect that. We thought that was fantastic!" shared Patty Carter, the Development Manager and Grant Writer.

So now consumers go out and do volunteering in their community, like at the library and the food shelf. "It's a total win-win," Carter added.

And they are always looking for more people how want to become part of the fabric of the DAC.

"My hope is that the volunteers who are coming in, have a better understanding of what we do. And they will go out and tell other people, and bring more people and volunteers in," Hedine said.

The Lake County DAC and their formal volunteer program have been nominated for a Touchstone Award by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. The Touchstone Awards are coming on October 15 at the DECC.

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