Independence at St. Louis Center
Do you remember the first time you cooked a meal for yourself? Patiently, you learned the skills needed to tackle each task of preparing the meal, and you finally had the chance to bring it all together. That feeling of independence is the ultimate accomplishment of your hard work.
Your love and support has helped people with I/DD to be resilient and overcome the tough times of 2020 and 2021. You play an important part in each of the St. Louis Center residents independence journeys. The residents and staff of the Center thank you!
Click Stories of Independence to read more about Jacqui and other St. Louis Center residents’ journeys to independence.
A Community of Care
St. Louis Center is a community of our residents, families, caregivers, friends and businesses, local and distant. Learn more about why St. Louis Center is dear to our many generous supporters as they tell their stories below.
St. Louis Center provides my brother a life that I never could.
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St. Louis Center Stories of Support
St. Louis Center supporters come from our board, staff and resident families. Read more from the perspective of each from Don, CAC Board Member, Rick, Staff Program Director, and Judy, parent of one of our residents.
Read more about Don...
In 1997 Don was a founding Partner of Arbor Partners LLC, one of the early Michigan Venture Capital firms. Don served on the boards of several Michigan start-up companies, is a former board member of the New Enterprise Forum, is an advisor to the University of Michigan’s Wolverine Venture Fund, and served on the Board of the Michigan Venture Capital Association.
Don learned about the Saint Louis Center 25 years ago when a close friend invited him to participate in several fundraising events. During those years, Don saw firsthand the wonderful care and attention each resident received. In 2010 Don joined the SLC Legacy Campaign Committee to help raise the $10 million dollars required to update the existing facilities and build new housing to meet the special needs of the residents with I/DD who are aging. According to Don, it was the right time to launch the Legacy Campaign. The SLC was 50 years old and the buildings needed updating and refurbishing. The SLC residents were also aging and required a higher level of care and a new home designed for their unique needs.
In many cases, the I/DD community is now outliving their parents. Caregivers and families are concerned about who will take care of their loved ones when they are no longer able to do so. Don believes the SLC, with over 50 years of experience serving people with I/DD, is the perfect location and environment to build a Village that will meet the expanding needs of this special community. In Don’s view, the SLC is working to create a future in which every resident with intellectual and developmental disabilities is provided a continuum of life-long care in an integrated residential community that is safe, comfortable, and supportive.
Don is pleased with the Legacy Committee’s progress. By the close of 2018, the Legacy Campaign had reached its first goal of $10M, and several important capital projects were completed. The Family Welcome and Orientation Center was completed in 2011, the special needs playground was dedicated in 2013, the Fr. Guanella Hall transformation to Assisted Living for aging residents was completed in 2014, and St. Louis Guanella Village and the four new Children’s Homes were dedicated in June 2018. In addition, new programs such as fitness, gardening, and music therapy have been launched with new ones being developed. Don knows there is more work to be done, but he is excited about the positive reception the Committee is getting as more people throughout southeast Michigan learn about the Legacy Campaign.
Read more about Rick...
“After retiring, I felt that I owed the citizens of the community my continued services. The County had invested a lot of time and money mentoring me to hold several command positions within the Sheriff’s Department. I felt that those skills should not go unused,” said Rick.
Compassion and willingness to learn are skills and traits he looks for when hiring employees to care for the residents, because their work goes beyond physical care. Rick aims to have a trusting relationship with staff; otherwise, they may not ask for assistance or vocalize concerns related to training.
Rick’s commitment to promoting an environment of trust extends to his work with the residents. In order for the home in which they live to feel family-like, some of the responsibility begins with them. The resident must be trustworthy and respect their home and all of those who reside in it.
“They must be willing to care for one another, live in a family environment by doing chores and sharing the TV and other resources. Residents need to be held accountable,” said Rick. “Each resident needs realistic and attainable goals. If the goal is too challenging or unrealistic, residents may become discouraged…”
This approach seems to be successful because residents respond to Rick’s direction and seek it.
“We are a family. I try to treat each of the residents equally and not show any favoritism. Each resident is fun to be around, so I enjoy interacting with each of them,” he added.
When roaming the halls of St. Louis Center it is not uncommon for a staff member to be asked by a resident, “Where’s Rick?” He has become a point person for many, their rock. He keeps things in order, is fun, doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and most importantly makes the residents feel safe and important.
“Since taking the position with the St. Louis Center in 2009, I have enjoyed every minute of my work. The residents are so friendly and respectful that at times it is hard to know who is helping who.”
Rick knows that he has done his job when a resident leaves St. Louis Center but remains in contact with him. “One of the residents who could not write sent me three pages of squiggly lines on a piece of paper. I sent him a Christmas card with a note inside. I got a letter back from his caregiver one week later thanking me for writing back,” said Rick. “He mailed out several letters to his friends and I was the only one who wrote back. She told me how happy he was to have gotten a letter in return.”
He always goes the extra mile, whether by giving compliments or motivating others. If you see him, maybe send a compliment his way!
Read more about Judy...
Judy was born and raised in Upper Manhattan. She earned her Bachelors degree in psychology from the University of Michigan and was married one week after graduation. Four children followed; the youngest, Susie, was born with intellectual disabilities.
Susie’s birth launched Judy on a new path. She could not find a preschool that would take her and she became Susie’s advocate. Her struggle led her to meet individuals who were working to put special education on the ballot in Michigan.
She recounted the story, “We needed 100,000 signatures and we got them. The Michigan Mandatory Special Education Act passed in 1971 and became law in 1973. The federal law passed in 1973 and went into affect in 1975, but was not as comprehensive as Michigan’s.” The law made it mandatory for schools to educate children with developmental disabilities between ages birth to 26 in order to help them reach their “maximum potential.”
So from 1972 to 1973, advocates worked on the development of the law’s rules and regulations. “I got to know the law inside and out and that’s how I became an advocate,” she said. In fact, Judy was the advocate for several major cases.
Sadly, in 1973 her husband, who was also very active in the struggle for mandatory special education, passed. She recalls that period and raising her children alone. “A dark cloud settled over the family, but the children’s presence helped a great deal.”
Judy’s picture appeared on the front cover of the Ann Arbor News in an article entitled, “What Price Education?” She explained, “The price tag to set up a classroom for one child with autism in the early 1970s was around $28,000. But within one week of the publication of the article, there were six children with special needs enrolled in that class. Something big was happening.”
At 40, Judy began her doctoral studies at the University of Michigan, studying under Professor Percy Bates, also a member of the Legacy Campaign Committee. The PhD would be, in her words, her “union card” to a good job.
Dr. Greenbaum has written five books on topics related to special education and intellectual and developmental disabilities, the latest of which, Life Planning for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, was published in 2007. She has also published professional articles, given workshops and lectures on the topic, and founded advocacy and training organizations.
Flash forward to 2015. Why did she join the Legacy Committee? “To give back.” She explained, “I am really grateful to St. Louis Center for taking care of my daughter. I am impressed by how personalized the care is and how supportive the Center is. The fact that this is a religious organization means a lot to me. I feel that the people who work there are doing God’s work, that they all have a moral center.”
She continued, “There are so many people who need to know that there are places for their loved ones. They are living with anxiety about the future. We can show them what the future looks like for their son or daughter. We can tell them that everything will be okay.”
Saints for St. Louis Center
Meet some of St. Louis Center’s family of supporters, and learn why the Center is important to them in their own words.
Martha Buhr Grimes
“Theodore Roosevelt once said: ‘This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.’ This is why the Buhr Foundation supports St. Louis Center’s St. Louis Guanella Village capital campaign — to help make our community a good place for ALL OF US to live in, especially those among us who are the most vulnerable.”
“The Servants of Charity priests at St. Louis Center have dedicated their lives to providing a home filled with loving care, comfort, and security to children and adults with special needs for over fifty years. When I see what they are doing and have been doing for those who cannot possibly take care of themselves, I want to be part of this wonderful gift of mercy.”
“My involvement with St. Louis Center provides me the opportunity to advocate for one of God’s most precious gifts in our community – the gift of SLC residents who are filled with gratitude, joy and love. You have not experienced a joyful hug until you have been hugged by a SLC resident. SLC keeps me focused on what is truly important in this life – love, mercy, charity and gratitude. Our SLC residents deserve the best that this life has to give and I enjoy spending my time doing my best to be their advocate and voice in the community. SLC is a very special place where minds, bodies and spirits are healed and loved.”
“God has entrusted the residents of St. Louis Center to our care. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are created in the image and likeness of God and are deserving of our best efforts. By caring for them, we humanize ourselves and society.”
“When you walk throughout St. Louis Center it truly feels like ‘holy ground.’ Peace, love and joy flows from the priests and staff, through the residents and into the hearts of those who visit.”
Jack Tocco, Jr.
“Because of the life-altering care and nurturing they administer to the residents, allowing them to have a meaningful existence.”
“The loving care that St. Louis Center provides gives the greater community the chance to embrace differences and promote inclusion. Having the residents involved in our community and having the campus open to volunteers gives all of us a special opportunity to give, grow, and to learn to see light instead of limitations. Thank you for everything you do!”
“When I see what can be done ‘for the least of our children’ it reminds me of how fortunate I have been in life. God bless the priests and staff who care so deeply for God’s children.”
We welcome you to visit us in person.
There is no better way to feel the warmth of the St. Louis Center community or to see the beauty of our surroundings than to meet us on site.
Have you considered a lasting gift?
Come talk with us about planned gifts that will make a difference in the lives of our residents for years to come. If you are interested in becoming a donor or for answers to any questions you may have, contact Christina Ferris, Development Director.
Do you or your group have an interest in community service or volunteer hours?
There are many opportunities available in programs, gardening, fundraisers, and other activities or programs. Learn more about volunteering at St. Louis Center here, or use the form to schedule a visit to see first-hand ways to be involved.
Note that this form is for visits other than tours of SLC facilities in consideration of possible residency. If you are seeking a home for your loved with I/DD please schedule a facility tour with a Social Work Specialist here: Village Facilities & Homes.
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St. Louis Center keeps track of those who have donated to support its mission. It is important to us to keep our supporters informed, especially of upcoming events and Legacy Project progress. If you have donated to St. Louis Center and want to make sure that we have the most accurate, up-to-date information on file for you, please complete this form.
Know that St. Louis Center does not release donor records unless mandated by law.
If you are interested in becoming a donor or for answers to any questions you may have, contact Christina Ferris, Development Director.