The funny thing about Grace Neuroth-Casson, a former Spirit of Laura Baker recipient, is that she almost didn’t get hired. Household Director Lisa Karsten deliberated over a weekend on whether or not she should hire Grace. “I was afraid that maybe she was too nice and too quiet, and that a couple of our clients would take advantage of that,” she laughs. In the end, Lisa did hire her. Ever since then, Grace has risen to the occasion, becoming a stellar employee, role model and mentor for the organization. “As Graces’s supervisor, I can honestly say that I wish everyone I hired would turn out to be such an asset. She had no experience working with people with developmental disabilities, but has managed to earn the respect of clients, staff, families and the professionals she encounters,” Lisa explains.
Grace almost didn’t apply for the job, either. Grace was working in a nursing home in Faribault when a new client came in who constantly talked about this mysterious place called Laura Baker. “I noticed this lady had the most visitors and friends, and spoke enthusiastically about this place I’d never heard of that meant everything in the world to her,” says Grace. “It caught my attention, and made me wonder.” Not long after, Grace noticed an employment ad for Laura Baker in the local paper. “I decided to apply, even though I had never worked in that field,” she says. Her experience in life was working on a press for a newspaper in Iowa before she started at the nursing home.
Her biggest surprise was the range of ability each client presented. “When I was a kid, people with developmental disabilities were locked away. What a contrast to discover the opportunities our clients have here!” she exclaims. “The clients I work with have more friends and activities than anyone I know.”
Grace was inspired by this vision, and embraced it with passion. She quickly moved into a lead staff position, and from there moved into mentoring new staff for the household. “I wanted people to start off on the right foot, so I asked to be a mentor. I wanted everyone to have a good experience,” she explains. Grace leads by example by focusing on the clients, being positive, suggesting options and continuous encouragement.
The spirit of Laura Baker is present in Grace. She has earned the respect of clients, colleagues and all who come into her orbit by her willingness to try new things and her dedication to excellence in every aspect of her job. When she served on the Professional Development Committee, she was valued for her clear thinking and down-to-earth perspective.