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Compassionate Support For Disabilities

Regional Nonprofit Empowers Those Living With Brain Disorders And Other Injuries

Article by Julie Brown Patton

Photography by Provided By The Center For Specialized Services

Originally published in Clayton City Lifestyle

As a St. Louis nonprofit that helps people recover from brain injuries and other disabilities, The Center for Head Injury Services is anchored by an empathetic, committed team of broad-based professionals, board members, donors and family supporters who find creative solutions for their clients' needs. 

Based in Maryland Heights, the nearly 40-year-old nonprofit provides occupational therapy, vocational training, job coaching and other human resource services. The group also serves adults living with autism. Ron Glenn, the group's executive director, says the historical name of the organization was a bit of a misnomer, in that they work with anyone with a variety of disabilities.

"We also assist those with disabilities related to eyesight or missing limbs, as well as gunshot victims and veterans. We don't turn anybody away," he assures. 

To that end, Ron indicates the nonprofit, just during December, was renamed and introduced publicly as The Center for Specialized Services. 

This nonprofit was launched in 1986, primarily by parents joining with physicians to develop plans for taking care of adult children with disabilities, especially autism and other brain disorders. Ron states that the initiative grew organically into other programs, including training, employment and high school transition assistance. After clients graduate high school, the center's staff works with individuals on social and pre-vocational skills. He says the nonprofit's staffers help find jobs for several hundred individuals on average each year. 

Overall, the center's efforts help 750 people annually in the St. Louis metropolitan area, mainly St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County.

Colleagues indicate Ron’s background of more than 15 years of experience in working with and supporting people with disabilities to live, work and participate in the communities, along with his most recent master of laws achievement, has been helping advance the mission of the organization. 

He adds, "The center has gone through a measure of changes. Although many were tough, all were necessary to improve our service delivery. As a servant to our mission, I find that my role is to bring stability and constancy. It's to work with staff and stakeholders alike for growth and to bring forth successful outcomes. The people we serve deserve it." 

Values embodied by the center's staff interweave a person-centered culture, quality, innovative services, authenticity, long-term win-win relationships, solutions, self-worth, measurable results and continuous improvement. 

"We approach each individual with 100% individuality. Most have been under IEPs implemented by schools. However, parents tell us most IEPs are often cookie-cutter in nature, given what school staffs can do within limited resources. Our programs are developed based on needs," confirms Ron. 

He says the group's quality assurance is maintained through a caregiver coalition, upholding accreditation, frequent surveying of clients' parents and being audited every three years. Additionally, the center is a Better Business Bureau for Ethics torch winner, which honors organizations whose leaders demonstrate a high level of personal character, ensure that the organization's practices meet the highest standards of ethics, and consequently generate trust with its customers and the community.

Current Center for Specialized Services includes:

  • Adult Day (SELF) Program
  • Midwest Adult Autism Project
  • Therapy and Counseling Services
  • Adaptive Equipment Services
  • Training and Transition
  • Career Development Services
  • Employment Support Services
  • Community Support Services

Adaptive equipment services, such as vehicular modifications, can be requested through the center. The evaluations are free of charge to clients, and any potential equipment is ordered by occupational or physical therapists.

Kasey Kaiser, the center's director of development, says they also have a counseling program. 

Employment support from the center's team helps clients get ready for jobs. Job developers operate within a community network to find those interested in employing clients. They also train clients and work on the job with clients to reach agreed-upon benchmarks. Individualized plans come from each job coach. The center's staffers host Job Club on Thursday's in-person or by Zoom, including experts who present details on relevant steps such as how to write cover letters. Attendees can use the computer lab as well.

The center owns and operates two social enterprises to provide training and employment opportunities for people with brain injuries, autism and other disabilities. A social enterprise is a business formed with socially conscious guiding principles. For the center, that means programs designed to train, employ and advance the lives of people with disabilities and create self-sustaining and viable businesses that will serve the community in many different ways. All of the products from the center’s social enterprises are handmade, packaged and sold by an integrated workforce. In addition to training and jobs, 100 percent of the proceeds of the businesses go to support the Center’s mission.

  1. Destination Desserts is a bakery and catering service that produces gourmet cookies, cupcakes and other desserts. Equipped with a food truck, Destination Desserts travels the metro area to businesses, parks and events.
  2. Wags in a Bag is a dog treat bakery that produces all-natural dog biscuits and specialty frosted treats. Wags in a Bag is a regular vendor at fairs and other events where furry friends are welcome and sell its treats directly and through specialty pet shops.

One of the important needs for this group remains fiscal support to sustain their programs and directly support the salaries of professionals helping the center's clients. 

Fundraisers for 2023 include a Rock 'N Roll Bingo at Maryland Heights Community Center on April 21, and the 17th annual Gray Matters Golf Tournament at Old Hickory Country Club on Sept. 28.