Tuesday afternoon I was invited to the Open House and ribbon cutting ceremony for Laura Baker Services (LBS) new residential building. It was a beautiful day and many people showed up for the event.
Several people spoke to the assembled group, including Bob Bonner, President of the Laura Baker board and Keith Covey, Mayor of Northfield. For those of you that are not familiar with Laura Baker Services, it is a 100+ year old organization that serves the needs of the mentally handicapped, called an Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded, or ICF/MR. It is located in a lovely residential setting on the east side of Northfield and is home to roughly 30 residents.
I was present at the ribbon cutting for at least three reasons yesterday. Northfield Construction Company was the general contractor for the new building. We worked with Professional Design Group, the architect for the project, to create a fine new 3,600 square foot facility that will house six residents in individual rooms suites. This building is the first of three buildings that we will build for Laura Baker Services. (See more photos in the Laura Baker photo gallery.)
Ellen and I were also recognized for being donors to the “Hand in Hand” capital fund raising campaign. We both are strongly committed to assisting local non-profit groups with their funding needs and were proud to make a generous gift to Laura Baker for this important new endeavor. We have worked with Laura Baker Services on annual events over the years and we are excited to be involved with this new capital campaign.
Finally, I was asked to speak to the group as the State Representative for Laura Baker Services. I have worked closely with Sandi Gerdes, Executive Director of LBS and others on ICF/MR funding issues in state government. I carried legislation this session to repeal a 10% co-payment requirement for ICF/MR facilities. It passed the House last month and now needs to make it through the Senate.
When I addressed the group I told them what it was like growing up a couple of blocks away from LBS, knowing LBS residents through my church and school work, etc. I pointed out how LBS helped Northfield residents grow up understanding the needs of mentally handicapped people, and that we all have an obligation to support those needs. I bring that understanding with me in my work in the State Legislature.
I want to make sure the state provides assistance, support and the necessary programs to help those in Minnesota that cannot help themselves. That is a priority for me. We may need to make adjustments from time to time to what we as a state are doing for able bodied residents, but care of our physically and mentally handicapped residents must be a top priority.
I send my best wishes to Laura Baker Services on the opening of the first of three new resident dwellings.