A number of local residents utilize programs

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Jenny Wessels works on a graduation card in the activity room at the DAC.

By Tucker Henderson


As the Wadena County Developmental Achievement Center, Inc. (DAC for short) celebrates its 50th year in service to the greater Wadena County area, Executive Director Rose Bakke emphasizes the importance of its impact to the communities it serves.

Tyler Olsen works at pricing clothing items as part of his vocational work at the Wadena County DAC.

“Our mission is to foster empowerment to the individuals with disabilities so that they can learn skills to further their future in the community,” said Bakke. “It’s also important for us to teach them the skills—how do you clean, how do you plan a meal—just coping with day to day things at your house. And that’s what we’re here for, to teach them those skills, along with skills that will help them, if they so desire, to get a job in the community.”

The Wadena County DAC’s main campus is located in Sebeka along with the Treasure Trove, a thrift store run with the involvement of clients, as well as a third location in Verndale, the Verndale Groceries and Treasure Too. Between these three locations, the DAC serves 35 clients with 15 direct support professionals and five administrative staff members.

Clients who join the “Flip Flop Adventures” are able to earn a trip to a local activity all while getting their exercise each week.

“We have a portion of our clients that are enrolled in the pre-vocational aspect of our center and there we teach them and train them on cleaning,” said Bakke. “So they not only clean our building, but we also have enclaves where a group of individuals go to the different churches and clean. Some go to the senior centers both here and in Menahga, the city halls in Sebeka and Menahga. We have a township hall that we clean twice a year, but the majority of our cleaning is at various churches between Menahga, Sebeka, and Wadena.”

Bakke said that one of the real joys of working at the DAC comes from the ability to see the progress of different clients through the years. She said that some clients begin their careers at the DAC at 18 years of age.

“As they grow and get older, you see them increase their skills and are more capable and efficient at the job tasks that we have them do,” said Bakke. “There’s not a day that goes by that they don’t bring a smile to my face. I can be feeling really down and they can cheer me up. I’m guessing most of the staff would say something similar. That’s a huge benefit.”

Bakke said that there are also clients who are not engaged in the pre-vocational program, instead being a part of the day support services.

“They’re in our day activity room where they do crafts, they play board games, card games, watch movies,” said Bakke. “They’re starting a project where they pick a flag from a country and then they’ll learn about that country and find out what kinds of foods and culture each country has and then we’re hoping that at the end of so many weeks, they’ll be able to prepare a meal from that country and then enjoy it.”

Clients are also encouraged to join the “Flip Flop Adventures” where those who choose to join are able to walk laps around the DAC building in order to both get their daily exercise all the while accumulating so many laps to exchange for a trip to a local activity. Activities have included trips to the Nimrod Bull Bash, Trowbridge Creek Zoo and New York Mills Cultural Center. An upcoming adventure will be to the Becker County Museum.

“It’s important to the individuals that we serve to have a place to go and interact,” said Bakke. “Not only with their peers, but also have the opportunities to get out in the community through planned excursions. We have found with a lot of our clients, they love coming to the center to see their friends. Our clients, some of them live in Menahga, some in Wadena, some out in Perham, so we cover a large area, and this is their meeting point.”

One of DAC’s clients is Jenny Wessels, daughter of Cliff and Shelley Wessels of rural New York Mills. Wessels has been working at the DAC since October of 2003 and enjoys spending her time doing paper preparation and shredding and working with clothes in the vocational area. She also likes to spend time in the activity room where she works on crafts, watches movies, and goes for walks.

Wessels has also been involved in the Special Olympics where she participated on the basketball team. A favorite memory for her was being awarded a trophy and getting to wear a medal for her time on the team.

Another client, Tyler Olsen, will be celebrating his 13th anniversary of working at the DAC on June 1. Olsen also has roots in NY Mills. He lived with his mother, Michele Olsen, and grandparents Rueben and Lorraine Olsen of rural NY Mills and attended school in NY Mills at one time.

“I like working here at the DAC,” said Olsen. “I work at the store on Mondays, I go there and then I go to school and work there. I used to work at the city hall, but I volunteer for subs if they need me to.”

“He’s one of the best volunteers to take somebody’s spot if somebody’s missing,” said Bakke. “He’s always willing to chip in there.”

Olsen works in a variety of capacities at the DAC including mowing the lawn, working with metals, clothing, rug looms, can recycling, and cleaning.

“When I started working here, I didn’t know how to learn the loom, where they make the rugs and then I was kind of shy when I started working here, but now I’m not,” said Olsen of what he’s learned at the DAC. “We mow lawn here too, sometimes I crush cans too sometimes. Then I go home and relax after work. It’s fun.”

Olsen said that Covid was really tough at the DAC and that he’s glad that it’s over with. He is looking forward to the Becker County Museum trip and said that he always enjoys attending events at the NY Mills Cultural Center.