Hammer recognizes volunteers with Community Partner Awards

Hammer volunteer Renee Farrow with Andy, who is served by the Wayzata-based organization.(Submitted Photo)

Hammer Residences, a Wayzata-based organization that serves individuals with developmental disabilities, has announced the recipients of this year’s Community Partner Awards.

Each year, the awards committee chooses individuals, families and companies based on their years of service, number of volunteer hours and financial contributions to the organization and the people it supports.

The winners of the 2020 Community Partner Awards are Cindy Laurent, Andy Bleck and Sarah Montgomery, the Sauer family and Medica. Hammer’s Community Partner Youth Award recipient is Abby Oldham.

Abby Oldham

Wayzata High School senior Abby Oldham has volunteered her time as a one-on-one volunteer with Gina at one of Hammer's homes. When they get together, the activity is typically whatever Gina likes to do, which often includes painting nails, putting on a movie or watching cooking shows.

Oldham has also volunteered at Hammer's Reach for Ralph event and the organization's Earth Day Celebration. 

Cindi Laurent

Laurent has been a Hammer volunteer since 2015 and has accrued more than 1,000 hours of service.

She has served as a one-on-one volunteer and has joined four Hammer Travel trips for people served by the organization. She is also an ambassador for the organization’s development department and a special event volunteer.

Laurent and her family have also volunteered at the annual Family Day Picnic for the past three years and helped serve at last year’s Hammer Thanksgiving.

Andy Bleck and Sarah Montgomery

Bleck began his service to the organization as a one-on-one volunteer. Wanting to connect more with the people he was seeing, he decided to launch the organization’s floor hockey league in 2014.

In need of a second coach for the league, Bleck reached out to his friend Montgomery, who agreed to join.

The volunteers have also helped out at Hammer’s Spring Breakfast, Family Day Picnic and have attended the organization’s theater productions.

The Sauer family

The Sauer Family has been volunteering with individuals at one of the organization’s homes since 2013. Since then, John, Linda and Abby Sauer have accrued more than 700 hours of volunteer service.

Abby learned of Hammer’s need for volunteers during her service learning class at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Volunteering was a component of her class, so she reached out to Hammer to see how she could help and was quickly matched with a home needing a volunteer to do arts and crafts.

Abby also recruited her father to join in the volunteer activity, with her mother working behind the scenes to provide them with crafting ideas.

Medica

In 2012, the health services company Medica partnered with Hammer to provide care coordination for 300 special needs basic care program members. Medica has provided financial donations to Hammer and has invited employees to offer their time with the organization.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic prompted social distancing measures, two groups of Medica employees have volunteered their time to help with Hammer’s day program for residents.

Renee Farrow, who has worked with Medica for 16 years, leads one of the teams. She said volunteers from her team of 40-45 people would visit one of the organization’s homes for smaller activities like painting or bigger events like going to the zoo.

Farrow said she’s grown to understand just how important volunteers are to the organization’s work.

“Their mission really is to keep the residents in the community and to give them something to look forward to. … And I love the staff at Hammer. Their work is so invaluable,” she said. “You really can’t put a price on the work they do and how much they care about the residents. It inspires me and I know it also inspires the other people who go and volunteer.”

Farrow said it’s been difficult for her and the team not to be able to go visit the residents because of the pandemic.

“I can’t wait to get back,” she said.

Sabrinna Berghorst leads the second team of volunteers, which would regularly help with bowling outings and help residents celebrate the holidays with parties and activities.

Since the pandemic, Berghorst said they’ve had to make the shift to communicating online and having virtual birthday celebrations for residents.

“They’re now my friends. It’s really evolved into something pretty cool and we’re all missing them a lot since we haven’t been able to see them,” Berghorst said.

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