St. Louis Center History 1960 – 2023
Welcome to St. Louis Center, a very special place that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities call home since 1960.
Our history starts with the original mission conceived by St. Louis Guanella, who reached out to the poor, people with disabilities, and disenfranchised of the world at the turn of the 20th Century by building missionary homes throughout Europe.
St. Louis School Educational Program for Exceptional Boys was built in 1960 for 60 boys from the Archdiocese of Detroit and was staffed by four Servants of Charity priests from Italy, four nuns and lay teachers, one psychologist and one cook to care for and educate its first residents.
Congress passed the IDEA Act in 1975 and mandated that every child in the United States with a disability was entitled to a public education. St. Louis School became St. Louis Center, and a full-time residential program was born. This began a new period of growth, and Knights of Columbus Hall was constructed with updated classrooms, bedrooms, and a chapel.
St. Joseph Hall was built in 1984 to teach twenty young men how to live more independently, and Fr. Guanella Hall came in 1988 for the needs of residents with more serious mental and physical issues. This beautiful building became a model for the future with a capacity of 20 residents and a main dining room in the center.
In the 1990’s the priests reached out to the community for financial help to provide for the many needs of God’s special children and adults, and so began events like the Memorial Golf Outing, Golf and Glory, the Italian American Club Dinners, the Dad & Lad Outing and visits from civic and religious groups.
In 2000, the Servants of Charity took in ten adult women with I/DD from the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Northville, and Fr. Guanella Hall became their home. Their wing became known as “Our Lady of Providence,” and ten beautiful ladies became part of the St. Louis Center family.
In 2010, the Servants of Charity created a “Legacy Campaign Committee” to address the needs of the future, and a Development Director was hired to assist Fr. Enzo with the challenge of raising $10 million over seven years. Like St. Louis Guanella, the priests’ prayers were answered through Divine Providence (and hard work); and the funding came.
A plan was created for a new development called St. Louis Guanella Village, and like a phoenix, this new creation has been raised from the farm fields of Sylvan Twp. It’s a new village for children, adults, and families coping with I/DD, and after 60 years, the future looks bright. Since 2010 the Servants of Charity have built:
- A Family Welcome and Orientation Center
- A Special Needs Playground
- Assisted Living in Fr. Guanella Hall
- And St. Louis Guanella Village, with:
- Four New Children’s Homes in 2018
- Cottage and Family Homes in 2020
St. Louis Center cannot survive without the help of the community. St. Louis Guanella’s philosophy of care was to recognize the dignity of each individual as a whole person who is a unique creation of God. And each “special child” is given a “choice” to live his or her life to their fullest potential, as God calls all of us to do.