Special Abilities of North Texas annually helps about 250 people, primarily adults, with physical and mental disabilities. It serves all of Denton County, plus parts of northern Tarrant and Dallas Counties with the aid of about 20 paid staff and another 50 volunteers.
Since becoming president and chief executive officer of Special Abilities of North Texas in 2011, Troy Greisen has witnessed many positive changes.
There was the creation of a new strategic plan a few years ago that changed the organization’s name from Day Stay for Adults. There was development of a new mission, vision and logo.
“We really wanted to change the name and make it more reflective of the people that we serve and their capabilities and abilities,” he said.
What a difference from when Greisen started five years ago. Back then his small office was in Denton. The organization later moved to Corinth, then to its first Lewisville facility before achieving the dream of its new home. Since 2014, it has conducted weekday programs at Flower Mound’s Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church.
But, Greisen’s biggest achievement came earlier this year when the organization finally moved into a facility big enough to handle the needs of people with physical and mental challenges completely in Denton County and beyond. That’s when Special Abilities of North Texas purchased and moved into a 13,500-square-foot building at the corner of FM 407 and Garden Ridge Boulevard in Lewisville.
The former charter school, in the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market Shopping Center, is three-times bigger than the previous facility around the corner on Archer Street– which was sold to the Journey to Dream charity.
“The goal has been– and is very close to becoming– what we set out to be, which is the premier charitable organization for people with special needs,” he said. “We want to be the beacon of light anywhere and everywhere and be all-encompassing; providing them [the clients] all the types of services they need– both for themselves, their families and their caregivers. Whether it’s vocational, residential, therapy, case management or something else, we want to be all of it for them, because there’s very little out there for them.”
With Greisen quoting studies that indicate about 20-percent of people having some type of special needs and the explosive population growth of Denton County, he knows his organization has work to do.
Making it tougher is that Texas ranks dead-last in the country for serving the special needs population and one of just two states (Mississippi being the other), that continues to have state-run institutions funded by Medicaid.
Greisen said community-based organizations, like Special Abilities of North Texas, are the key to helping those with special needs; with the new facility providing the resources to do so.
“This place gives us room to grow in the future,” Greisen said. “It will allow us to expand our independent living program and our vocational training program.
“Independent living is huge particularly as they’re becoming adults and age out of special ed in high school. Many are living at home; their parents age, they need to be learning independence where maybe someday they can be somewhat independent in a center or a group home.
“Part of our space here is to build out an independent living center. We’ll get them training and respite care, basically an apartment studio. “
Other spaces will be used as a computer lab, for arts and academics, televisions and recreation, special programs and major activities. Future plans call for creating a gym and expanding the cafeteria.
“The other part where our community really comes into play, is our vocational training,” said Greisen. “Almost every one of them is capable of being productive in the work force. They just need a little bit of training. With our space now we’ll be able to expand and provide the technical skills where they can go out and either be employed in the community with our assistance or we can employ them here with a variety of types of jobs.”
Though Greisen and his staff moved into it in April, the official grand opening and ribbon cutting wasn’t held until Aug. 25, after coordinating the schedules of chambers of commerce from Lewisville, Flower Mound, Coppell, Highland Village and Grapevine.
About 100 people attended the grand opening including local, county and state government officials, plus members of the five area chambers of commerce.
“It always was intended to get a headquarters like this; that always was the dream,” Greisen said. “Now that we’re in here our goal is to replicate other satellite programs, like in Flower Mound, so we can expand geographically to other key places where there’s a great need.”