By Steve Watanaskul, Program Manager
Remember that old saying, “Don’t meet your superheroes as they may disappoint you.”? Well, that wasn’t the case when I was fortunate to meet Megan Newquist and Chris Egert from KSTP’s “Minnesota LIVE!” on March 21. I was able to stand “in the wings” as John Estrem was being interviewed in the studio and then we took some photos together. Megan and Chris were so friendly and welcoming, and I was glad to be a part of this opportunity. I was a little surprised how small it was. Television just makes everything look bigger than it really is. Obviously, I tried not to be one of those people who get star struck.
It all began when I submitted a story idea on the KSTP TV website about Hammer’s 100th anniversary and NER’s 50th anniversary. I started becoming a fan of “Minnesota LIVE!” when it replaced the time slot of “Live with Kelly and Ryan.” Although I was disappointed at first, I began to enjoy watching what was happening across Minnesota. The show has also been a great resource to find activities for the people we support. I decided to submit a story idea since 100 years and 50 years of service are huge milestones. I thought it would be great exposure for our organization. To my surprise, I received a call from one of the producers wanting to put our story in a segment.
I am the Program Manager at our Arrive apartment program and started working at Hammer eight years ago. Before that, I was an AmeriCorps VISTA rep at Neighbors, Inc. My role was to identify ways to engage different population groups as volunteers for the organization. I was able to connect with many professionals in the volunteer field, including Kate Bottiger (who was the Director of Volunteer Resources at Hammer at the time), and I learned about Hammer. They had several openings available, and I applied and was hired as a Direct Support Professional (DSP). Within three years, I became a Program Manager.
The people we serve are what keep me here and are the most enjoyable part of my job. I was like everyone else who said I would work here for a couple of years until I get more experience under my belt—now it’s been eight years. There is something new each day and you feel a certain accomplishment when you can help someone work out their problems. You see the impact you make in the community and that is what keeps me coming back.