At six months old, Elizabeth “Elbie” Bevis was so fragile, her parents, Perrin and James, and four older siblings had to learn a new way to pick her up safely. Born with Down syndrome, she faced serious medical complications, requiring a feeding tube into her stomach and a central venous catheter to her heart.
In addition to physical, occupational, and speech therapy, she needed glasses to improve her vision, and braces to keep her ankles in line. For Elbie to learn to crawl, walk, and communicate freely, it would take a devoted team of experts working with her family at her own pace.
The Bevises found that caring community of diverse professionals at Greenville’s Center for Developmental Services. Although they could have chosen in-home therapy for Elbie, they found the support they received there so vital that they continue to make the hour drive each way for her weekly therapy sessions more than two and a half years later. The many milestones she’s reached—and her beaming face—provide evidence that it’s been worth it.
Stories like Elbie’s are not uncommon at CDS, according to Dana McConnell, executive director, and the sound of care teams cheering when a child has achieved a struggled-for goal can often be heard in this special place.
“Children with diagnoses such as autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome often require help from multiple service providers to address their life-long challenges. Rather than have these multiple services segmented throughout various locations in the Upstate, CDS brings them together under one roof for streamlined efficiencies. This unique model of coordinated services is the only one of its kind in the nation,” McConnell said.
Founded in 2000, CDS provides access to developmental screenings, diagnosis, therapy (occupational, physical, speech), audiology, psychology, prosthetics, orthotics, early intervention, parent education, bilingual services, outreach, legal aid, care planning, and family support. On-site partners include Clarity; the GHS Children’s Hospital; Family Connection of S.C.; SC Legal Services; and Thrive Upstate.
Today, CDS serves almost 9,100 individuals with suspected or identified developmental delays or disabilites. Some come for a one-time evaluation for a problem such as a speech delay or a learning difficulty, while others come several times a week for years to address life-long conditions.
Sharing a location and many administrative and treatment functions facilitates collaboration among partners, allowing more holistic care. For CDS staff to provide these services efficiently and securely, up-to-date computer technology is critical. To address this need, the Community Foundation of Greenville recently awarded a Capacity Building Grant to replace four computers and CDS’s computer-switch system.
“CDS has grown from serving 2,000 families each year to now serving over 9,000 families. Our IT capacity must keep up with this growth while protecting the integrity and security of the data we manage,” McConnell said. “This technology update will impact us for the long term, allowing us to provide outreach and other services so that our partners can concentrate on the medical needs of the children.”
Bob Morris, president of the Community Foundation, said Capacity Building Grants target areas where a modest grant can make a significant impact.
“We believe that when capacity building is successful, it strengthens and improves a nonprofit’s ability to achieve its mission, sustain itself over time, and have a quantifiable impact on the community it serves,” Morris said.
“CDS is extremely grateful to be one of this year’s recipients of the Community Foundation’s Capacity Building Grants,” McConnell said. “People don’t often think about the costs to simply operate a facility of our size that offers the services we do, but the Community Foundation gets that.”