2019 Legacy Honoree: Denise Gould

Denise Gould was born in Montana and moved to Oregon when she was a teenager. Her father was a high school Principal while her mother stayed at home.  Denise was brought up in a loving home, and gained strong values related to work ethic among others.  Once she graduated from high school, she attended college and received a Paralegal degree. She moved to Missouri in the 1980’s and briefly worked at Bodine Aluminum, Inc. which is where she met her husband Richard.  She was hired at Washington University working first for the Treasurer and then as a Human Resource Generalist for an additional seven years.

After marrying, Denise and Richard had two children, David and Emily.  It was when David was born that Denise started to learn about the world of disabilities.  In her effort to find the supports he needed she found F.A.C.T. (Family Advocacy and Community Training).  Because of David’s needs, Denise quit her job at Washington University, and joined Audrey Yarbrough, founder of F.A.C.T., in helping to support families who also had children with disabilities. However, after a few years of working without pay, she had to find a paid position and that is when she joined the SSM team.  She worked there for 10 years in the corporate Human Resource department. In 2003, she came back to F.A.C.T. as Executive Director and that is where she spent the last 15 years of her professional career. The agency was once the vision and dream of two moms trying to make sense of the supports available for their children with developmental disabilities. Today, the agency serves over 1,200 families in six counties each year with a staff of thirty-five.

In Denise’s time at F.A.C.T., she has served on several local and state committees related to the disability field.  She has presented at the local, state and national level on the family driven, family centered – strength-based model of family support.  Denise was integral in changing the state system of providing expensive and outdated communication devices for people who are non-verbal by appealing that decision for her son.  She appealed to the very top of the chain at the state level and because of her advocacy efforts, all people with developmental disabilities can receive an iPad when needed in order to communicate. What once cost the state thousands of dollars now can be purchased for less than one thousand.

Denise values the experiences that each of her career choices has brought to her life but believes her life experiences with her children have been the most valuable.  It is the knowledge gained through her experiences that she strives to share with other parents.  She believes that by being a parent of a child that has a disability and mental health challenge she has an unique perspective that allows her to find a special connection with other families.  In her professional career, she worked to empower the family voice with education, resources, and sometimes just a listening ear.  Although she no longer does this in a formal capacity, she finds that even in everyday life, there is always someone who needs support.  Denise is now enjoying the thrills of retirement by camping, traveling, and spending time with her family.