ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — In a tough economy, getting a job can be the toughest job of all. But for people like Mary Kester, try finding work when you’re disabled.

Kester is among the 20 or so disabled adults working for Cummins Power Generation in Fridley. The company is one of many in the Twin Cities partnering with Rise, Inc., to supplement their workforces with Rise clients.

“I’m glad there’s Rise, because they’re supportive for people like me. I can’t get a job, disability you know,” she said.

Back in 1971, the non-profit agency launched in the living room of Chet and Gladys Tollefson.

“Yea, time went by in a hurry and I never figured it would expand to this capacity that it has,” said Rise, Inc. Founder Chet Tollefson.

The couple’s son, Loring, had a severe learning disability. Instead of facing the prospect of sending him to an institution, Chet and Gladys created Rise.

The agency’s mission would be to find jobs, shelter and social opportunities for others like their son.

“It made him feel really a part of everything,” said Gladys.

Now 40 years later, Rise is providing job, transit and housing opportunities to more than 4,000 adults with disabilities. Many work at the Rise, Inc. facility in Spring Lake Park. But many others like Kester are placed directly with private employers.

Rise, Inc. President John Barrett said while the number of clients has grown, the core mission hasn’t changed.

“Most people, whether disability or not, want a good job. They want to be able to get out and work and be as self-sufficient as possible. And folks with disabilities are exactly like that,” Barrett said.

Sadly in 2002, the Tollefson’s son died after suffering a heart attack. And though he is no longer in their lives, Chet and Gladys can sense his presence and pride in the faces of other Rise, Inc., clients like Kester.

“I just love it because it’s always there for you,” Kester said.

Comments (5)
  1. S says:

    I worked for Rise Inc, the one in Spring Lake Park and was transferred to another off-site work environment, still working thru rise, I wasn’t impressed, it was just me, the factory work just wasn’t me. I disliked most of the jobs at the off-site, it was in Brooklyn Park,MN. Not going to give out the name, but I just want to wish to anyone who WANTS a job and thinks Rise Inc is great, Best of Luck to you! (it seems you need a doctors note for everything though, to sit down, to listen to music on your cd player [ yes they allow you to listen to mp3 players or your cd player ] and other necessary things like lifting, where I worked for like 3 and half years or so, they didn’t care about a doctors note, they forced you to lift anyway, and forced you to do a job that was on the doctors note for restriction. I feel bad since this place didn’t have a/c either or any windows in the area I was working in.

    Plus the vans, oh goodness, they ARE too small, we are packed in like sardines. Not fun. I am glad I quit working for Rise.

    But don’t let my ranting give away any bad signals, just wanted to say I worked wasn’t fun.

    1. S says:

      I am not here to cause fights, if your a faithful worker, good for you, I am just telling of my experience during my time at Rise. I did like the Spring Lake Park Rise, very much, I just worked there for a few years then got transferred to a different building in a different town.

      A memory of mine is still in my brain, from when I worked at Rise-SLP, we often got jobs called RON, what you do is you rip up books, textbooks, novels, any type of books. I was and still am a very Spiritual & Religious person, I saw that there was a Bible to be ripped up, I refused to rip up the Word of God. I did see other people rip up Bibles, there’s churches all over the place around Rise-SLP, not sure why they couldn’t have donated the Bibles to the churches.

      Don’t me wrong, there was some nice people at RISE-SLP, it just wasn’t my type of job, the story above the comments is true, not many jobs will hire much disabled people, the job world is very difficult right now.

      I never really cared to make any friends while there, I just didn’t really trust much people there.Anywhere in Rise. I was there to WORK and not to socialize about a current pop star who died.

      Anyways, that’s all folks. Again – NOT here to cause fights, just to share some memories of my time working at RISE. If you’re looking for a job, fine, RISE INC may be your job, I am not here to discourage you from ever applying.

      Just trying to tell you, what you may experience……

      At the RISE locations, SLP or the one in Coon Rapids, often had bbq’s from some charity programs, I liked those alot!

  2. Nicole says:

    I’ve worked for Rise (DTH program ) as a supervisor for over ten years. I’ve see Rise grow and offer several job sites geared for adults with disabilities into the community

    Besides the work atmospher, Rise offers programs such as a health fitness program at the Y.M.C.A,a volunteer program”Meals on Wheels’, which delivers meals into the community, and a Senior program geared for adults getting ready to retire.

    Overall, I’m thankful to work for a wonderful company that offers a variety of opportunities for adults with disabilities

    Thank you Rise!!

  3. In The Middle says:

    My company has used RISE services to package and sort our products. They did a good job for a good price. I was happy with their services. They provide employment for folks who would otherwise be on assistance.

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