By Terriann Matejcek, Director of Advocacy & Volunteer Resources
I first met Alden when he was a member of Hammer’s self-advocacy group “Power People.” Each meeting, he brought with him many local papers and spent time coming up with great ideas for how the group could promote better living for people with developmental disabilities. He would often send me pictures he had drawn or speeches he had written. They were always new, different ideas that he wanted to share. Alden stood out as a willing and eager leader who smiled frequently – a lot like a politician!
Each time I saw him he reminded me that he wanted to meet with his legislators and go to the capitol. And, he has done this at least once a year for the many years in a row now. He spoke to his legislators about better wages for staff, independent living options, reminding people not to use the “R” word, and often he added a thing or two in there about the Twins.
After one rally at the capitol rotunda, Alden told me it was his dream to make a speech in a formal, political setting like the legislators he had seen. Every single time he saw me thereafter, without fail, he would remind me of this dream. During one of his reminders, he added that he wanted to use a gavel and “whack it down hard” to bring the meeting to order.
I kept thinking that we had to find a way to let him make a speech, and I kept meaning to work on it but time got the better of me. So, when I heard that Alden was struggling and beginning to show significant signs of aging, I decided I’d better not wait.
I am a citizen of the city of Plymouth and have lived there for 16 years. I thought about how the city chambers often sit quiet and unused during the day, and I wrote a letter to my city council members and mayor. I told them about Alden’s wish, about him wanting to use a gavel, and I asked if they could help in any way. Perhaps, they would let us use the chambers during their off time?
I didn’t really expect to hear back for a while. I thought if I got a response, there would be a lot of questions asked along with some hemming and hawing. To my pleasant surprise, I had heard back from almost everyone on the council (individually) within 48 hours. They were all eager to make this happen, and I was connected with City Clerk Sandy Engdahl who hit the ground running.
This past Monday, August 24, the City of Plymouth allowed Alden the chance to realize his dream. At their morning meeting, he was presented with an engraved gavel which he used to bring everyone to order. He then gave a short speech, in front of a packed room, asking for people to come together to make good things happen. Additionally, the city employees gave Alden his own “Mayor for a Day” name plate, tickets to a Twins game, a Joe Mauer jersey, a Target gift card and some spending cash for the game. It was an incredible morning, showing what can happen when government and nonprofit organizations partner together for a common purpose.
Congrats Alden! And, thank you to the City of Plymouth! (You can check out a Channel 12 TV news story here.)