Archive for Getting to Know Stories

Annual Report FY 2017-2018

Direct Support Professional

Join us to work with a purpose at Community Living. As a Direct Support Professional (DSP) you will support and enrich the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities by providing assistance with daily living activities to maximize their ability to be as independent as possible.

No experience required, we provide all paid training. Must be at least 18 years of age or older with a valid driver’s license and auto insurance.

  • $11.50 per hour
  • Up to 3 weeks of PTO within the 1st year for both full-time and part-time staff.
  • Health, Dental, Vision and Life Insurance for full-time staff.
  • 90% company paid employee Health Insurance Premium for HSA.
  • Paid Training
  • 401K with company match.



2019 Volunteer of the Year Honoree: St. Charles County Ambulance District

For more than four decades, St. Charles County Ambulance District [SCCAD] has been the primary pre-hospital care provider for the 592 square miles that comprise our community.  Throughout the years, the District has grown with the county, and today, responds to more than 40,000 calls for service annually. To ensure prompt response times to 911 emergencies, the District operates 16 strategically-positioned ambulance stations. Thanks to residents’ approval of a $70M bond issue last August, SCCAD will grow the number of stations and ambulances as call volume increases over the next decade.

A seven-time recipient of the Missouri Emergency Medical Services Association’s ‘Emergency Medical Service of the Year’ award, the Ambulance District has throughout its history, established itself as a forward-thinking organization that develops innovative programs to serve its residents. Examples include a Mobile Integrated Health partnership with BJC, and the immensely successful Substance Use Recovery Response Team, which links those affected by the opiate epidemic with treatment.  The latter initiative earned SCCAD the American Ambulance Association’s 2017 Community Impact Program award.

In addition to providing expert treatment in emergency and non-emergency settings, SCCAD offers a robust array of safety programming for individuals, families and businesses. From helping new parents understand proper techniques for child safety seat installation to offering free hands-only CPR and AED presentations, the District continually seeks to develop mission-driven programming.  Whenever possible, SCCAD partners with other agencies to deliver these programs across the county. Each October, Paramedics partner with the St. Charles City-County Library District and State Farm Insurance to deliver Halloween safety programming to youth, providing glow-in-the-dark bracelets to wear while trick-or-treating. Home health companies and senior church groups are critical to the success of the District’s Rapid Access program, which sees Paramedics placing key safes on residences to ensure crews have quick, easy access to homes in the event that a resident is unable to get to the door to unlock it.  Throughout the year, crews attend scores of high school football games, fall festivals, 5k runs and other community events, providing standby coverage and tours of the ambulance.

By frequently partnering with business leaders, non-profits, fellow emergency response agencies and others both inside and outside the region, SCCAD is able to develop and promote best practices to integrated, community healthcare that exceed expectations. The 250+ Paramedics and support staff of SCCAD consider themselves lucky to serve a community that is so wholly supportive of its first responders.

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 served on several local and state committees related to the disability field.  She 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.

Meet Joe

We can all learn a thing or two from Joe, who works part-time as a dishwasher at the Steak ‘n Shake on Suemandy Drive in St. Peters. He likes his job and everyone he talks to about his job, knows how much he likes it.

“Joe is a phenomenal worker and always brings positive energy here,” Bethany Klohr, Restaurant Manager at Steak ‘n Shake, said. “Every time he comes in, everyone lifts up and the morale jumps up. Everyone smiles when they’re around him.”

Joe was receiving services from Community Living’s Adult Recreation and Residential programs when he was referred to Community Living’s Employment Services program. In early spring, Pam Westhoff, Vocational Coordinator, began working with Joe through the Building Employment Skills Training (B.E.S.T.) program.

Through the B.E.S.T. program, Community Living’s Employment Services staff works with individuals who require additional assistance in reaching their full employment potential. The purpose of the B.E.S.T. program is to help equip individuals with important job and workplace skills and to develop the confidence needed to succeed in the workforce.

B.E.S.T. is individualized and the area of focus varies from person to person. For Joe, he began volunteering at Steak ‘n Shake in early spring as a way to work on job skills. “There was no reason for him to go test out other places, as he loved it at Steak ‘n Shake,” Pam said. “He wanted to work here, and he had the dishwashing skills down pretty quickly. It was great when we were told Joe was wanted as a coworker.”

Joe began as a Steak ‘n Shake team member on June 22, and his favorite part of working is making money, which he is saving to go shopping for clothes. Of course, he also enjoys having the independence of getting out of his house for a few hours each week. Joe works 5-9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Since he started, Pam has noticed Joe has become more social with his coworkers. “There’s a sense of pride,” Pam said. “He’s comfortable in his environment and he knows what he is doing is important.”

Just as Joe likes his job, Bethany likes that Joe is teaching the other team members whether they realize it or not. “I think it’s good for them to see that nothing holds Joe back from anything,” Bethany said. “If you have a goal, you have a goal, and we all try to work hard for it. Also, he shows them that it’s okay to be happy at work, no matter how hard the job is. I think it’s great that everyone can work together. Honestly, none of us look at Joe differently, he’s a team member just like all of us, who just comes in happy and ready to work.”

Meet Caleb

Emotions were high June 30 at Community Living’s Technology Fund ceremony. There was excitement and there were tears. “Everyone in my family knows I’m the cry baby,” Rosetta Hodges, Caleb’s mom, said.

The tears from Rosetta were of pure joy, especially after watching her son, Caleb, open the iPad Pro and Otterbox, which he received at the ceremony. “Our family doesn’t always have the resources to do and get some of the things Caleb needs,” Rosetta said. “For me to see how excited he was, it comes from a grateful heart. Everything Community Living does as a whole has opened so many doors for him that he would never have had access to otherwise.”

Caleb, a participant of the Social Opportunities and Recreation (SOAR) program, was one of 24 individuals who received technology through the Technology Fund. Individuals who participate in one of Community Living’s direct support services programs were given the opportunity to apply for technology devices. “When I saw the application, I decided to apply,” Rosetta said. “We weren’t sure what Caleb would receive, but when he saw the iPad he was so excited.”

Now Caleb has his very own iPad, which his brother says he makes sure everyone knows. “When I brought it home, I immediately charged it and got it set up,” Caleb said. Currently, his favorite thing is playing “Flight Pilot” where he can build his own plan and fly it. While he plays the game, he talks about it and communicates with his family.

Communication doesn’t come easy for Caleb. But while holding the iPad, he becomes quite a communicator. “He won’t always tell you how he’s feeling, but when he’s holding the iPad it calms him, and he talks while utilizing the iPad because he has something to occupy him,” Rosetta said. “He will share more about his day and how he is feeling when he uses the iPad. Otherwise he keeps it all bottled inside.”

When he goes back to school in August, both Caleb and Rosetta know the iPad will be utilized for learning. “The school will be able to download applications, so I can have access to learning tools and assignments,” Caleb, who enjoys math and science, said. “I like my iPad and I also like the people who gave to the fund,” Caleb said. “They are so nice.”

The family hopes the iPad will help open doors for Caleb that otherwise wouldn’t be open for him. “He has a hard time with the social side of life,” Rosetta said. “The iPad is already helping him interact and we hope that only continues.”

Click here to read more about the Technology Fund. Click here for more photos from the Technology Fund ceremony.

Meet Don

Plans don’t always work out the way you originally think; sometimes the detour (so to speak) works out far better than the original plan. For Don, resident in Community Living’s Residential program, there were some detours, but the most important thing is now he’s happy as well as his family.

When David Parr, Don’s brother, was introduced to Leann Clement, Director of Residential Services, “Leann told me all about the process,” David said. “She’s responsible for helping me get in touch with a case manager, who then helped me apply for funding and was able to walk me through the steps to get Don into a supported home. None of this happens overnight.”

Originally, the plan was to have Don live with family forever, but things out of the family’s control happened, and the process of getting Don into a better living situation began. “I received a lot of information from the case manager and Leann, but it all takes time and I didn’t have the time,” David said. “I needed to get Don out of an unsafe situation, so I got him placed with another organization. It was always our intention to get him into Community Living; it was just a process to get there.”

In a year and a half, Don moved three times to various homes in the community with various organizations. Along the way, he found a church home at First Baptist Church of Harvester. “The church has really taken him in,” David said. “They have a special needs class he attends every week and they’ve given Don the responsibility of being the door greeter.”

When David received the call from Leann about an opening for Don, there was a sense of relief. “This has been a transition, which has been better for him and for us,” David said. “He’s finally at a place we can spend our time celebrating with him, as opposed to worrying about the day-to-day responsibilities with him. We are at the point where his quality of life is better than ever.”

On April 1, the family moved Don into one of Community Living’s supported living homes in the community. It was also Don’s birthday. “It was no April Fool’s joke,” Don said. Both Don and David are happy about the new living arrangements. “We’ve finally come to a place where everything has come together,” David said. “It’s been a long process and we’re learning as we go, and we’ve learned there are so many opportunities for Don. We’ve finally landed where we feel he is home.”

The phrase, “Things happen for a reason,” keeps coming to David’s mind when talking about his brother’s transition. One of Don’s concerns about moving was his church. “He was worried he would be too far to attend,” David said. “His new home is five minutes away from his church. Everything just keeps coming into place.”

David realizes this transition for his brother took a village. “I want it to be known that it took a lot of people who worked hard to get Don to where he is now,” David said. “It’s very gratifying.”

In just a few weeks, Don already likes everything about his new home. “I like my roommates … and the staff,” Don said.

Don, a sports enthusiast, has already gotten his roommates excited about Cardinals baseball. “Each individual brings something different to the house,” Lenora Dillon, Residential Lead Staff, said. “While Don will never replace who we lost, he brings his own personality to our home. He has his own interests, which is helping to get the other guys involved and it’s creating bonding moments.”

If there is one thing about Don to know, he brings out the best in people. “I don’t care who they are, people that normally will not do things, Don will get them to do it,” David said. “He’s good at that and that’s a blessing.”

Top photo: Don looks through his baseball card collection. He says he has about 73,000 cards. Below photo: Don, middle, with two of his brothers, Jerry, left, and David.

Meet Chris

As parents, you want what is best for your child(ren). Walter Sitzwohl and his late wife Tomme, have done just that for Jennifer and Andrea, Walter’s daughters, and Chris and Jonathan, Tomme’s sons.

Walter and Tomme met in 1990, and that’s when Walter met 16-year-old Chris. “My daughters and I had an instant bond with Chris,” Walter said. “Although I didn’t adopt Chris, he’s been my son since we met. He accepted me as his dad.”

Jennifer, Andrea and Jonathan have all moved out on their own. And, recently Chris moved into an O’Fallon home that is operated by Community Living. The transition was much harder on Walter than Chris, but he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. “I have my good days and I have my bad days naturally,” Walter said. “But, I’m so grateful that Chris loves his new home. He’s at a place he feels comfortable.”

Walter and Tomme made sure Chris would be well taken care of if anything would happen to either one of them. Before she passed away, Tomme said to Walter, “Chris is going to be okay.” “All the planning we did together helped her relax her last few days and it helped me, too, knowing that she knew,” Walter said.

Chris has been a participant in the Support Services for Adults program since his graduation from Boonslick State School. “It was when the center was located off Cave Springs and it had only three rooms,” Walter said. The family also utilized the Respite Care Home.

It wasn’t until a close friend of Walter’s died of a heart attack, that Walter started thinking about Chris’ future living arrangements. “I began thinking, ‘what if I’m upstairs putting clothes away and something happens to me?,’” Walter said. “Chris would be all alone. He can’t get water, he doesn’t know how to prepare food, he wouldn’t know how to make a phone call, so all this thinking made me want to find a place Chris could live in case anything happened to me.”

He also wanted a place that he knew Chris would be well taken care of and treated with respect. “Tomme and I have always appreciated how well Community Living’s staff works to make sure the clients have a full life,” Walter said. “So, it wasn’t a hard decision to go with Community Living’s Residential program for Chris.”

As far as moving into the new house, Chris recognized staff that worked with him when he first started at the center. “It was a mini-reunion for Chris to see staff he hadn’t seen in a while,” Walter said. Today, Chris attends Clever Center, one of the four Support Services for Adults centers, located in Dardenne Prairie, which is closer to his home. The transition was easy for Chris, as his roommate, Eric, who Chris has bonded with, also attends Clever Center.

For Walter, he’s happy Chris is on his own, but he does get lonely. “My job has been to take care of Chris so it’s hard to give that up,” Walter said. “People try to tell me that now I have time for me, but I try to explain to them that’s not why I did this. I didn’t move Chris out of the house so I can go do what I want to do, I did it for Chris’ safety. I did it for Chris’ well-being, not mine.”

Community Support

With all the change and transition, Walter and Chris continue a family tradition. It was a tradition that started four and a half years ago. On Thursdays, Walter picks Chris up from Clever Center and takes him out to dinner at The Three Families Restaurant, located on Mexico Road in St. Peters.

Owners, Wayne and Sara Sanders, met Walter soon after they opened in October 2012. “Walter told me about his son and how he needs his food blended,” Wayne said. “I told Walter we have a machine in the back that can turn rock into dust. A few hours later, Walter brought Chris in for dinner.”

It took Michael Hollander, Executive Chef, a few tries to get the consistency right, but now it has been perfected. “It’s great that we can do this for Chris,” Michael said. “We always try to find ways to make it work.” There are steps taken when blending either spaghetti and meatballs or pasta con broccoli, two of Chris’ favorite meals. Michael even knows how to make the creme brulee the way Chris likes it.

Walter considers the restaurant a haven for Chris and himself. “It’s a familiar place for both of us,” Walter said. “Plus, the staff bends over backwards to take care of us. They know what Chris likes and they make it just for him.”

For a night cap and to spend a little more time with his son before taking him home, Walter takes Chris to Starbucks on the corner of Mexico Road and Mid Rivers Mall Drive. “Starbucks has also been very accommodating to Chris’ needs,” Walter said. “They make the drink at a lower temperature so Chris can drink it. To me, it’s great knowing there are places in the community that do embrace the challenge of people with disabilities that need things made differently. It makes Chris feel accepted and a part of the community experience.”

Top photo: Walter pours more coffee into Chris’ cup at Starbucks. Above right photo: Chris and Walter sit at their favorite table at The Three Families Restaurant. “They are good people and have such a good heart,” Sara said.