Linwood Township woman wins SSA award

Joan Distler of Rise, Inc. received the Skip Kruse Memorial Return to Work Award from SSA Area Director Jay Druckrey on Nov. 13.

Joan Distler of Linwood Township has received an award from the Social Security Administration for helping people with disabilities return to work.

Distler is director of customized employment for the Twin Cities metro area at Rise, Inc.

She was honored with the Skip Kruse Memorial Return to Work Award from the Social Security Administration’s Region V, based in Chicago. Each of the ten SSA regions annually present the award to individuals or teams who have made outstanding contributions to the goal of assisting beneficiaries who are disabled and want to return to work. Region V includes Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

SSA Area Director Jay Druckrey made the presentation to Distler at Rise’s corporate offices in Spring Lake Park on Nov. 13.

Distler was honored for her work with Rise’s Ticket to Work (TTW). In this program, people who have disabilities and are currently receiving Social Security Income get customized career planning, job placement, and follow-up support services. The goal is to reduce people’s dependence on government resources by finding and maintaining suitable employment.

Distler also manages Rise’s Midwest Ticket to Work Partnership program, through which the nonprofit agency develops interagency partnerships with other community rehabilitation programs in Minnesota and other states. Rise staff offer assistance in billing and administration to those agencies to maximize the number of people who can benefit from this employment program.

Since starting work at Rise in 1989, Distler has held several positions in the agency’s employment programs for people who have intellectual, mental health, and other significant disabilities. She lives in Linwood Township with her husband and two young children.

A private, nonprofit organization begun in 1971, Rise is dedicated to helping ensure that people can work in the community, earn competitive wages, live safely and comfortably, and make a productive contribution to society. Rise has 20 office locations throughout the Twin Cities, Central Minnesota, and East Central Minnesota, and works with hundreds of area landlords, businesses and employers to carry out its mission.