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Silent Service: Lincoln Street, Inc. Helps Intellectually Disabled Vermonters Live Fulfilling Lives

Dec 13, 2021 12:47PM ● By By Bruce Farr. Photos by CPerry Photography except where noted.

The LSI Service Coordination team. Photo by Dave Barnum.

Among the most accurate statements one could make about Lincoln Street, Inc., a Vermont-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping intellectually disabled people and their families, is that, for the 40-plus years of its operation, it has been flying under the radar. It’s true: the specialized services agency based in the quiet community of Springfield has been one of the best-kept secrets in the state’s developmental and mental-health services network. But, as it turns out, their quiet, unassuming operation is somewhat by design.

LSI emphasizes developing close one-on-one relationships with the people they serve. Photo by Dave Barnum.

Lincoln Street, Inc. (LSI) got its start in 1979, when parents recognized a gap in residential services for their intellectually disabled children and went looking for alternatives. They soon realized that the best approach was to band together, roll up their sleeves, and open their own community-based home. And that’s precisely what they did, in a house they  built on Lincoln Street in Springfield.

Since then, LSI has grown from its initial charter of serving medically fragile, intellectually disabled children to become a full-service agency. A diverse group of staff and contractors provide a full gamut of supports and services to a wide-ranging complement of citizens, from young adults to seniors and everyone in between. Some of LSI’s services have been fine-tuned to include innovative supports for high school graduates who have autism spectrum disorder, as well as other services that offer empathic, end-of-life care for people who’ve been served for many years. “Add to those our very strong employment program and our ever-expanding residential supports, along with our focus on communication supports,” notes Cheryl “Sherry” Thrall, LSI’s longtime executive director.

Cheryl Thrall, executive director of Lincoln Street, Inc.

Sherry has led LSI since 1986. Over the intervening decades, she has guided the organization to grow and evolve in ways that the original founders might not have imagined were possible when the agency got its humble start.

Steady, Meaningful Growth

Lincoln Street, Inc. is headquartered in Springfield, Vermont. Photo by Dave Barnum.

LSI now occupies a modern, spacious administrative office on River Street in Springfield, as well as satellite offices in White River Junction. In addition to its growth and expansion in Windsor and Windham counties, the organization has also broadened its reach through strategic collaborations. For example, LSI and Upper Valley Services are the two founding member organizations of ARIS Solutions, created in 1996. ARIS Solutions serves as the state’s fiscal agent for a wide variety of Vermont-based programs and provides business office services for an assortment of nonprofit organizations.

“We’ve just celebrated our tenth year of partnership with the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Hartford (Vermont) School District, and the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Services Division,” Sherry points out. “This collaboration is supported by both Vermont and New Hampshire divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation. Our connection with Project SEARCH at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, for example, is in direct response to the needs of the young people we support, to help them enjoy satisfying, well-paying careers.”

LSI recently arranged an on-site flu shot clinic for staff, clients, and their families.

Project SEARCH, Sherry explains, is an internationally recognized program for assisting developmentally disabled youth, helping them graduate from high school with marketable employment skills by completing classroom work and internships within the hospital setting. “DHMC is a wonderful partner,” Sherry notes.

Sherry says that LSI’s steady growth has been fueled by the organization’s ironclad commitment to its original mission. “Since we opened our doors, the culture here at LSI has been one of listening and learning,” she explains. “We take our direction from the people we serve, their families, and our sense of current best practices. And that’s been unwavering over the past four decades.”

LSI’s board of directors is partly comprised of family members of the people the organization serves, along with one member who is a direct recipient of LSI services. Sherry also works with a team of executive advisors, adults who are receiving services from LSI who counsel her on everything from new program model design to staff training.

Sherry notes that LSI has grown to incorporate a cadre of dedicated, highly trained staff and contractors, every one of whom prides him or herself in, as Sherry says, “The value of the relationships they form with the people they support, and the assurance that every one of them has a sense of ‘inclusivity’ at their jobs or out in the community.”
As to LSI’s flying-under-the-radar label, Sherry says that, to an extent, it’s a desired result of the agency’s work—a natural outcome of its role in the community. “We’ve always described ourselves as one of Vermont’s best-kept secrets,” she says. “And that’s not unintentional. We believe that when an agency like ours is providing the best developmental services, then the staff and its support team ought to be somewhat invisible. We try and weave our supports into the fabric of the community, and that should be a given—not a remarkable exception.”

The Comforts of Home

Another critical collaboration that LSI has engaged in for many years is its Vermont Comforts of Home (VCOH) program. Sherry describes VCOH as being focused on serving older Vermonters and people with disabilities, helping them find home providers—homeowners who are willing and able to open their homes to others in need of a welcoming, comfortable place to live. “We worked with the Upper Valley Services organization to create this unique service, and each organization—LSI and UVS—now operates the program separately in their respective regions,” she explains. Sherry says that such a family-based level of care can make a tremendous difference for the people involved, and help them enjoy happier, more fully realized lives.

Home providers working in the VCOH program receive tax-free payments for care, and LSI and other organizations ensure that they are fully trained and supported to administer the very individualized care the people served require in their day-to-day lives. “In this program, adult children living with an aging parent can also be compensated through what is termed a tax-free ‘difficulty of care’ payment,” Sherry says, and training and support are provided by LSI’s team of Service Coordinators and nurses. “It can be a very workable, successful, and satisfying alternative to nursing home care,” she says.

“The outcome for everything we do is to help others develop their vision of the life they wish to lead, being supported by who they choose,” Sherry says. “To live in that way—meaningfully—should be something that’s attainable by everyone. With this and every other service we offer, it’s our mantra to say ‘your voice, your choice, our supports.’"

Lincoln Street, Inc.
374 River Street
Springfield, VT
(802) 886-1833

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