Share This Post

Lutheran Social Service Of Minnesota – Olive Branch Receives 2019 CQL Award of Excellence

The employees of Olive Branch, a supported living home for people with disabilities by Lutheran Social Service Of Minnesota, have been recognized with a 2019 Award of Excellence by CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. This international award acknowledges their dedication to person-centered supports in the Fosston, Minnesota area. By providing services to improve outcomes in areas like natural support networks, social roles, community inclusion, advocacy, and more, these direct support professionals (DSPs) demonstrate a deep commitment to improving quality of life for those receiving services.

“These staff members represent the pinnacle of putting people first.” says Mary Kay Rizzolo, President and CEO of CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. “From helping to develop plans to putting it all into action, they’re focusing on what really matters to the people they support.”

In working to advance inclusion and integration, staff members have supported people to host community-wide activities like Halloween parties, participate in charity events such as ‘Relay for Life,’ and connect with others by hosting an exhibit table at their Intercommunity Health Fair. They are especially fond of creating events that benefit the children of the community. Last year they joined forces with a local daycare and painted “Fosston Rocks” for the Facebook site. Those rocks have traveled all over the world! Supporting people to be valued members of their religious communities and part of the coaching support for the local high school football team are just two examples of how natural supports and valued social roles have been developed. From supporting people in organizing advocacy group meetings, to taking part in the Minnesota Olmstead Academy, staff members work diligently to promote self-advocacy efforts.

When it comes to staff training and development, employees are cross-trained to improve their on-the-job skillsets and provide more choice regarding staff assignments to the people supported, even meeting monthly to learn, problem-solve, network, and grow. Currently, 20% of the staff are completing DSP credentialing, with a goal to increase to 50% in 2020. People receiving services are directly involved in helping to train their staff, so that supports more closely align with the desired outcomes as each person defines them. In addition, employees are at the forefront of new technology, helping to test and implement software, apps, and devices to improve independence and positive supports, both for the people supported and the larger community. The Olive Branch team provided feedback to the makers of the DOSE Health medication dispensers that led to product improvements such as adaptive flippers that are now available to current and future DOSE users.

“The Olive Branch team is actively engaged in advocacy that ensures the people they support are leading the lives they choose,” said Heidi Reisdorf, senior area director of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s Personal Support Services. “This team lives and breathes the person-centered philosophy, and it shows in their every day work with the people they support.”

The CQL Awards of Excellence recognize individuals, organizations, and/or systems that exemplify the very best in human services for people with disabilities. The 2019 award recipients were selected among dozens of submissions by entities that have achieved CQL Accreditation and/or CQL Certification. Since the CQL Awards of Excellence was first established in 2015, there have been only 10 recipients of this international designation.


Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.