St. Gerard House Strategic Plan 2023 [PUBLIC]

We are honored to share our new strategic plan with you.

Strategic Plan 2021-2023

Leadership Message

We are honored to share our new strategic plan with you!

St. Gerard House (SGH) has developed this strategic plan to inform and guide our important work over the next three years. We want our community and our stakeholders to know that we hear you and most importantly are committed to serving you. The process of conducting strategic planning has allowed us to proactively assess the external and internal environment for emerging trends, expectations, and barriers. The resulting plan builds on and enhances our capacity to nurture a culture that humbly supports health, wellness, and community responsibility for taking care of each other. Our strategy over the next three years will not only focus on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and education services but transforming how those services are delivered in order to improve outcomes, client satisfaction and the efficiency of delivery. We see our role as working to dismantle barriers and achieving equity for the Autism community. We take pride in the initiatives highlighted in this report, and we extend our deepest gratitude to our dedicated staff, board members, and community partners for the role they all play in our continued success. We are excited for what’s to come and to look forward to increasing our services to meet the growing demands of the communities we have come to know and love.

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - Francis of Assisi

With My Deepest Gratitude,

Caroline Long Executive Director

About Us The mission of St. Gerard House was born out of love and passion to help families navigate the complex course of autism. Founders Caroline Long and Rachael Cushing-Cook experienced the everyday trials of autism in their own families and set out to offer quality services for other WNC families. With the help of family and Fr. Nick Mormando, they opened the doors in 2010 for preschoolers up to age 6. In response to an outcry for help from the region, SGH quickly expanded programming to include therapy for school aged children, teens and young adults.

Our main programs are:

The Grotto Therapeutic Center supports individuals ages 3-21 by providing intensive 1:1 intervention and small group instruction based on the science of ABA therapy. Feed the Need tackles the growing number of young adults aging out of support programs by teaching pre-vocational, community living and social skills to foster independence and productive integration into the community. Connect Drama Club is a summer day program for ages 6-19 seeking social and behavioral support. A lack of intuitive social ability is a hallmark of autism and interferes with the ability to connect and build relationships. Discovery Group is designed for school aged children who have graduated from 1:1 therapy to group learning and academics. Family Group Night is a free, monthly meeting (virtual or in person) for families experiencing special needs. In addition to an educational program, families have an opportunity to enjoy a meal, share resources and fellowship

Mission, Vision & Values The Strategic Planning Team reviewed the current Mission, Vision, and Values of the organization and recommended making minor changes to the statements to represent and describe St. Gerard House’s current and future purpose.

Over the years, St. Gerard House has seen an increasing need for our services among individuals affected by autism. In order to more fully meet the needs of our community, we have intentionally broadened our mission and vision to be more inclusive of these individuals and the community. Serving the autism community continues to be at our core and will continue to be our priority in our future.

To help individuals with autism and their families experience more joy and achieve meaningful life outcomes by providing evidence-based therapies, innovative programs and continuous advocacy.



Families and individuals realizing their full potential.


Excellence. We believe that providing high-quality, humble, person-centered services achieves positive outcomes. Collaboration. We believe that the diverse backgrounds and perspectives within our community and team create opportunities to achieve more for our families. Integrity. We believe honest, transparent, and respectful communications are the cornerstones of our organization.

Equity. We believe every human being is important.

Advocacy . We will work to ensure that our families have a voice in all matters that impact their well-being. Stewardship . We will make careful, responsible decisions about the human talent and financial resources that have been entrusted to us. Joy. We believe that every challenge and triumph will be celebrated to reflect the love that God shares with all of us.

Our Approach

In developing this strategic plan, St. Gerard House examined our current organizational state and our communities’ needs for services, to establish our desired future position. The purpose of the Strategic Plan is to set and document goals and strategies for the organization. The goals and strategies are directed at the programs and services that will better serve the needs of those individuals with autism, their families, and the community. St. Gerard House remains clearly focused on improving the well-being of those we serve. The governing board, leadership team, and staff will use the strategic plan initiatives to direct programs and services to meet and exceed our expectations for accessibility, quality, and person-centered services. The Strategic Plan also supports the professional aspirations of our valued employees and volunteers. St. Gerard House’s mission and vision reflect a conscious decision by the organization to advance our clients potential through quality academic, social, and behavioral support services. The perpetual focus of the organization is to develop programs and services with humility and competence, to best meet the needs of those with autism who may be experiencing barriers to achieving their best life. We believe for strategic planning to be effective it is critical that it is conducted in the context of the community it serves and not in a vacuum. This is particularly important in today’s human service environment, where change is dynamic and occurring at a rapid pace. The Board and staff will continue to evaluate, assess, and adjust the strategic plan on a regular basis, creating a “living” document that is responsive to the changing needs of the autism community.

Our Process

The Strategic Plan was developed with input from a wide variety of constituents as well as a review of available, relevant data. The process used demonstrates our continued commitment to advancing the St. Gerard House vision while upholding the core values of the organization. Key steps in the Strategic Planning process are outlined below. St. Gerard House engaged the services of a Planning Consultant familiar with non-profits and health & human service programs that target improving the well-being of diverse communities. The Executive Director directed the overall planning process, with guidance and facilitation of the Consultant. Community Stakeholder Focus Groups were held with client families and key representatives of non-profit agencies, academic institutions, elected officials, and community partners also serving the WNC service area. Planning Workshops were held with a planning team comprised of board members and leadership staff, to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; review trends in the local and state legislative environment; review and update the mission statement, vision, and values; study the service area needs and identify potential strategic initiatives. Additional meetings were held with the Executive Director and staff to identify the goals, strategies, and action steps. Strategies were refined and action steps were finalized. The final Strategic Plan was presented, reviewed, and approved by the Board of Directors.

Our Team

To prepare for the strategic planning process, St. Gerard House conducted a survey to seek input from its Board and staff to better understand what they believe should be the organization’s priorities for the upcoming year.

Our Clients

It is important that any goals and strategies St. Gerard House puts in place will serve to improve the lives of our clients. To gain their input, we invited them to participate in a focus group to

What does St. Gerard House do best? • “They offer services that provide peace of mind. My child is safe there.” • “They treat individuals with autism age appropriately and with respect.” • “They do a great job of providing support for families even if your child is not in their program.” Ways to improve or gaps in services that St. Gerard House might fill: • Occupational therapy • Part-time or only a few days a week to work on specific skills • Occupational readiness, potential partnerships with BRCC • Sports, Yoga, Music & Dancing. --Movement programs • Transportation • In-home services What should be St. Gerard House priorities over the next three years? • Occupational Therapy, new programs. • Outreach. • Volunteer programs. “Alumni can serve as the best advocates for St. Gerard House but I’ve never been asked.” • Diversity initiatives “Representation matters, and it matters most at the top.”

learn what they believe we do best and where we can improve our services.

Our Community

What is the mission of St. Gerard House? • To make life better for individuals and families affected by autism. • #1 education resource for behavioral management and community awareness for children on the spectrum in WNC. What is the community’s perception of St. Gerard House? • People who know about SGH see it as “gold standard” for families with autism. Parents move to WNC for SGH. Wonderful providers. • People who have connection to autistic families, are sometimes surprised to find that this resource is in Henderson County. • They have experienced meaningful growth as a non- profit –their growth curve is phenomenal. • Very good reputation Are there community partners or linkages that St. Gerard House should strengthen their connection or initiate association? • Schools –Measurable behavioral plans • Head Start • Children Family Resource Center • Blue Ridge Community College -Mainstreaming programs, occupational readiness • Behavioral health providers, medical providers What else should the board & staff know? • Infrastructure-building • Reduce wait list • Recruitment, development, training of qualified staff• • Clinical learning partnerships / training center • Expansion –a fully functioning “mothership” that is excellent in all elements • Collaborative efforts • Fundraising • Succession planning

For the planning process to be effective, we believed it was critical that it be conducted in the context of the community we serve. We proactively sought input from our community leaders to better understand their perception of St. Gerard House, and to build strong support for the plan’s future implementation. Individuals representing community stakeholders, including hospitals, non-profits, and public agencies, were invited to provide input by participating in a focus group discussion. Ten individuals attended. Some of the feedback the group provided is bulleted below.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT is a useful technique for understanding the Strengths and Weaknesses of an organization, and for identifying both the Opportunities open to it and the Threats it faces. Our SWOT provided insight into what direction to take St. Gerard House. It is a tool that helped us to look at the internal and external environments and what impact it will have on the organization. It also provided valuable information to assist us to make decisions and create a meaningful analysis of the potential challenges, that we may face. Below are St. Gerard House’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as identified by the Strategic Planning Team.



• Mission/Purpose • Leadership & Staff • Quality • Therapy • Outcomes; Happy People • Sense of Community • Addition of HR Compensation & Benefits

• Turnover; continuity • Facilities/Space • Communication • For-Profit Competition • Waiting List Growth

SWOT Analysis



• Too Aggressive with Projects (Taking on Too Much) • Mental Preparedness • Large Scale Competitors • Market Competition for Staff • Expensive Cost to Provide Services

• Reducing Waiting List • Organization Development • Succession Planning • Infrastructure Planning • Community Education & Collaboration • Revenue Diversity • Sustainability

PEST Analysis

In a PEST analysis, individuals brainstorm the “big picture” characteristics of the organization’s external environment (this could be a community, region, country, etc.) and from this, draw conclusions about significant forces of change operating within it. This exercise provided the Strategic Planning Team with a context for more detailed planning. Similar to a SWOT, the PEST Analysis allowed us to look at the “big picture” factors that might influence our strategic decisions. Below are the Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technology issues that were identified by the Strategic Planning Team as having an impact on St. Gerard House.



• Life & Work Demands • Venture Capitalist in Therapy • Escalating Lifetime Costs (Housing, Therapy) • Difficult fundraising environment

• BCBA Bill • Independent Practices • Insurance Gaps (lack ACA coverage)

• Unconscious Bias • MCD Expansion • State Funding

• Long-term Financial Consequences of Covid

PEST Analysis



• Increasing Telehealth • Practice Management- Financial • Data Analysis/Mining • Revenue Cycle Opportunities • Communication

• Unconscious Bias • Cultural Bias • Family Instability • Increased Social Corporate Responsibilities • BIPOC Diagnosed Late • Generation Cultural Differences & Poverty

The Strategic Planning Team identified the strategic goals for the organization in key areas. Action Planning Teams in each strategic goal area of the organization were identified and began the development of action plans. Emphasis was placed on creating plans that measure progress and provide a level of accountability throughout the organization. During a series of web meetings, the Strategic Planning Team finalized goals, strategies, and action plans. Goals & Strategies Goal 1 – Organizational Performance We will create a culture of performance improvement to achieve positive outcomes for our clients. 1. Improve the efficiency of internal work processes to increase staff capacity and effectiveness to offer better-coordinated services. 2. Utilize a formalized quality improvement process to achieve measurable clinical outcomes. 3. Improve the client and family experience and address the social determinants of health that may be creating barriers to accessing services. 4. Create an effective risk management program that minimizes risk and increases safety. Goal 2 – Team We will maintain a welcoming and inclusive environment focused on well-trained, engaged staff to support long-term success and growth. 1. Continue to recruit and retain quality staff. 2. Develop an organizational structure and readiness plan that will better support growth while still serving our goals and values. 3. Create succession plans for all positions. 4. Increase development and training opportunities that result in employees being more confident and competent. 5. Refine our recruitment and hiring practices to increase applicant flow and attract exceptional and diverse talent that match the culture of the organization. Goal 3 – Development We will be recognized as the top, quality provider for autism care in the WNC region. 1. Identify strategic partners for collaboration to enhance, strengthen, and expand services. 2. Increase community engagement and awareness by implementing an effective marketing and communications plan. 3. Create a comprehensive fund development plan to encompass balanced program revenue, methods and channels .

Goals & Strategies

Goal 4 – Growth & Expansion We will create an intentional plan for expansion and program growth to meet the needs of the WNC autism community. 1. Implement a standardized system for assessing programs for mission-relevance, infrastructure, capacity for growth, and funding. 2. Determine and implement best methods for assessing needs and gaps in service of the autism community. 3. Maintain awareness of other providers of similar services and keep abreast of best practices in the field. 4. Explore strategic partnership opportunities with like-minded organizations. 5. Continue to be active advocates and the voice of those we serve in order to facilitate change in public policy. Goal 5 – Stewardship We will continue to improve our financial position while being good stewards of our resources. 1. Create and regularly update financial policy & procedures to ensure best practices and compliance. 2. Assess information technology systems to improve utilization, achieve efficient operations, and provide data that will aid decision-making. 3. Create a culture of financial responsibility throughout the organization. 4. Develop and implement a standard process for determining financial feasibility of new & current service lines, programs, and sites. Goal 6– Equity We will foster an equitable organization for staff, clients and families through inclusion and empowerment. 1. Demonstrate our commitment to a just and equitable work and learning environment. 2. Ensure that staff and board have an understanding of equity and inclusion through intentional training and development activities. 3. Develop, implement, and nurture diverse governance membership that is reflective of our community.


St. Gerard House steadfastly believes that strategic plans and processes only work when they are embraced by all employees and the Board and are integrated into each decision and action. Communication of the strategic plan will be a constant, enhancing the understanding of the mission and vision. The strategic plan will be communicated through face-to-face interactions, electronic, and print media. The strategic plan is the framework that all employees and governance will use for creating their planning processes and day-to-day work. It is a “living” document that will be monitored quarterly, reviewed annually, and updated every three years.

Our Participants

Our Community

Our Team

Acceptance & Approval

The plan represents the commitment of the Board to the mission, vision, values, and organizational goals and strategies. The Board recognizes that active governance and oversight are required, and the staff is committed to the plan’s implementation with quarterly tracking and alignment with St. Gerard House’s performance management systems for additional accountability.

The Board of Directors of St. Gerard House has approved the strategic plan .

Our Staff Caroline Long, Executive Director Rachael Cushing Cook, Clinical Director Brad Ward, Director of Finance Bertha Medina, Assistant Director Mary Beth Herman, Director of HR Julia Buchanan, Development Coordinator

Mary Schultz, Chair John Glover, Vice Chair Kelli Spector, Secretary Bill Jansen, Esq., Treasurer Dorsa McGuire, Past Chair Maurean Adams Bob Lange Jerry Lindeman, CPA Dave McFarland Bob Slebonic Our Board of Directors

St. Gerard House 620 Oakland Street Hendersonville, North Carolina 28791

Phone: 828-693-4223

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