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Not-for-Profit of the Year: Access of the Red River Valley

August 1st, 2017 by Amanda Huggett

Around 1984, a local group of parents of children with disabilities became determined to keep their children out of institutional care and in private homes. This grassroots effort gave rise to the agency we know as Access of the Red River Valley. Today, they continue with this mission of supporting children and adults lead dignified independent lives.

Access Clients at parade

They do this through independent living services, in-home family support, corporate foster care, children’s mental health case management, and more. Collaboration with families, schools and resources in the community help make it all possible.

For non-profits with government-controlled budgets, it can be hard to get the word out, and that’s what makes this humble organization so proud of receiving a 2017 ChamberChoice Award. For staff at Access, it’s a 24/7 job where every day is different and they get to change people’s lives. From college students to those needing a part-time job, their employees come from all walks of life. Which fits perfectly into their guiding principles to treat everyone with respect and to appreciate differences.

Though most of their budget goes to payroll for their around 130 employees, it’s clear their focus is on providing the best care possible, offering 1-on-1 care for every client. Their goal is to treat each client as they would want their own children to be treated, and with the same opportunities as anyone else. “We are dealing with human beings, and every situation is different,” Krista Svobodny, HR manager, said.

All clients at Access live in a safe home with their own bedroom and their own space. Currently, they have eight sites where clients live alone and a few others with only two clients sharing a home. In 2007, they opened a triplex unit in Moorhead, which houses six clients, as well as the Michael Czichotzki Learning Center, where staff and clients can come for classes and activities.

bill smith with access clientCommunity integration is vital at Access. For their clients, community inclusion creates value for everyone’s uniqueness and abilities. They believe it is important for everyone to feel they are part of an event, and not just observe. Community outings also teach valuable social skills. Bill Smith, services director, says there is rarely an event going on around town that Access clients are not attending.

Smith has a unique take on his work at Access. In his 15-year career there, he first started as a case manager and has been able to watch clients grow when they start with the agency as children through adulthood. He says being able to witness their young clients become successful 30-year-olds is what he loves most. “We take care of them, from teaching them how to cook, do laundry and take care of themselves, and then see the progression of them becoming independent and knowing you’re part of that.”

Playing an important role in our community for over 30 years, Access hopes to maintain the same quality of service going forward, but hopes to see growth in employees and awareness. Kathy Potter, executive director, says she just wants people to know that Access is there and provides a much-needed service for our community. She often refers to a slogan Smith says, which is that we are all just one accident away from a disability, and it can happen to anybody. If something happens to you or someone you know, you can at least rest assured that the individuals at Access will step in to help.


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