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Council for disabled moves to new quarters

Austin Daily Herald - 5/15/2018

May 15--Paulette Huntley couldn't look more pleased, sitting in the new offices of the Mower Council for the Handicapped.

"We were in a basement for over 22 years," she explained. "We loved it, and the owners were great, but this," she added with emphasis. "This is heaven."

MCH provides any number of services to the disabled and has recently opened on first floor quarters, right across the street from Austin Utilities. The space is larger and far more efficient, said Huntley, the executive director of the non-profit organization. "We are 100 percent accessible. We have parking."

The public and clients will be able to tour the new facilities at 2103 14th St. NE from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 19. The event -- which also coincides with the council's 45th anniversary -- will feature food and activities for all ages.

The move was needed. Although an elevator at the former location on Main Street provided access for clients, "they sometimes had to walk one, two blocks to get to us -- and when you are disabled, that can be a real issue." There are today vouchers to provide rides to the new location, Huntley said.

The new facility has offices, a conference area, storage for equipment, two handicapped accessible bathrooms and kitchen.

Huntley noted that she herself was disabled, after having suffered several injuries in a car accident when she was 19.

"I have empathy" for the clients who have to negotiate physical limitations.

The council has a low profile -- but not necessarily by choice. But the reality is, said Huntley, "you don't know we're here until you need us." The council serves about 300 clients annually.

The council offers information, referrals and equipment to those with short- and long-term disabilities.

At the forefront is advocacy, she said, providing everything from help with filing for disability benefits, to lending equipment -- walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, knee walkers among them -- and providing social activities. The lending program is free of charge to those using equipment.,

"We've probably helped everyone in town, or their family, in some way, at some point," she said.

The Mower Council for the Handicapped began in 1973, started by parents looking for a structured way to advocate for family members with disabilities. Longtime director was Gary Jacobson who has since retired, but still works part-time as the chief financial officer. There are six part-time employees; Huntley alone is full-time.

A small, non-profit, MCH receives funding from a variety of sources including the United Way, the Hormel Foundation, charitable gaming and private donations. Operating with a small budget, MCH can have a big impact on people's lives.

Some MCH clients may have no income, no health coverage, no family and may be homeless. Others have mental health issues and may have nowhere else to turn for assistance.

For more information, please call 507-433-9609.


(c)2018 the Austin Daily Herald (Austin, Minn.)

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