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“We’re placing as many people as we can with jobs in the community,” Weaver said. “They feel good about what they’re accomplishing and we feel great about that.”
Achieve opened in Anoka County in 1964, in St. Philip’s Lutheran Church in Fridley. It served 17 children with developmental disabilities during a time when schools did not serve such kids.
A decade later, as state institutions began downsizing, a new center was built in Fridley and a satellite program opened in Anoka. In 1974, four adults were enrolled in a new program at the Resurrection Episcopal Church in Spring Lake Park. In 1980, the combined programs moved to Blaine Elementary School. Years later, the Anoka County Daytime Activity Center was renamed the Achieve Developmental Achievement Center.
In 1991, Achieve moved to its current facility. It became a nonprofit and was renamed Achieve Services when it separated from the county in 2004.
More than 25 local businesses work with Achieve, either providing jobs or helping provide work for Achieve’s in-house workshop. Jobs include separating film from plastic, packaging greeting cards, building pizza boxes and putting labels on cans.
Other states have shut down similar programs, because of finances, Weaver said. Operating these facilities involves far more than assigning tasks and recruiting funding. At Achieve, some of the workers need to be fed and toileted by staff. Critics argue that placing developmentally disabled adults in community jobs via a sheltered environment like Achieve does not set up these adults for the real world.
“Our response is: What happens to these people if you’re not going to place them in a community job?” Weaver said. “They’re safe, happy and busy here. Forty-six percent of our people are working jobs in the community. We have a waiting list.”
Achieve’s slogan is, “We Have Personability.”
Two years ago, proceeds from a fundraiser allowed Achieve to purchase the iPads that, among other things, were used to create the Dance at Your Own Risk album. Loskota, whose primary instrument is piano, suggested getting garage-rock apps for the iPads.
“What do you think Matt?” Loskota asked Grieser.
He was too busy adjusting the bass line to answer.
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419