You probably don't have to play "six degrees of separation" to find someone who's met Dale Findlay. Two degrees will probably do. For years, Findlay, who has cerebral palsy, worked at the Southdale Target in Edina, whirring around in his motorized chariot helping people find what they needed. But that was just the start.
"After I left Target," Findlay said, "I did the Vikings' games for a security company. We'd be throughout the stands in different places, helping people, answering questions. That was not too exciting. But it was $15 an hour and I said, 'I'll sit here and smile. I'll do that.' "
Given Findlay's enthusiasm for helping, Vikes fans probably had to tell him not to pop a wheelie and bounce down the steps to show people to their seats.
But that wasn't the gig that may have made "Two Degrees of Dale" a statewide game.
In 2019, before COVID shut down the 2020 Great Minnesota Get-together, Findlay worked at the State Fair's front gate, checking bags, "for 12 days from 9 in the morning until 8 at night," he said.
Now, though, the jobs that sustained him have fallen away. What Findlay really wants to do is get back to work so he can get back to helping. It's not just a matter of money, but a matter of losing one's ability to make a difference.
"I've been looking for a job," Findlay said, "but with all my years of experience, they say you're overqualified, you wouldn't want to do this job. But I would!
"They're not as willing to adapt as they used to be. Back when I started at Target, they made a big deal out of hiring someone with a disability, and now it doesn't seem to get the same play as it did back then."
So Findlay's friend, Maggie Judge, has stepped up to help. Judge met Findlay through Mobility through Independence, a nonprofit that helps people with mobility issues get their own vehicles.
Findlay worked closely with Judge's father and husband for a while with Mobility; Findlay served as president of the board of directors for two years, and on the board for an additional three years.
"I was so struck by Dale's incredible independence, his positivity, his ability to make everyone laugh," Judge said.
She's set up a GoFundMe page to give her buddy a push. Recharge his batteries. Get him out the door of his Eagan home, back into the world. His most pressing needs are for a personal care attendant and wheelchair maintenance.
"It's about getting him back to meaningful work," Judge said. "A job or volunteering."
"All of us have met challenges along the way," Judge wrote by way of introducing visitors to the GoFundMe page. "Some, more than we know, meet those challenges coming out of the gate. Many, maybe most, become bitter, angry, self-absorbed, entitled, consumed with self-pity, and look for every way possible to avoid any responsibility.
"NOT DALE FINDLAY!"
Nearly $6,000 has been raised, with a goal of $10,000.
Findlay, 58, is a Minnesotan to the core, except for a brief stint in North Dakota. "I was born in Fargo — I was three months early," he said, "and my dad didn't trust the small-town hospital. I was in an incubator for six weeks. I grew up around 40 miles west of Morris, Minn., on a farm, but the local school wasn't accessible. So I went to a handicapped boarding school."
He worked for Hennnepin County for 10 years, six days a week.
"I would go and survey their clients that were on financial or medical assistance, and we made sure the workers were treating the clients with respect, they were getting their needs met, and being responded to in a professional manner in a respectful amount of time."
Getting to and fro was a challenge, though.
"When I was looking for a van to get around," Findlay said, "I heard about Mobility. I called them and they said, 'Well, we don't have one right now, come back later.' I kept calling. One day I said, 'You know what? How about if I help you if you help me? I'll bet I know some people who would be willing to donate to your charity.' "
He also said, "Once I get my van and get rolling, I'd be more than happy to be on your board of directors."
But that's in the past now. He's still rolling, but not as much. You might have seen him zipping around downtown when he did jobs for the county, but not anymore. His scooter can handle an incline, but COVID's made the road far steeper.
He hopes to change that soon.
Said Findlay: "I'd rather be a taxpayer than a tax burden."
GoFundMe link: gofund.me/18b7d890