In the fifty years since the foundation of the Northeast Georgia Speech Center, staff have seen growth, success and the community coming together on behalf of its disabled members.
“The center has grown, it is a success story and it has had wonderful leadership,” said Alice Ann Mundy, who has been involved with the speech center since its creation in 1970. “Fifty years of this center’s life is something to be proud of and realize that we have a blessed institution right here.”
Today the speech center focuses primarily on helping pre-school children ages two to five-years-old overcome speech and hearing disabilities. Diane Brower, executive director of the Northeast Georgia Speech Center since 1975, said that intervention at a young age is key in helping children develop strong relationships.
“That direct, face-to-face communication is what creates relationships…when children come into a family one of the first things that the parents want to see of that the child is talking,” said Brower. “When sometimes communication is delayed or disordered for various reasons then that effects the whole impact of the family.”
Brower said that the children come to the center for three hours each day of the week and participate in regular pre-school activities that emphasize speech and hearing. These activities take place in a group and individual environment so that the children can learn the skills and then also practice them with others.
And in addition to helping them develop relationships, Brower said that developing these communication skills set a firm foundation for the rest of the child’s life.
“Communication and rehabilitation or therapy at a very young age will impact their future, not only for the way that they talk but so many other aspects of their life,” said Brower.
Along with regular classrooms, the speech center also has its own sensory/motor room with stimulating lights and sounds, as well as a sensory garden so that the children can fine tune their skills in a fun environment.
The speech center’s focus on children dates back to its formation. Mundy said a group of parents in the Gainesville, many of them members of what was then the Gainesville Junior Service League, approached the Gainesville City School Board and requested a speech therapist be hired within the school system.
The members of the Gainesville Junior Service League, now called the Gainesville-Hall County Junior League, offered to supplement the salary of the therapist.
Mundy said that she was hired on as the sole speech therapist in 1965, but it didn’t take long before the service league and other members of the community realized that there was a need greater than one therapist could handle. As a result, the members of the league set about creating their own speech center.
“They worked for several years getting that program together and then proving, I guess to the community, that there was a dire need for it,” said Mundy. “But as we know, women are very strong so it wasn’t that long that they did get it underway.”
Mundy said that it didn’t take long for the speech center to grow- by 2010 the speech center had moved four times, purchased and celebrated a mortgage burning for one of those locations, and finally made it to its current location on Washington Street in Gainesville.
But she said that one of the greatest moments in the speech center’s history was when it was one of few in the nation to be accredited by the American Speech and Hearing Association in 1976, only six years after its foundation.
“We found out that out of only 83 Georgia speech centers, just one of five was accredited and there were 2,500 in the United States and only 300 were accredited,” said Mundy.
Staff at the speech center hosted a celebration on November 1 to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary.
There is more information about the Northeast Georgia Speech Center on their website.
For Goodness Sake is a monthly series highlighting non-profits in the North Georgia area. Have a non-profit that you would like to see featured? Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org!