Whatever it takes: Meeting the needs of individuals with autism

Caroline Long Tindall, photo courtesy of St. Gerard House

Editor’s note: For our fall Nonprofit issue, we invited local nonprofit leaders to reflect on the successes and challenges of operating a 501(c)(3) in Western North Carolina. 

Caroline Long Tindall is CEO of St. Gerard House. The nonprofit provides services to community members with autism as well as their families.

Xpress: What was the organization’s greatest success in 2023? 

Long Tindall: The pandemic left every organization in dire straits for workers, and St. Gerard House was no exception. For a couple of years, we were short-staffed, which impeded our ability to help more families. After several intentional efforts to retain great staff, and recruit and train new behavior technicians, we are finally fully staffed. This allowed us to fill vacant client spots and start moving families off the waiting list for services.

What are current challenges your organization faces? 

Cash flow, reimbursement rates, staff retention, increasing capacity to meet the ever-growing need, space restraints, only 24 hours in a day — a growing nonprofit is never short on challenges! I would say capacity is our greatest challenge, and the others I mentioned are interfering with growth. The number of WNC families seeking autism services continues to grow at an alarming rate. We need more resources.

What is the most rewarding part of the work you do to help individuals with autism and their families? 

Our mission is to help individuals with autism and their families experience more joy and achieve meaningful life outcomes. This work is such a blessing for us. We get to see kids talk for the first time, make friends and crack jokes for the first time. We get to see kids stop tantruming because they have new communication tools. Families can meet others and not feel so alone on their autism journey. Young adults are becoming part of their community and giving back — the community is getting to know how valuable individuals with autism are. All of our lives are enriched.

What new initiatives are planned for 2024? 

We are still on a quest for a new campus to house our early behavior intervention (ages 3-7) and our day programs (ages 8-21), as well as more space for our Feed the Need (young adult) program. All of our programs have successful outcomes in line with national research and the quality and integrity of our clinical model is unmatched; we just need to reach more families.


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