Memories from the Dorms & the Downsizing

Memories from the Dorms & the Downsizing

In honor of Hammer’s 100th anniversary and NER’s 50th anniversary, we have published Legacies, a special anniversary magazine, celebrating our history, the people we have supported, and those who have made our mission possible all these years. Here is one of the featured stories:

Jill Kunze is the Program Manager at our Black Oaks home and joined Hammer Residences in 1982. She is pictured above with Mary, in 2018.

Jill helping Michelle prepare dinner, 1989

In 1982, I did a college internship at Hammer, working on the girls’ floor of the old main building. (I still work with one of the ladies who lived on the girls’ floor!) After my internship, I was hired part-time on the women’s floor. There were two floors on either side of the old main building with about a dozen people on each floor. Meals were served in the main dining room – everyone would go down and eat together. It was definitely like one big family.

We did a lot of activities together – dances, Halloween parties, and Christ for People (it was AMR back then). We also walked into Wayzata quite a bit, which was just a few blocks from the main building. We would go to the Holiday gas station, Ben Franklin, and Country Kitchen.

There was a pool behind the building that we used a lot in the summer. We had “summer staff” who worked during the day. They would hang out at the pool and do other activities with the people who were at home. There used to be a craft room in the basement with looms for making rugs and placemats. Latch hooking was also very popular.

In 1988, we started downsizing, moving everyone into houses and apartments in the community. This was really nice for the people we supported as now they each had their own rooms. They were able to learn skills to make them more independent, including cooking, laundry, and cleaning.

When we downsized, I went to the Orleans group home in Plymouth (it has since moved and is called Zachary). The downsizing was difficult for some staff. In the main building we were used to having staff we could call to help when needed and they would come over right away. We missed the comradery. I still have friends that I met the first few years I worked at Hammer. We tried to keep the connection for the people who lived in the houses. We got together with Black Oaks and Queensland for dessert, hanging out and having holiday parties. Because the folks had known each other for a long time we felt it was important to keep up those friendships.

Today I am the Program Manager at Black Oaks and have been here since 1992. It’s one of the first houses Hammer bought. I enjoy working with the four ladies who live at Black Oaks. Diana is the only “original” from the downsizing. I worked with her during my internship—we definitely go WAY back! Many years ago, when we were in the main building one of the staff had a very sporty car that Diana really liked. Diana was very observant (still is!). One day, she got the car keys and took a drive down the frontage road. Fortunately, she didn’t get hurt.

Over the years life got better for the people we support. They are mostly treated with respect and have opportunities for jobs in the community. Just being in the community has gotten so much better. People realize they are like everyone else and deserve to be respected like anyone else.

The Legacies magazine is being distributed to all those on our Discoveries mailing list. If you would like to receive a copy of Legacies and/or be added to our Discoveries distribution list, please email barbara.brandt@hammer.org. 

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