A Word from Gerry

Gerry Beagles - Tuesday, July 07, 2020

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

 -Martin Luther King Jr.


Over the past few weeks and months our community has been forced to deal with multiple difficult challenges – the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic fallout, brutal scenes of racial oppression, and the following civil unrest. As an organization committed to the core values of respect, empowerment, and compassion, whose mission is to advance lives of connection, contribution, and meaning for persons with developmental disabilities and the individuals that support them, we must strive to be there for all people, whatever the source of their pain and loss.

Regarding the coronavirus, this unprecedented health crisis has led to demonstrations of such incredible selfless acts of dedication and service that often my heart is overflowing with gratitude. The fact that as of yet we have not had one positive case of the virus at any of our homes is certainly directly linked to those staff that volunteered to move into and work at the sites for weeks on end, and to the steadfast effort that we’ve made towards everyone adhering to the social distancing guidelines. I publicly want to express my deep appreciation for the direct care staff and our management team that has truly stepped up to the task over these past few months.

We also witnessed amazing support through the generous donations that many of you made to our COVID-19 Response Fund! Due to the shelter in place directives, we were unable to hold our annual Walk ‘n Roll and were disheartened by the lost revenue this would cause. Well, with the $42,000 in donations made to the Response Fund added to the $25,000 sponsored match, we have surpassed the $67,000 mark which is just unbelievable! Thank you so much.

The high incidence of the virus among African Americans and the unpardonable death of George Floyd and many other persons of color, has brought a laser focus to the deep and ever present biases in our culture. For over 60 years it has been Garden Center Services’ aspiration to protect and advocate for those members of our society that are marginalized and discriminated against. We must be committed to this not just for persons with developmental disabilities, but all persons. The diversity of our staff and the individuals we serve is one of the greatest strengths of our agency. Each of us must do whatever we can going forward to concretely demonstrate acceptance, empathy, and understanding.

Please, now more than ever, let us be kind to one another.




For more information on the latest at Garden Center, please read our JUL/AUG 2020 newsletter 




Anne McFerron - Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Earlier this week we were notified that the test for two of the individuals we support for the coronavirus came back negative. This was cause for much joy and relief, and also a recommitment to the strategies that we had put into place to keep our consumers and staff safe.

To be this far into the shelter in place and not have one individual we support or staff infected by the virus is incredible! I want to express gratitude for our wonderful, dedicated employees, the front line staff and those that support them, for adhering to all the specified Covid-19 safety guidelines, and keeping our folks engaged and happy!

A Story of Safety and Sacrifice!

Gerry Beagles - Wednesday, April 29, 2020

During this unprecedented novel coronavirus epidemic our agency’s top priority has been the safety and health of the wonderful individuals we’re honored to serve. We discerned that the best way to do this was to limit the exposure to the virus as much as possible. When we reached out to our staff to inquire if there were persons that had the interest and ability to actually move in to one of our group living situations, we were so heartened by the response we received. What truly impressed us was staff’s inclination to make whatever arrangements were necessary in their personal lives that would allow them to take on such a responsibility because “it was the right thing to do” for individuals they considered family!

As one week turned into two weeks and then into a month it was natural that the in-home staff were missing opportunities to share and celebrate holidays, birthdays, and other special events with their own families. In order to demonstrate to these staff just how much we value them and their service to the individuals we support, we arranged for small, safely distanced “friends” to hold surprise lawn celebrations for these awesome staff. Please check out these pictures of Garden Center Services’ mascot Sunny celebrating Dee Dee’s outstanding service and stopping by our Lombard house to wish Felicia a Happy Birthday!!



Gerry Beagles - Wednesday, March 25, 2020

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.” Dalai Lama


Certainly now is one of those times that really identifies those individuals that are able to turn away from their own needs, and maybe their own fears, to be in a position to care about, and for, those fellow humans that are unable to independently care for themselves. I am so thankful and proud that our dedicated staff are certainly part of this group! Many of them also have spouses, children, and parents that require their love and attention, yet day in and day out, shift after shift, they are showing up at our homes providing compassionate, specialized care. We are constantly looking for ways to demonstrate our appreciation for our staff, ways to boost their morale, and our continuous efforts at getting congress to increase funding that will help with DSP overtime pay, paid leave, and multiple other increased expenses agencies are incurring at this time and would invite any of you reading this blog that want to help us recognize our incredible direct care staff to leave a message of gratitude and praise on the agency’s Facebook page! If you don’t do computer then just leave a good ole phone message at 708-560-4400.

Please stay safe and be kind to one another.

It's National Direct Support Professionals Appreciation Week!

Gerry Beagles - Wednesday, September 12, 2018

This week all disability agencies are celebrating National Direct Support Professionals Appreciation Week. I think on a regular basis we strive to have our staff experience how much their dedicated, compassionate service means to us, and more importantly, to the men and women with developmental disabilities that are supported through our programs. But this week is set aside nationally to recognize and show gratitude towards all those persons that work directly with individuals with disabilities, assisting them to accomplish their goals.

I began working in this field over forty years ago as a direct care staff, and I’m so glad that I did. That experience has given me strong insights into the numerous duties that our staff are responsible for, and a deep appreciation for the fine group of direct support professionals that we have working at our agency. I’m very touched and inspired by the committed care provided by these staff, especially given many of these individuals are also providing upkeep and provision for their own families.

I encourage anyone reading this blog to reach out to any persons they know that are caring for individuals with special needs, thank them, and let them know how much their efforts mean!

Thank you.

Enjoy this day.


Kindness Happens

Gerry Beagles - Thursday, December 08, 2016

Recently, the Chicago Tribune published a two-part series discussing abuse and neglect in CILAs (“community group homes”). Within part one it is suggested that because of the dire state of funding, agencies like ours (GCS) can only attract the sort of employee from whom we cannot expect high-quality and compassionate care. I find statements like this deeply troubling. DSPs are among the most valuable assets an agency can have. They are what ultimately determines the condition of the services we are able to provide. While it is true that funding for IDD services in the state of Illinois is gravely inadequate, DSPs can be highly compassionate, motivated, hard working, and talented long-term employees.

In fact, in my world, this is the norm! Everyday I see GCS staff members who really care about the persons they support. I see DSPs developing true personal relationships with the persons we serve. I know I am not alone in noticing this. It is common at the end of tours with prospective consumers for their loved ones to say “WOW, your staff really seem to enjoy being here and spending time with the people they support!” These relationships and that type of work satisfaction can only come about if you’re in it for the right reasons and the long haul.

This is not made possible because GCS has some secret financing scheme. We believe that every individual has untapped gifts, and until they find employment in an environment that truly values them and lifts them up, only then will that person cultivate and harvest those gifts.

Across my 14 years at GCS, and over 40 years working with persons with disabilities in Illinois, I have seen many direct care staff obtain certifications and degrees, move up to leadership positions, and who routinely go the extra mile for those they serve.

There are many areas where services for persons with disabilities can be improved, and that’s why we’re all still here working hard every day. Let us also shine light on those things that are going right. In my next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of those wonderful stories and experiences with you, as well some of the reasons behind those successes.


The Gift of Girl Scout Cookies

Gerry Beagles - Monday, April 20, 2015

I recently received a phone call from a Mrs. Foley that I had met a couple of months ago at a memorial we had held for a wonderful man named Tim that had passed way too soon due to a chronic illness. Mrs. Foley was family to Tim, and she had spoken to me the day of the memorial about how touched she was by the service and the outpouring of compassion she experienced from Tim's peers and staff. 

Mrs. Foley was contacting me to make me aware that her 10 year old granddaughter Bella was wanting to make a donation to the agency. Bella had recently received the generous donation of $100 dollars from a kind individual while she was attempting to sell the delicious cookies that are part of the girl scout tradition that we know so well. The donor didn't want any cookies and Bella could have just put the money towards the revenue generated by the cookie sales. Instead, she decided all on her own that she would put the $100 towards the purchase of 25 boxes of girl scout cookies that she would personally deliver to Garden Center Services. I made arrangements to meet Mrs. Foley and Bella last Thursday at our State Rd. location for the Cookie Presentation! As if "tagalongs" and "do-si-dos" just on their own would not be cause for joy, the real impact came from meeting a 10 year old girl that was so wide eyed, confident, and committed to bringing smiles to persons with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Bella grew up knowing Tim and was able to share some memories of him. She really wanted to do something that would help make his friends happy. After Bella presented me with the cookies, she asked if she could see the all-purpose room that we use for lunches and also our membership meetings. You see, Bella has also been a member of a dance troupe since she was 3, and she was wanting to determine if the size of the all-purpose room would be ample space for her and several members of the troupe to put on a performance for us. WOW!! 

At a time when it seems we are bombarded with news about suffering, disconnection, and retaliation, I hope this story about a caring, committed 10 year old girl scout brings a smile to your face. 




Neither Rain, Nor Hail, Nor 19.3 inches of Snow ....

Gerry Beagles - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A week ago at this time we were still digging out from the blizzard the blew through Chicago land. This time the weather forecasters weren't out to just scare us, as they were fairly accurate about the amount of the white stuff that we were going to be dealing with. I think the gods mistook the happy dance I was doing for having a decent January as a snow dance and therefore blessed us with an abundance of it. But the purpose for this week's blog isn't to complain about Chicago weather, it is to tell the story of all the staff that struggled to make it to work and that put in very long hours, and to share my gratitude for their courage & commitment.

When an agency provides residential services in addition to day programing, it means a commitment to providing care and support 24/7, 365 days a year. It is a huge undertaking, and can only be accomplished through a collaborative effort on the part of dedicated management and direct care staff. In a situation where inclement weather conditions makes travel difficult, we so appreciate those staff that find some way to make it to their designated work site. We also had a number of situations at the houses where the staff that were already on duty agreed to work another shift which meant their relief staff did not have to risk the dodgy travel conditions.

When the weather is so severe that we responsibly close the day programs, we still ask those day program staff that are able to report for work. We then have these day program staff cover the homes in these situations so that the residential staff are not overwhelmed. All of this can be a huge strategic challenge and I am truly amazed at how our staff are able to pull together and get it done! The day in, day out services and support offered by our staff are incredible, but I wanted you all to be aware how often they respond above and beyond the call of duty.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the awesome staff for your incredible commitment to the individuals we support.


People Can Be So Good !

Gerry Beagles - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I just felt the need to share what a great couple of weeks I've had, meeting with various individuals throughout the area to share stories from the lives of the persons we support, and then inviting them to join our efforts to help create more and better stories. Specifically, given that we will shortly have a number of board vacancies, my staff and I had generated a wish list containing names of persons that we wanted to approach regarding their interest in running for one of these vacancies. All of the individuals on the list had some connection to the agency, either as family members or through business dealings, and certainly had demonstrated their support of Garden Center Services in a number of ways. That being said, everyone is so busy, either with families, job responsibilities, community participation, etc., that I was anxious about these individuals' ability to add another commitment to their list. Well, I need not have been!

To a person, everyone that either I or Jennifer Georgis, Director of Development, met with, had such kind, caring, and concrete stories themselves of individuals that are served by our programs, and about the overall efforts of the agency. The initial response of each person was an excitement at the prospect of being on the board, and helping to support our mission of improving the lives of adults with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. I was just so heartened and grateful for their positive experiences linked to our agency, and their selflessness at considering a role on the board of directors.

So often our minds are bombarded with the news stories about conflict, violence, exploitation, and loss. It is helpful and healing to focus on all the good that goes on in the world, and the people that commit to making it happen.

Why We Do What We Do!

Gerry Beagles - Friday, August 31, 2012

I recieived this marvelous letter from one of our guardians and wanted to share it with you. I am so proud of our staff and the differnece they make in the lives of our consumers every day! The sentiments expressed below are exactly the reason we choose to work in this field, and are so lucky to do so.

Dear Gerry,

Having just completed the annual support meeting for my brother, I am taking this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to Garden Center Services.

For decades, my brother lived in a community living facility elsewhere. Over the past 10 years we witnessed a steady decline in his overall physical health and his emotional stability. In a two year period, he was hospitalized over 30 times in 10 different facilities, sometimes for life threatening illnesses, but mostly for psychiatric problems. He was heavily medicated and we felt we would soon lose him.

Had we not found Garden Center Services, I don’t believe my brother would be alive today. And as incredible as that statement is, even more unbelievable is the fact that not only is he alive, he is thriving. We feel that we have our “old” brother back!

We are truly grateful for the excellent support Garden Center Services provides and are impressed that your wonderful staff finds ways to communicate with my brother that has truly brought out the best in him.