Mediation Services celebrates quarter-century of service in county

It’s been a quarter of a century since Mediation Services for Anoka County began providing low-cost or no-cost peaceful dispute resolution alternatives to residents of Anoka County. That milestone was marked Nov. 16 with a 25th anniversary and volunteer recognition celebration event staged at the Harvest Grill at Bunker Hills.

Leaders from the 1987 beginning of Mediation Services for Anoka County posed for a portrait at the organization’s 25th anniversary celebration Nov. 16. Pictured here are former board members (left to right) former State Sen. Gene Merriam, Boardmember Susan Anderson, Executive Director Ann Wallerstedt, Boardmember Lonni McCauley, Boardmember Bill Hunt and former Coon Rapids City Manager Bob Thistle. Photo courtesy of Mediation Services for Anoka County

Leaders from the 1987 beginning of Mediation Services for Anoka County posed for a portrait at the organization’s 25th anniversary celebration Nov. 16. Pictured here are former board members (left to right) former State Sen. Gene Merriam, Boardmember Susan Anderson, Executive Director Ann Wallerstedt, Boardmember Lonni McCauley, Boardmember Bill Hunt and former Coon Rapids City Manager Bob Thistle. Photo courtesy of Mediation Services for Anoka County

According to Dave Bartholomay, executive director of Mediation Services, the event “was tremendously successful.”

Dozens of Mediation Services veterans as well as many new mediators were in attendance.

“It was wonderful for them to mingle with experienced veterans, to share ideas and passions about helping people,” Bartholomay said.

“For 25 years, Mediation Services volunteers have helped people improve the quality of their lives,” he said.

“We hear story after story about the difference our mediators have made for people who are very appreciative but simply can’t afford to financially support our work.”

Mediation Services, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is funded by private fund-raisers and grants. In addition, foundations, local service clubs and private donors support the mission and donate resources to help provide services.

“Helping resolve conflicts saves police and legal system costs as well as makes for more peaceful communities,” Bartholomay said.

Helping resolve conflicts across an entire community involve a variety of approaches.

While Mediation Services does provide the more traditional mediation between two disagreeing parties, the organization also helps to resolve smaller conflicts that occur in families, schools, neighborhoods, townhome associations and other groups.

Situations such as those may benefit from education and training so that those involved can better manage and resolve the situation before it gets to the level of needing mediation.

“Expanding our outreach will help people help themselves as they deal with difficult situations, and if, in the end, they need mediation services in our offices we would still be available,” Bartholomay said.

Current services offered

Current services offered by Mediation Services for Anoka County include:

• Shared parenting – mediations for those who have already been divorced and need to work on communications or parenting time issues.

• Community mediations – for neighbors, families, and groups that need assistance in working through disagreements.

• Conciliation court mediations – provided in conjunction with the Anoka County courts, give opposing parties one last chance to work out a mutually-acceptable solution before a judge takes control and hands down a ruling.

• Restorative justice mediations – focus on helping the victim repair the harm of a crime.

Expanded services

Next year Mediation Services for Anoka County plans to offer more outreach and education to provide conflict resolution skills to more people across Anoka County, Bartholomay said. “We also plan to expand the offerings available through our new website at www.mediationservice.org, by adding video and training pieces online,” he said.

The new site will “help people resolve disputes in new ways and at new levels, and will complement our existing in-office mediation services,” Batholomay said.

Year in review

Statistics for 2011 show there were 556 cases and 181 mediations were conducted, 67 peaceful alternative classes were offered, 1,802 volunteer hours were logged and 570 adult training hours were recorded.

“With a broad base of public and private support, Mediation Services continues to find new ways to resolve disputes and remain an important community resource,” Bartholomay said.

Recognitions

During the Nov. 16 celebration, Mediation Services presented the Beulah Lea Memorial Award/Volunteer of the Year recognition to Sean Warren.

“Sean has provided invaluable support to our organization since he became a mediator five years ago,” said Bartholomay. “He has helped the organization with conciliation court, analyzing the data of who we served as well as often leading our in-court efforts.”

The Mediator of the Year Award was presented to all those who have mediated for Mediation Services during the past 25 years.

“It is because of all of their wonderful volunteer work that we are celebrating 25 years of service to the community,” Bartholomay said.

Finding mediation

Mediation Services for Anoka County is located at 2520 Coon Rapids Blvd., Suite 100, Coon Rapids.

To learn more about Mediation Services for Anoka County, to make a donation, to volunteer, or to request services, email info@mediationservice.org, visit www.mediationservice.org or call 763-422-8878.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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