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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Laura Baker School Association

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Developmentally Disabled Centers, Disabilities, Human Services

Mission: Our mission is to respect the life choices and dreams of people with developmental disabilities and help them reach their goals.

Target demographics: People with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Geographic areas served: Rice County, Minnesota and the surrounding area.

Programs: OAK STREET SERVICES is a licensed intermediate care facility (ICF-DD) that provides a home with services for people 16 years or older who, because of their developmental disabilities including people with Prader-Willi Syndrome, are not able to live independently in the community. COMMUNITY-BASED LIVING provides residential services in multiple homes in Northfield. Each of the homes has 24-hour staffing, providing people with developmental disabilities the support, training and assistance they need to live as independently as possible. FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICES helps families navigate the world of raising a special needs child and ensure the successful future of their special needs adult. We do this primarily through Respite Care events. CREATIVE ARTS PROGRAM uses art and music as creative tools so clients can focus on developing physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills. Our creative arts programing serves as a catalyst that enriches the individual and community life of clients and staff by providing opportunities to learn from each other through shared creative experiences. PATHWAYS TO THE FUTURE helps to serve as a voice for people with disabilities and engaging the community to advocate for: Accessible, affordable housing, adequate respite resources for families and Public Policies that benefit people with disabilities.

Community Stories

42 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We are donors for LBSA and also serve with our two licensed therapy dogs Mags and Molly. When we visit at LBSA—we turn over the handling of M&M to the clients. First, of course, there is time for cuddling—loved by all! Then the clients get our dogs to obey their commands: from simple ones like staying when told and coming when called, to more complex ones like climbing over and navigating obstacles.

The clients absolutely love doing this,… and so do our dogs. It is wonderful to see the clients learn what the dogs want and need, how to motivate them, and then how get them to perform on command. They really, really love our dogs and they, the dogs, and we all look forward to these joyous sessions.

We are so grateful for LBSA, how they cater so thoughtfully for their clients, how they welcome innovative therapies, how they provide such great facilities, and how they allow us to participate in working with their clients. LBSA is a wonderful service and is so deserving of the time, attention, and resources necessary to continue their excellent support in this critical area

1 Abby G.3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a 'buddy' to a Laura Baker client since my first year of college. Our friendship has easily transcended my four years of college. My experience has been seamless and inspiring. Staff at all levels are helpful. welcoming, and inclusive. Passion and joy exudes from this organization starting with the clients and is contagious within the staff, donors, and volunteers. I think very highly of being involved with LBSA and would encourage anyone to be involved in any manner--big or small. Laura Baker Services Association provides opportunities to make a difference, however, in the end you will realize that the difference that was made was in your own life!

1 Laura Cloak M.

Donor

Rating: 5

We have been honored to support LBSA over the last 3 years since we opened our business in Northfield. We are inspired by their hardworking, caring staff, and the creativity with which they engage with clients and the community, and their commitment to ensuring that every person has the opportunity to live a full life with joy and dignity. We have worked with staff on planning events as well as being donors, and we will continue to support LBSA in every way we are able!

1 Patty B.5

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter was welcomed with open arms at Laura Baker. After moving 10 times in 2 years, she finally found a place that she could call home. Love, love, love the staff!

1 Madison S.3

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I love getting to see my college buddy every week. It's such a rewarding experience to engage in all aspects of my community!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm a college student in Northfield and have been volunteering at Laura Baker over the past year. It brightens my day to visit the clients over on their campus and interact with the most lovable, caring people. The team at Laura Baker works incredibly hard to create an inclusive and nurturing environment - I would recommend visiting or volunteering here to anyone!

2 Alyssa Herzog M.

Donor

Rating: 5

There are two things that set Laura Baker apart in my mind:
1. Its unending commitment to the central idea that all people deserve to live a life filled with dignity, respect, and meaning, and to adapt their services and programs to meet the needs of individuals and families.
2. Its careful attention to the importance of community building, within LBSA and with the larger Northfield community, and its open invitation to be a part of their mission however it works for you.

I am proud to support their work and to connect with them both professionally and personally as their exceptional staff work tirelessly to provide excellent quality of care for their clients and to create an inclusive community for all!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My experience with LBSA dates back to the early 90's when I worked in one of the residential units during my breaks home to Northfield from college. My time there impacted the rest of my life and made me forever sensitive to those with special needs. Laura Baker School does an amazing job of assimilated its residents into our community. I am proud to have worked there and am proud to support the School to this day.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Laura Baker is one of those amazing organizations where you can feel the love and respect. From leadership, clients, staff, donors and volunteers it is nothing short of magic that happens there.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

LBSA plays a vital role in Northfield and greater community. I've had the pleasure of being a volunteer and donor with this organization for several years and truly believe it just continues to get better and better. Their service to clients and people they attract to work towards their mission are impressive. I'm proud to be part of it!

Previous Stories
1

Donor

Rating: 5

This organization is well managed from the top to the bottom! They have a strong leader who not only does a great job managing staff but also is always looking to innovate. Their board is engaged and believes in the mission and making a better life for the clients they serve.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered and interned with LBSA while I was in college, and I feel so lucky to have been apart of the LBSA community (and still am)! The work they do for the community is extremely important, so I want to say "thank you" to the LBSA team. The staff provides exceptional care and they are a top notch nonprofit organization. I highly recommend LBSA.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

About once a month I participate in an art or music project with Laura Baker residents. These are held at my church in Northfield, and the activities are led by the Laura Baker music therapist and the art therapist. The artistic activities give us all a fun way to interact and get to know one another. Some of the residents are out going and are easy to relate to. Others are shy and have trouble communicating, and I'm glad that they are there, even if we can't interact much. The Laura Baker staff do an incredible job of creating an environment where we can all be comfortable and be creative making art and music together. I believe that by bringing these residents to my church, Laura Baker has done an excellent of involving the community.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Once again, yesterday was a wonderful meeting with Ken!

In the 45 years I've known him, I don't recall seeing him more engaged, happy and healthy..........I think this is a wonderful testament to the work you are doing with him.

This is a great outcome for me because a year or two back Ken had a number of physical issues that were preventing him from living independently. We were so lucky to find Laura Baker and the caring staff at your Prairie home.

I thank you for your service and commitment to him.........you guys are "rock stars"

Denny Newell



1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter is in the best possible environment receiving the services and opportunities that she needs. She has been able to achieve more than I thought was possible for her. It is her home and she is very happy there. She has a very caring staff and all of her needs are available and met. I definitely give Laura Baker School Association a 5 star review!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My sister has been at Laura Baker since the 1970s. She loves it there! It is her home! She has lived on campus and in two of the residential homes off campus. We are so lucky to have found Laura Baker and all of its services for my sister. She participates in many of the programs that are offered, such as the art program, music program, pet visits, gardening, farm visits and many more. She has had some health issues in the last year and everyone has been so helpful and kind as she transitions through all of this part of her life. This has been a wonderful placement for my sister. She is very comfortable there and this makes our family happy to know she loves it! Thank you, Laura Baker School Association.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

My family has been associated with Laura Baker since my sister went to live there over 40 years ago. My Dad was one of the first Board members and after he retired from the Board I was asked to become a Board member. It was one of the best decisions I have made, being part of an organization that focuses on the people it serves. A lot of organizations focus on the bottom line or serving clients the way they are told. I learned very quickly that Laura Baker Services is not that type of organization.
Laura Baker is the type of organization that does not believe in following, they believe in Leading. The individuals who call Laura Baker home are not just clients, they are alive with their own personalities and have dreams like everyone else. Being part of this organization has brought that so far to the front that it has made that thinking a part of my life.
Being part of Laura Baker Services has filled a spot in my life that I didn’t know needed to be filled until I became part of it. Laura Baker is constantly looking ahead and pushing the boundaries on the care people with developmental disabilities. It is an organization that I believe leads in not only how people with developmental disabilities are cared for but how they can live the lives they want and deserve. People can very easily overlook others that are not the same as they are, Laura Baker works to make sure that the people they serve are not forgotten but instead raised up. I am proud and honored to be a part of this organization and being on the Board with other great people who believe in Laura Baker’s Mission.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We are so fortunate to have LBSA in Northfield! They provide guidance and opportunities for so many with developmental disabilities, while also providing support to their clients and families. The Northfield community is blessed to have their clients take on many different job opportunities in town. The highlight of my year is always seeing their choir sing at the annual gala. Between my husband and I we are honored to volunteer and also support them through our business.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

For well over a hundred years, Laura Baker Services has been an integral part of the Northfield community by providing much needed services to those with disabilities. But the importance of this organizations goes beyond this.

Throughout the past several years, I have had the opportunity to work with the staff of Laura Baker in a business relationship as well as a community relationship. I’ve seen first-hand how Laura Baker brings people together through its opportunities for service, volunteerism and fundraising, while providing an understanding and awareness of the needs of their clients, including the importance of integration. Because of this, I believe those who live in our town are better able to appreciate ALL who live here!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I first became aware of the Laura Baker Services Association and their programs when I lived in Northfield. At the time I had a sister-in-law who had developmental disabilities, but was generally quite happy and could do a number of things on her own. It was a natural thing to turn to Laura Baker Services for help and guidance. Laura Baker Services was a wonderful fit for Kathy. It is very obvious that Laura Baker Services personnel really care about their mission.

-LBSA has a very experienced first rate administration whose first priority is their clients
-They have personnel who quite obviously genuinely care about what they are doing
-LBSA has a very diverse board who are members of the Norhtfield community and obviously care about their work and mission.
-Northfield and the surrounding community provide great support to LBSA and its clients. This is substantiated by the surrounding community support of Laura Baker Services generally and the annual Laura Baker Gala in particulatr which provides extraordinary support of LBSA and its clients.

If you are looking for a place for your special loved one I highly recommend that you make an effort to check out Laura Baker Services in Northfield. I am sure you will be very happy that you did. May God continue to bless this wonderful organization.

Frank Brust

1 Mary C.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Laura Baker is a huge part of our community! I have owned a small art/gift store in town for many years. I've enjoyed having many of LBSA's clients come visit me and get introduced to art and the craft of "making." I've interacted with them as a volunteer as well as a community member.

Growing up with a brother with special needs, I understand how lonely life can be for folks with anything that sets them apart. I love that Laura Baker works to make their clients part of our town by giving them a chance to have rich and diverse lives.

Sandi Gerdes (the Executive Director) is a constant champion of needs for the clients they serve. She sets an incredible example for all of us on what it means to care for your neighbors and look beyond your own circle to be part of the bigger picture.

I also enjoy seeing the local students from both colleges (St. Olaf & Carleton) having the chance to be exposed to people with different needs. This opens their eyes and hearts to build better adults. This exposure takes away the fear of the unknown for many of them who have never experienced someone who sees the world through different eyes. We all need that reminder on a regular basis & we all need to lend a hand to maintain our fabulous community!

Mary Closner




1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Laura Baker touches our family's life in so many positive ways; from Family Support Services each month to daily living support for my sister. LBSA is a fantastic community member and provides opportunities for parents to get together and meet, opportunities for my boys to help with the golf tournament, and to have the community come together for a summer fun day. Not to mention regular opportunities for college students from both St Olaf and Carleton to come together and share time with clients on a regular basis. Northfield would not be what it is without Laura Baker.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Great organization from the employees to the leadership team and board! LBSA has a clear mission and a profound impact on our community. The continue to look for ways to further their reach and enrich the lives of those they serve

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

Serving on the LBSA Board of Trustees has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. LBSA's mission is to enable its clients to live their best, most fulfilling lives. I am so proud to help enable LBSA to realize its mission through my involvement with the LBSA Board of Trustees. LBSA's longstanding history of providing exceptional support and care to its clients has made LBSA a pillar of the Northfield community.

Our Executive Director (Sandi Gerdes) is second to none. She not only has an incredible grasp on the issues that face LBSA day-to-day but an inspiring vision for LBSA's future. Sandi both walks the walk and she talks the talk. It's not uncommon to see Sandi at local establishments visiting with clients and families in the evenings and on weekends. The clients and the organization are so important to Sandi.

This organization and its people are something truly special.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

LBSA has stood the test of time over 100 years as an organization to fit the needs of those with developmental disabilities in our community to live out their dreams. I'm a proud board member that recognizes that our staff is able to do tremendous work with so few resources at their disposal to deliver on our mission. It's a testament to their passion to serve their fellow community members in need.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Giving and offering my time to Laura Baker Services has been tremendously rewarding for myself and my family. The work this organization does for their clients is amazing and I'm happy to be a part of it. We are very fortunate to have this organization and the residents, staff and volunteers that come with it in our community.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 1

The receptionist did not even know what ICF-DD meant when I called and had me transferred to Human Resources and then when I finally did connect with someone, they acknowledged that they received my message but had other priority clients and did not think to at least let me know this. Overall rude customer service.

Comments ( 1 )

profile

LBSA 05/02/2018

We apologize that you had a bad experience. I can't speak to this specific incident but we do have volunteers that staff our phones and may not know all of the terminology. We always are looking to improve our service. If you would like to discuss further you can reach Andrei at ext. 108

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I'm honored and blessed to be employed by such a wonderful place of growth, warmth, kindness .
I couldn't ask for more. I'm honored to be a part of the resident's lives. THANK YOU LBSA

DANIELLE DASHEUR

Not a board member I'm just an employee but I didn't see that option.

1 Julie T.2

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have served Laura Baker Services as a Board Member for over a decade because I strongly believe in its mission to honor the life choices of individuals with developmental disabilities and to advocate for the resources that will help each person reach his or her potential. I love telling the story of Laura Baker to those who may be new to the organization. The executive director is tireless in her dedication to the individual and collective needs of the clients served, and she has, through decades, helped shape an organization that is highly respected by families, social service agencies and staff. I have experienced Laura Baker to be a warm, creative and nurturing environment to clients and to new and long-term staff. Unfortunately, the legislature and governmental agencies do not allocate sufficient funding to agencies serving persons with disabilities at a level that permits LBSA to compensate highly skilled, compassionate, and creative staff at a competitive level, given cost-of-living expenses in this community. Inevitably, many highly skilled and compassionate professionals move on to other positions that can compensate them at a more sustainable level. Those individuals I know personally who have moved on continue to value Laura Baker’s learning environment, the "can-do" attitude that emanates from the top, and the trust and camaraderie of the team. One thing I have observed is the delight a staff member may show in the quirky sense of humor of a particular client, the tender sensitivity another client exhibits, and the shared pride both client and staff experience when a difficult challenge is met with courage and accomplishment. Our entire Northfield community is enriched by the presence of Laura Baker Services Association in our midst, both on the Oak Street campus and in the various group homes and family homes around town. - Julie T.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

When we moved to Northfield 22 years ago with our one year old we did not know how fortunate we were to be raising our daughter in a community that included Laura Baker Services. Not even when she was diagnosed with developmental delay and our second child was born with Down Syndrome did we know how fortunate we were to be living in a community that included Laura Baker.

But today we will proudly tell everyone that will listen, "We have been blessed to raise our children in this community BECAUSE of Laura Baker."

Over the years Laura Baker Services has given my husband and me and voice so that we can share the triumphs and struggles of raising children with special needs with others in the community so that our lives can be understood.

Because of Laura Baker our daughters have had the opportunity to get together on a monthly basis on the Laura Baker campus and socialize with special needs peers and volunteers from the community to engage in themed activities and build relationships in their monthly Family Support Services respite offering.

It's because of Laura Baker that parents have been able to meet regularly to share concerns and brainstorm solutions to the issues that face our now 20 -something adult children with disabilities. In this venue we have discussed possible housing solutions, opened the door to potential employment and identified the lack of transportation as a huge hurdle in our youth gaining independence.

Because of Laura Baker our youth were able to experience face to face interviews with many business people in the community in a non-threatening atmosphere where they could talk about their strengths and weaknesses challenging the potential employers to think of employment in a new way ie; "What gifts does this individual have and how can they be used to benefit my business?"

Because of Laura Baker our oldest daughter was able to become a resident in one of their group homes 2 1/2 years ago. As a 21 year old she had been wanting to have her "own place" for quite awhile so her transition went very well. Over these 2 years her independence and ability to navigate in the adult world has been a great gift to not only her, but our whole family. She gladly does her share of household chores and enjoys living with young women close to her own age. The staff continue to impress us with their ability to facilitate mending relationships of the four young women living under one roof and all of their comings and goings. Her group home has done a fantastic job keeping our daughter engaged in the community and meeting her head to head with all of her needs.

Because of Laura Baker we can think positively of the future for our daughters.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

Laura Baker Services Association is an incredible organization that helps people with developmental disabilities realize their life's dreams. The focus at Laura Baker is on the client and revolves around the fact one solution does not fit all needs. A wide array of living options are supported at this organization and clients and their families can choose what works best for their situation. Laura Baker creates a home for each individual with all appropriate supports. The staff is selfless and passionate about their vocation and it shows in the care they provide. The Northfield community is extremely supportive of the Association and recognizes that they are one of top employers in the area. In addition to serving the clients well Laura Baker Services also makes a positive contribution back to the community of Northfield. The positive impact this organization has on a person with developmental disabilities and their family as well as the community is second to none.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Laura Baker is a unique place in Minnesota for people with disabilities. For individuals like my son Seth who lives there it offers a small campus community where he is able to know others, participate in social activities, and live in a connected way. Seth has severe autism and can't participate much out in the community. This left him isolated and living alone in a room in a group home much of the time until he was able to come to Laura Baker. At Laura Baker he is surrounded by a group of caring professionals and other residents that mimic a family for him, something he never had in prior placements. This clean, well cared for campus with 5 group homes, embraces its residents as though they really are related and their quality of life really matters.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

My relationship and that of my company, has been primarily on a professional level. I have had the sincere honor and pleasure of working closely with the amazing LBSA staff for over 25 years, My involvement has included finding cost effective solutions to their vehicle needs, and providing the various fleet vehicles. During these many years. I have had the opportunity to attend several of the LBSA's events, including and participating in the annual Golf event for the past 12 years. I assure you that my experience has been nothing short of incredible…time after time! The administrative staff, caregivers, and all the volunteers have been delightful to interact with. Everyone involved with Laura Baker Services is consistent in their sincere loyalty and dedication to the organization and the clients they serve. It has been a pleasure to witness the warm and caring interaction of clients and staff.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

Laura Baker makes a difference! It betters the life of each client it serves, but it also betters the lives of their families and the community of Northfield. It is well run even on a very low fat budget. I had no idea of the wingspan of the organization, but there are so many areas LBSA serves. I am proud to be on the board!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Over fifty years ago when my two brothers with Downs Syndrome became residents of Laura Baker School Association, my family did not realize their capabilities. The two learned to read and write, to be mannerly, to handle money and to live and work in a community. When my youngest brother began to have memory problems, he received special care. He eventually lost physical ability and needed help with everything. His caregivers were loving and attentive. The day he was dying, the night staff person came to see him one last time. If I had memory problems, I’d like to live where he lived. The older of my two brothers has enjoyed great stability, living in the same house with the same house mates for many years. He continues to work and to enjoy his favorite outings. Their living at Laura Baker has been a blessing to my brothers and our family.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

My wife and I have two sons with developmental disabilities. This helps connect us to the DD community that LBSA serves. This is not an easy job and the staff that provides help and quality of life are not paid well. People that serve in this industry do it out of compassion and personal values. It shows up at LBSA, in clients that have strong personal connections to their staff and in the joy they show in simple pleasures. LBSA is a role model for client care in this industry.

Greg and Patty

1 Jill Topp M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering for LBSA for the last eight years in a variety of different roles and I am honored and feel incredibly fortunate to have LBSA part of my life.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

There are many opportunities to address otherwise unmet needs. Giving to Laura Baker Services is one of the most rewarding for me. It addresses the needs of those that are not able to address those needs on their own. The funding generally addresses medium and long term needs for people that need a lifetime of support.

1 Patricia S.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My golden retriever, Marco, and I have volunteered at Laura Baker for almost 4 years. We have had petting sessions with clients, gone on walks with them, and given them opportunities to interact with a loving, patient dog. We have always found the staff to be very professional, yet very calm, patient, and compassionate with their clients. They are well aware of the needs of their clients and provide appropriate services. Marco and I hope to continue our association with Laura Baker for many more years.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

We first knew the parents of a LBSA resident. They told us about a Carleton student who would visit their son and spend an hour or so every week with him.

We assumed that the student spent a term in some college out-reach program. But no, that student visited every week for 4 years, his entire time at Carleton.

And I turned to my wife and said, if a student can do that for 4 years, so can I. And for 5 years, we did a weekly outing. It wasn't as athletic or adventurous as the student-outings, but it became a comfortable routine with meaning for both of us.

Two other Northfielders were also in his life. They have now passed on. One played board games, the other went to Perkins. I think they remembered every birthday and Christmas. And we would share our stories. This is what LBSA has done -- fostered connections where we are all members of the community. Thank you LBSA.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Laura Baker has been part of my brothers life for over 25 years. Laura Baker has supported him as a special person who has needs and wants like any other person in our community. He has gotten to take trips out of state to places he has always wanted to visit and is given opportunities to particiapate in the local community as well. Consideration for what he wants and what would be best for him is always thought of. They do their best to keep family informed of what and how he is doing. Laura Baker Association treats all people with the same respect you or I would expect. The staff is great and work because they enjoy the job not necessarly because it is a job.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

Most people have a person in their life that has a disability. I had a sister, Anna. She was born in a time when there were few, if any, possibilities for her to live a happy, safe, and fulfilling life. She would have done amazing things had Laura Baker been in her life. I am happy to serve on a board that helps to offer life changing choices to a population that is often pushed out of sight and treated as unimportant. Every life is a gift and I believe that God has given us special needs people in the world to remind us that none of are perfect and he wants us to care for those who are unable to care, and make a happy life for themselves. God Bless all those who serve at Laura Baker!