A HUMBLE BEGINNING
The Minot School for the Mentally Handicapped was started in approximately 1960 as a day care facility in the basement of a church for adults with developmental disabilties. The private, non-profit business was started and operated by a parent who saw a need for a place to provide respite and support to families who were caring for family members with disabilities. At the time, few people with disabilities lived with families and there were no community facilities available. In the 60's, it was common professional advice to send a person with a disability to an institution to live. The Minot School was one of the earliest places in the state to offer help to families who chose to ignore the advice of professionals and attempt care at home.
During the 1970’s the number of people resisting the institutional trend was growing. The Minot School for the Mentally Handicapped changed their name to the KALIX (Kalix) and purchased a motel for use as a residential facility. An old grocery store was purchased to serve as a vocational training center. With limited government funding, Kalix relied on donations and the good will of people who cared enough to donate their time and finances.
THE COURT ORDER AND DEINSTITUTIONALIZATION
During this same time, the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) started filing lawsuits against state governments to force the funding of community based services.
In 1980, after attempting to work with the North Dakota legislators to improve conditions for the disabled, the ARC filed suit against the state. In 1982, Federal Judge Bruce Van Sickle ended the case with a court order. This court order included de-institutionalization, creation of community based programs, and a national accreditation.
By the end of 1982, Kalix constructed and filled three 12 bed group homes and a 36 bed apartment building. In 1983 two more twelve bed group homes were built and filled. In 1986, the continued need to meet the court ordered de-institutionalization requirements led the state to authorize payments for services provided in individual apartments.
As a result of this, 24 people moved out of the group homes and into individual community apartments, receiving services on an as-needed basis. The group homes were once again immediately filled with new referrals from the state’s institutions. The group homes are still full (with waiting lists) and services provided in apartments have expanded.
After requests for services from the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation, Kalix opened a facility in Belcourt, ND known as “Turtle Mountain Support Services” (TMSS) in August 1999. TMSS offers a variety of day/vocational options and some residential services.
CONTRACTS, BUSINESSES, and JOBS
The vocational side of the program also started to grow in the eighties. Traditionally, vocational programs had been limited to sheltered workshop environments with a high percentage of artificial work tasks. Kalix adopted the philosophy that normalization means that people with disabilities should work. A job means much more than an income – a job provides a place to go, structure, social opportunities, a chance to learn new things, and a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes volunteer placements fit a person’s needs better than paid work while providing most of the same benefits as a job.
Kalix spent the next twenty years developing a variety of job opportunities. A job can be in a workshop environment, at a business owned by Kalix, on a Kalix crew working on a contract basis with a local business, or as an individual hired by a local business. The goal was to accumulate enough work and a variety of work. Since everybody has different interests and different abilities, there needs to be different types of work available.
A Job Development Specialist was hired and started by establishing contacts with local businesses. Kalix provides education for the employer and training for the new employee in all job placements.
Some local businesses prefer to outsource an entire task, including supervision of the function. Throughout the eighties and nineties, Kalix contracted with several local businesses to provide custodial, housekeeping (motel), and inventory/warehousing services. By the end of the nineties, success at finding work necessitated discontinuing the smaller contracts.
In 1985, after two years of working with NISH, (formally known as National Industries for the Severely Handicapped) under the JWOD (Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act of 1971, 41 U.S.C. 46-48c) program, Kalix secured the first federal contract given to a community rehabilitation program in North Dakota. Doing business with the federal government was a new experience for Kalix: the customer wanted the product as specified in the contract. The contracting officer did not care that 75% of the workforce met the federal definition of disabled. Management adapted quickly and the contract became successful within two years.
That first contract was to provide shelf stocking and custodial services to the Commissary at the Minot Air Force Base (MAFB). Later in the eighties, warehousing was added to the MAFB Commissary Contract and a new contract was procured at the MAFB Postal Service Center (pitching mail into mailboxes and providing telephone locator service). In 1993, the Basewide Custodial Contract (cleaning a variety of office buildings) became available at the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB). Although Grand Forks is 150 miles away, the decision was made to pursue the contract after closer providers declined the opportunity. The GFAFB Postal Service Center Contract followed the next year.
In 1993, Kalix secured the first JWOD contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers. The contract covers grounds maintenance for a campground – everything from mowing to maintaining fish cleaning stations. In 1998, the Corps added a second campground.
Another unique opportunity became available in 1997. The MAFB Contracting Office requested a bid on the Library Contract. Checking out books, re-shelving books, cataloguing books, ordering books, and conducting patron programs provided another option for work. Regrettably, the Library Contract ended in 2005 as part of a national United States Air Force initiative to reduce costs.
A track record of success translated into additional contracts as the Basewide Custodial Contract at the MAFB became available in 1998 and the GFAFB Commissary was added in 2000. The year 2002 was another landmark year – MAFB Food Services added a significant number of jobs with people working almost 24 hours a day bussing tables, washing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen. GFAFB Switchboard was also added in 2002, but was discontinued in 2010 as the USAF decided to consolidate operations for all AMC switchboards at a single location. Ironically, the MAFB Switchboard contract was awarded to Kalix in 2009 ( Minot is not part of the AMC command structure). The MAFB BITC contract was also added in 2009 – for a current total of eleven AbilityOne contracts.
In an attempt to provide more variety in types of employment opportunities as well as reduce reliance on the Air Force Bases, Kalix opened The Recycling Center in 1994. Initially established as a franchise, The Recycling Center accepted all types of paper, cardboard, aluminum, steel, plastic, glass, fiberboard, and milk cartons. In 1998 the recycling market hit a downturn and the franchisor filed for bankruptcy. Kalix responded by developing direct sales channels and discontinuing low volume items. See The Recycling Center page for a current list of commodities accepted and services offered.
In 2008, Kalix began selling books (brought in for recycling) on the internet. The book sales program provides jobs involving shelving books, finding books, sorting books (using a computer scanning system), and packaging books for mailing.
In order to open The Recycling Center, Kalix had purchased a new facility to house the new business as well as administrative offices and day services. The old building was sold to Trinity Health, which converted it into a commercial laundry facility. In 2000, discussions with Trinity led to Kalix repurchasing the building and signing a contract to process the hospital’s linen.
In 2001, the Thrift Store opened in Belcourt as part of the Turtle Mountain Support Services facility. In January 2010, the Thrift Store moved to the McLeod Office Building in Belcourt.
In addition to the outside work projects and job placements, Kalix continued to look for work that could be completed at the main facility and in Belcourt. A new button machine purchased in 1988 and a new button cutting machine acquired in 2003 have kept pace with market technology.
In the early nineties, cookie production started with a single customer (daily deliveries to a local bank), and has grown into a major product with business and retail customers. The availability of a work force has provided several local businesses with a resource for assembly work – everything from stuffing mailers into envelopes to packaging and shipping retail products.
In October 2001, Kalix assets, programs, and activities were split into two separate corporations. The new corporate entity, MVW Services, Inc. encompasses all AbilityOne contracts. MVW Services contracts with Kalix for management services.
ACCREDITATION and AWARDS
Kalix received its first 'two year' accreditation with Accreditation Council for Services for Mentally Retarded and Other Developmentally Disabled Persons (ACMRDD) in 1986 as a result of the mandated court order that occurred in 1982.
The changing industry over the years was reflected in several name changes by the accrediting organization and continued changes in the accreditation requirements. In 2005, CQL-The Council on Quality and Leadership (same organization, new name) published major modifications to the accreditation process and standards. In March of 2006, Kalix became the first agency in North Dakota and the second in the world to be awarded the four year accreditation with the new Quality Measures 2005.
Kalix and MVW Services, Inc have received numerous awards over the years. The following is a partial list.
· Minot Mayor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities
Employer of the Year – Private Sector over 200 Employees
Awarded in 1996, 2001, 2003
· ND Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities
Private Employer Merit Award
Awarded in 1996
· US Department of Housing and Urban Development
Secretary’s Commendation “Top 1000” High Performing Multifamily Properties
Awarded in 2000
· NISH Certificate of Achievement
Outstanding Performance of JWOD Contracts
Awarded in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010