Thomas A. Kvamme
For the Times
If there were ever a time for a local dedication and loyalty award, the time would be now, and the first recipient would have to be Joyce Leona Anderson.
As of Sunday, Sept. 1, she has recorded 40 years of service being employed by the Mille Lacs County Area Developmental Achievement Center.
“Joyce Anderson is one of the most caring and compassionate persons I know,” DAC Director Rod Peltoma said.
He went on to say, “Her commitment to the Mille Lacs County Area DAC for 40 years is a testament to her dedication. I see her advocate for our clients every day. I am blessed to be working with such a person.”
Anderson recalled Sept. 1, 1973, as her first day on the job, working in Princeton at the time, back when DAC stood for Day Activity Center.
A native of Milaca, Anderson began her employment with the DAC as an aide, working with clients at the armory in Princeton, with Edna Angstman serving as the director.
At that time, there was only one DAC location in Mille Lacs County.
After she had been working at that location in Princeton for approximately 18 months, the DAC then opted to set up operation in Milaca, at what was known then as the old potato warehouse.
Leading up to her long-time employment with the DAC, Anderson first set a course of study that would bring her back home.
Following her graduation from Milaca High School, Anderson went on to pursue her higher education at St. Cloud State College.
At that time, there was no major offered in special education, thus she settled for a major in elementary education, along with a minor in special education.
Much like her responsibility today, dealing with the goals of clients, Anderson knew early on that this was “something I wanted to do.”
Initially she started training to go into the school system, but when the opportunity came to work with the DAC, she opted for that move.
“I thought it was a lot more personal,” she said.
It wasn’t long after that they were set up in Milaca that Angstman retired as director, with Fred Hoffman moving into the director’s chair.
That led to Anderson taking on the academic supervisor and instructor position, a role she held for approximately five years.
According to Anderson, it was time to make one more move, as the DAC packed up and moved to the present site in 1980.
Since the move, the facility has been remodeled twice, with the clients and staff adjusting along the way.
While in that location, Anderson held the same role, working in what was termed “academics alley” because of the way the tables were placed in a row.
The remodeling was done to meet the needs, but while again bursting at the seams, things are going well, according to Anderson.
Over the years, the program has also changed, shifting from a day activity to a more structured program, “not being all arts and crafts,” Anderson said.
One of the first things added was living skills and community skills.
Along the way, the clients were required to write goals, something that hadn’t been done before.
In 1990, with John Boggs retiring, Anderson assumed the role as program coordinator.
Now, nearing 25 years later, she remains in that same role, filling out and helping develop programs for individuals, along with writing down goals.
“I enjoy working with clients a lot more versus all the paperwork,” Anderson said.
Along with developing the programs, Anderson works closely with the clients as they must also have an annual and semiannual conference.
The conferences are held with guardians, advocates, case managers, family and/or caregivers present.
Input is received from clients, along with staff and the entire team, working to make for a smooth operation.
While Anderson has witnessed numerous changes over the years, perhaps the biggest is the number of clients that has gradually increased, from only six when they first made a move from Princeton to 59 clients now registered at the Milaca DAC.
The DAC continues to operate in Princeton with 55 clients, under the direction of Peltoma.
The combined offices have a total of 64 employees, serving as a private nonprofit operation.
The state provides the majority of funding, while the license is issued by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
For Anderson, now more time is spent with “all the different documentations,” while there are a “lot more rules and regulations.”
While it is hard for Anderson to believe 40 years have come and gone, those years have provided for numerous memories.
One of those memories is of the time when they moved from Princeton to Milaca.
“Fred Hoffman brought his tractor and wagon to the Princeton Armory and we loaded all the equipment, tables and chairs on a hay rack and drove up on old Highway 18 and unloaded at the old potato warehouse,” Anderson said.
She recalled the second move as being a little different, since “then we just carried stuff across the street.”
However, one funny moment came as she added, “I remember pushing the piano across the street; that was fun.”
Anderson credits the community being supportive over the years, while pointing out, “as long as they are aware and know what we stand for.”
Along with the hard work of dedicated employees working with Anderson, the clients prove to be a productive part of the community.
To keep up with the trends and changes, Anderson and the employees go through annual DAC training.
For Anderson, a resident of rural Milaca in Hayland Township, she loves to spend any idle time with her garden and her two brown Swiss cattle that she refers to as “pets.”
Cows seem to be her favorite animal, as in her office she has a number of cows that she has received as gifts or collected over the years.
In addition, she finds time to help out with events at the United Methodist Church.
The daughter of the late Arthur and Leona Mort, she still has a number of family relatives to spend time with in the area.
With the passing of Arthur, her foster brother Ralph has since moved in with her and her husband of 38 years, Phil Alan Anderson.
Plans now call for an open house, with refreshments, to celebrate Anderson’s 40 years with the DAC.
The public is invited to drop by to visit and say thanks during the open house, 2-5 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Milaca DAC office.
Anderson has spent 40 years doing a job she loves and wanted to do, and she has plans to keep right on working. That just gives everyone, staff and clients included, another reason to celebrate.