Barb, one of the people supported by Hammer Residences, sits outside her home in Golden Valley after getting home from her job. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

Event will return July 11 to the Earle Brown Center in Brooklyn Center

Hammer Residences, a Wayzata-based nonprofit serving individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, is gearing up for its annual Reach for Ralph celebration and benefit.

This year’s event will be 5:30-10 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at the Earle Brown Heritage Center, 6155 Earle Brown Dr., Brooklyn Center, and will feature a multi-media program, live and silent auctions and a buffet dinner.

Funds raised during the evening will help the organization create a safe place where the people served by Hammer can be well-cared for, explore their talents and find a place in their community.

NBC News Correspondent Joe Fryer will return for his second year as master of ceremonies for the benefit. His connection to Hammer is his mom, Merrilee, a direct support professional who works at one of Hammer’s homes.

The inspiration behind the event, as well as Hammer’s logo, was a man named Ralph Rosenvold, who came to the Hammer School in the 1920s as a boy and lived at Hammer until he died in 1995.

According to Hammer, many people at that time believed Ralph should have been institutionalized. However, Alvina Hammer, founder of Hammer Residences, believed Ralph deserved to live in the environment of a home setting with a school that would focus on his abilities and desires to be himself.

After the Hammer School was founded in 1923, the organization recognized further needs in the community and expanded to include dormitories and other residential facilities.

Today, Hammer provides residential and apartment support for 284 individuals along with customized support services, including in-home support, support planning, case management and healthcare coordination to more than 1,600 people throughout the state.

A place for all

Throughout the evening, Reach for Ralph attendees will watch videos telling the stories of several of the people who live in one of Hammer’s apartment programs or houses across the west metro.

One of those people guests will hear about is Barb, who has been supported by Hammer for almost three decades. 

“It’s been a long time,” Barb said from the kitchen of the house she lives at in Golden Valley.

At the house, Barb enjoys spending time with her housemates and takes part in many of the activities provided, including floor hockey, bingo and bowling.

A look inside Barb’s room also reveals many of her interests, one of which is shown through a photo of her singing in the Hammer Idol singing competition while wearing a Backstreet Boys T-shirt.

Her love for singing can also be found on display at Wayzata Free Church, Barb said, where she regularly attends services.

“I like to sing and I like to pray,” she said.

Work is also part of Barb’s weekly routine. She often volunteers in the community and has a job at Juut Salon in Wayzata.

“I think it’s a great place for her to learn and grow,” said Sarah Krake, a direct support professional who worked for three years as a program manager where Barb lives. “And gets a paycheck, which excites her because she can go spend her money however she wants, and usually it’s on something fun.”

This summer, Barb plans to spend three days at the Minnesota Vikings training camp through Hammer Travel, which curates trips for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“Barb is a very busy lady,” Krake said, adding that she’s seen firsthand how important it is that Barb has a place to relax after a day of work.

“Once she gets home, she usually likes a little quiet time in her room to decompress from the day, and then there’s always some activity at night,” she said. “It’s a safe place to do that and it’s home.”

For more information on Hammer Residences, visit Hammer.org. For tickets to the benefit, visit Hammer.org/reach-for-ralph-2019.


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