COLUMN: Hammer and Wayzata’s James J. Hill Days … A meaningful community tradition

By Barbara Brandt

Guest Columnist

Individuals served by Hammer Residences rode on the Lake Minnetonka Trolley in this year's James J. Hill Days parade to raise awareness in the community for Hammer. (Submitted photo)
Individuals served by Hammer Residences rode on the Lake Minnetonka Trolley in this year’s James J. Hill Days parade to raise awareness in the community for Hammer. (Submitted photo)

The people supported by Hammer Residences participated in the James J. Hill Days parade  Sept. 11 in Wayzata, continuing a tradition that has lasted for more than 30 years.

Hammer has long been a part of the Wayzata community, since the doors of the nonprofit opened in 1923. For over 30 years, a very meaningful part of the relationship has been the participation in the annual James J. Hill Days community celebration. The people who live and work at Hammer Residences have joined in on the event in many ways throughout the years, including floats in the parade, hosting a craft booth, showcasing Special Olympics winners and selling Hammer artwork.

Why the tradition?

“People are very proud to be part of Hammer and the community of Wayzata. There is a sense of belonging,” said Hammer Development Director Ellen Timmerman-Borer, who recalls organizing Hammer’s involvement in the Wayzata festival while in her position as Hammer recreation director in 1984. She also has fond memories of walking in the parade and winning the “Most Enthusiastic” award that year!

Many older adults who live at Hammer grew up with the event. They recall participating in the parade when they were teenagers, and they still look forward to joining the festivities every year. This group of veterans is also slowly passing the torch to a new generation. A number of participants this year had less than five years under their belt. Young or old, the response is always the same, “Can we do it again next year?”

James J. Hill Days is a great place for the people who are supported by Hammer to share their skills, artwork and friendship with others. It is also the perfect place to say thank you to a community who has continued to support Hammer’s mission to help people with developmental disabilities live life to its fullest.

Barbara Brandt is the director of communication for Hammer Residences, a Wayzata-based organization that has helped thousands of adults and children with developmental disabilities experience life to its fullest. Hammer provides residential and customized support services, including in-home support, support planning, case management and healthcare coordination to more than 1,400 people throughout the state. To learn more about Hammer, visit hammer.org.