Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Southwest Center : A community jewel, uncovered

Thank God for people like Dana Slucher.

Dana, a registered nurse, is Executive Director and the driving force behind the Southwest Center, located at 8009 Terry Road in Southwest Louisville.

If you have traveled Terry Road, odds are you have driven past the Southwest Center. What you may not know about it seems to be the best-kept secret in town.

But what do they do?

The Southwest Center is a non-profit organization that exists to provide support, work and independence to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Begun by a group of parents and caregivers in 1982, the Center has grown steadily and has positively affected the lives of its clients and the community at large. Some of the founders are still deeply involved with the Center.

Mark Lynch and I visited the Southwest Center on Monday to speak with Ms. Slucher about helping to promote their service to the community and got more than we had bargained for. The experience is one I wish each of you could enjoy for yourselves, because it speaks to all that is good and right with our part of town and puts on display the type of values for which Louisville should be known.

Dana and her professional, long-serving staff are upbeat, excited, friendly and compassionate. They believe in what they do. They probably accomplish more in one day at the Center than most of us accomplish in a lifetime, and they do it all with smiles.
And hope.

The Southwest Center brings independence to our friends and family with intellectual disabilities by offering the following services:
  • On Site Employment: Clients are offered the opportunity to earn an income through contracts with local businesses as well as through the Center-owned "Handi-Craft Ceramics". Other opportunities include employment through the job shop which provides job development skills and job placement with on-going support to insure success. Several clients have obtained gainful employment at a fastener company in Riverport through an arrangement with the Center. Also offered: Bulk mail services, "goodie bags" and cleaning services.
  • Handi-Craft Ceramics: This unique and wonderful retail ceramics shop is one of only a handful still operating in Louisville and features over 4000 designs. Handi-Craft Ceramics is located on site and is open to the community. See below for more information on how you can help.
  • Transportation: The Southwest Center offers transportation to and from the facility and to medical appointments via a small fleet of specialized, accessible vehicles.
  • Residential Services: Gives individuals the chance to live on their own with the assistance and supervision of highly trained staff.
  • Adult Day Training: Allows clients to reach new levels of independence through learning daily living activities. The Adult Day Training program staff teaches skills like cooking, cleaning, money management and decision making through use of a mock apartment, complete with a functional kitchen. Individuals in the group are out traveling the community several days a week, accessing resources such as fitness and entertainment.
  • Rental Hall: A competitively priced rental hall is ready to fill your needs for parties, receptions or business meetings for up to 200 people. The rental hall also gives the Center's clients the opportunity to learn how to set up for and clean up after events.
Although the majority of the Southwest Center's clients are from Southwest Louisville, individuals from all over town come to gain skills and enjoy the Center's many programs.

Fun fact: That toy or item encased in a plastic bubble you purchased from a vending machine may have been assembled at the Southwest Center.

Heather, a client at the Center, assisted us as "tour guide". She is a phenomenal success story and proves just what the Center can accomplish for someone with special needs. Vibrant and unique, she led the way in a joyful spirit not found in many other individuals you may encounter on a day-to-day basis. She currently lives in one of the Center's residential properties and has become quite independent. Heather was a real treat for us, and she warmed our hearts. Special thanks to you, Heather!

Throughout the Center, the walls are adorned with artwork produced by some of the Center's clients and the halls are full of genuinely happy people. In my line of work, you do not see that very often. I was struck by the generosity and pleasantness of everyone there and was genuinely moved by the experience. Therefore, I am asking each of you, to the extent possible, to help this charitable organization in every way you can.

A BBB-Accredited charity, the Southwest Center should be at the top of any community-conscious person's list when it comes time to donate to a great cause. But there are other ways to help as well.

If you have a business that has staffing needs, you can contact the Center. They will be glad to assist you, and you will be providing more than just a job to someone. You will be assisting someone seeking to improve their life and gain independence.

If you are a vendor looking for a way to give back, check into the Center's on-site ceramic shop (florists welcome) or inquire about the sub-assembly of toys or other items in the plastic bubbles for your vending machines, or inquire about the Center's bulk mailing or cleaning services

If you enjoy ceramics, there are many unique and beautiful pieces at Handi-Craft Ceramics. The entrance to the retail shop is in the rear of the Center and is open the following hours: Tuesday from 6pm to 9pm, Wednesday from 9am to 3pm, and Friday from 10am to 5pm. These are breathtaking items and are very reasonably priced. Please visit the shop and tell us what you think.

Funding for the Center comes through revenue generated from these sources as well as donations, fundraising, grants and Medicaid Waiver programs.

In all, the Southwest Center is a Louisville jewel, one we can all be proud of having and supporting.

You can tell a lot about our society by looking at the way we treat our most vulnerable. After our visit to the Southwest Center, I can say without reservation that Southwest Louisville is unmatched in it's dedication to our basic core principles: Compassion, dedication, charity, love, respect.

Check back with the Valley Report often for updates and special events happening at the Center in the coming months. You will not want to miss the annual car show on October 15th.Info on the car show can be obtained by contacting Linda Kepple at 502-937-0216.

You can find out more about the Southwest Center by calling 502-935-1848 or by visiting the soon-to-be launched website: www.swcky.org

If we had 10 more like Dana, our world would be a much better place to live.

*Photos of our visit are now live on the Valley Report Facebook page. Special thanks to Mark Lynch of Valley Station for accompanying me to the Center and taking photos.


  1. Wonderfully moving article!!! And I agree, the ceramics shop is filled with delightful, creative and fun articles!! I believe that this community diamond in the rough is ready to be brilliantly illuminated to the rest of the world as an example of what we can achieve through care and compassion.

  2. Excellent place and operated by excellent people. We have been singing their praises too since I started The Local Weekly.
    Good stuff Brian keep it up.
    Trevor Hemingway 40272