Fiscal Year 2017, which concluded at the end of September, was a busy and productive stretch for Paraquad.
Last year, Paraquad continued to empower people with disabilities to increase their independence through more than 20 programs and services. We served people with all types of disabilities in the greater St. Louis area.
We continued our capital expansion and renovation. We completed construction of the Health and Wellness Center in January and we moved into our new office space in September. The rest of construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
What’s New and Coming Soon
Health and Wellness Center: In January, Paraquad opened the new 22,000-square-foot facility across the street from our main office building. Last year, this program served 130 members. So far, we have already served 198 members this year. Eventually, we expect the Center to serve more than 500 members per year. In the new space, we have also started offering exercise classes such as adaptive yoga, tai chi, and spinning. Members in the gym demonstrate increased endurance, reduced secondary health conditions, and improved functional independence.
Bloom Café: Paraquad is excited to announce our new social enterprise, a café that will offer top notch food and service while providing job training for people with disabilities. The program is divided into three stages. First, students will receive formal instruction in a training kitchen, where they will build culinary and soft skills. Graduates will then progress to a paid internship in the café to hone their skills and build job experience. Finally, job seekers will receive job placement and retention services.
Model Accessible Apartment: With the support of our corporate partners, The Home Depot, Flooring Systems Inc., BI Construction, and Therapeutic Specialties Inc., Paraquad is building a model accessible apartment in our new office space. As a Low Vision Center for Rehabilitation Services for the Blind and an Assistive Technology Demonstration Center for Missouri Assistive Technology, Paraquad has a strong history of assistive technology demonstration services. The model apartment will offer an immersive experience showcasing high- and low-tech adaptations such as roll-in showers, adjustable-height counters, raised appliances, and smart home features.
Paraquad: Fiscal Year 2017 in Review
Paraquad provides access to free or low cost assistive technology, which is any item, equipment, software, or system that improves the functional independence of people with disabilities. Last year, we provided 166 pieces of equipment through our Durable Medical Equipment Repair and Reuse Program.
Program Highlight: Home Modification Program. On September 27, 2017, more than 200 volunteers from Home Depot, AT&T, Bank of America, Christian Hospital, Monsanto, OASIS, Regions, United Access, Wells Fargo Advisors, and other partners joined Paraquad to build ramps and other adaptations for 13 people with disabilities, including 11 veterans. Paraquad completed 31 additional projects over the course of the fiscal year.
Paraquad is the largest provider of professional sign language interpreters in St. Louis. Last year, we bridged the communication gap for 592 people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Paraquad provides independent living skills training and support to people with all types of disabilities. We provide practical supports for people who want to transition from a nursing home to the community. For those who need a nursing home level of care, we facilitate personal care attendant services, allowing people to live independently. We also provide skills training through our independent living adult program and peer support. Last year, we served 1,314 adults through these programs and provided information and referral to 7,049 people.
Program Highlight: Youth and Family Services. Paraquad served 154 youth (ages 10-24) in 2017. Our staff supported parents in obtaining accommodations for children with disabilities. We also helped youth build independent living skills through one-on-one training, a monthly youth group, and week-long summer camps.
Paraquad aims to eradicate economic inequality among people with disabilities. We advocate for systems change that will facilitate inclusion, independence, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. We train young leaders, engage in grassroots community organizing, talk to legislators, and participate in statewide advocacy coalitions to promote policies that remove barriers to full inclusion. We provide legal assistance to people with disabilities on topics such as fair housing, discrimination, federal benefits, and healthcare.
Program Highlight: AccessibleSTL®. Paraquad provided ADA site surveys, consulting services, and training on disability inclusion for 30 organizations, educating 600 individuals. Participating organizations included Enterprise Fleet Management, the Missouri History Museum, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Monsanto, the Muny, Regions Bank, the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and Wells Fargo Advisors. This program addresses inclusion and accessibility among local employers.
Paraquad offers vocational education to adults with developmental disabilities to help them live and work independently. We also provide a wide range of employment services and benefits counseling to support youth and adults with disabilities in gaining and maintaining employment. Last year, we assisted 587 people in pursuing their employment goals.
Kurt was diagnosed with autism at 27 months of age. When Kurt’s father, Michael, was asked what he hoped for his son back then, he said, “I wanted Kurt to say, ‘I love dad,’ because he was nonverbal until he was five.”
Kurt exceeded everyone’s expectations, completing high school and going on to college. His father reflects, “The sky was the limit. And he worked so hard. It’s really been a journey that surprised us.”
While completing the SUCCEED program at UMSL, Kurt volunteered at Paraquad through Paraquad’s pre-employment program. When a job opening became available, Kurt worked with his employment specialist to prepare a resume and interview for the job. He was hired and worked with a job coach to succeed in his new position.
Today, Kurt works independently as a CDS Associate at Paraquad, earning a paycheck, paying taxes, and using Call-A-Ride to get to and from work. This summer, he moved into an apartment with two friends. His father recalls with a laugh, “He said once that he can’t wait to sit on his own couch, watch his own TV, and drink a beer.”
“I think I want to live in the apartment and keep working at Paraquad in the future because it’s the perfect place for me,” Kurt says.
Before his injury, Woody Jones, Jr. was an outgoing guy with a great career. On June 6, 2012, a fall changed everything. “Walking in the front of my house, I fell and hit my head and my neck snapped back and I couldn’t move a muscle,” Woody recalls. Woody’s fall was caused by spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal column. The fall caused a bruise on his C5 vertebrae, resulting in almost complete paralysis.
“I couldn’t even scratch my nose, you know, back in the day. And it was scary. I thought, ‘Man, is this going to be it for me – like this forever?’” Woody spent months in the hospital, restricted to the hospital bed except to see more doctors. “It was no life,” he remembers.
Then, a year ago, Woody discovered Paraquad’s Health and Wellness Center. Now, he exercises three days per week. “Now that I’ve joined the gym, I can do some things on my own that I couldn’t before. Put my leg back on the pedestal. I’m getting stronger. I can reach more things. I’ve been able to cook my own meals [and] put my own shirts on and off.”
In addition to the physical changes he has experienced since joining the Health and Wellness Center, Woody says, “Coming here has been uplifting. I keep my chin up,” he says.
With the generous support of individual, corporate, and foundation donors, Paraquad has provided essential programs for people like Kurt and Woody, offering a pathway to independence for low-income people with disabilities. By supporting Paraquad, you empower people with disabilities to live and work more independently. We hope that you will continue to partner with us in expanding opportunities for people with disabilities in our community.
To make a year-end gift today, click here. Thank you for supporting Paraquad.