Prior to the beginning life of the Speech Center, many speech therapy cases had to be transported by family or friends to Atlanta or Athens – which meant at least a 3-4 hour round trip. Therapy was offered through the City Schools in the mid – 1950’s, but there was a lengthy waiting list. Realizing the near desperate need for a speech and hearing center, the Gainesville Junior Service League, in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s, began their organized research with a uniquely special committee of caring, committed women who would study, travel to, and visit centers across the state and even outside of Georgia, and then create a plan for our own Center. Their work totaled long hours and many interviews with professionals involved in other centers who provided the knowledge needed to make the kind of investment, which would benefit our community with quality services.
In 1970, the First Methodist Church (GFUMC), then on Green Street, offered a second-floor suite of two rooms to be used as a starting place for the speech center. In 1971, the doors were officially opened with a newly graduated UGA speech pathologist in place and a small staff of junior League volunteers for administrative duties. An advisory board was formed and a professor from UGA’s speech and hearing department agreed to serve an Advisor to the Board.
In four years, the Northeast Georgia Speech Center, Inc. moved into a larger facility made available for us to rent on the Brenau campus. Staff had increased to two full-time speech-language pathologists and a part-time receptionist/secretary; however, Junior League volunteers continued to be an integral part of the Center and the financial support of the League and Gainesville community insured the stability of the fledgling center. In 1976, the Northeast Georgia Speech Center achieved national recognition by earning American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) accreditation. This was an especially important achievement as only 5 speech programs in Georgia were accredited to provide speech-language services. Due to the cost of operating the accreditation program when so few centers qualified, ASHA discontinued the accreditation program in 2005, however the Speech Center continued this important recognition through accreditation for professional services by the National Association of Speech and Hearing Centers – a network of not-for-profit, independent centers who pass stringent peer review qualifications and criteria. In 1982, with faith and trust in only the pockets of our hearts, we purchased our own free-standing building on Spring Street. In only 7 years, we were blessed by having a “Burning the Mortgage” celebration. With a staff of 3 full-time speech-language pathologists and a full-time office manager, we provided therapy to local and area hospitals, nursing homes, head start programs and preschools as well as the clients who came to the Speech Center building. In 1992, we began our very successful Therapeutic Language for Children (TLC) program for three to five year old preschoolers. We were encouraged by the recommendation of Gainesville City Schools and the Hall County School system in placing their most severe children with us for more intensive therapy than could be provided in the school setting. Our TLC program has been modeled by several classrooms and organizations who have recognized the progress and success that the “Speech Center” children have had while attending this 3 hour program.
In 1996, the Lil B.U.D.S. (Babies Understanding and Developing Speech) program was begun for toddlers from 2 to 3 years of age. This program offers individual speech-language therapy, as well as parental education and training to reinforce skills learned. There is also peer interaction and social-emotional benefits for the children, as well as parents, who attend the weekly 60 minute program. Having outgrown our facility on Spring Street, the Board began searching for a new location and larger facility. In October 2009, we purchased space in the Gainesville Business Center, which has allowed us more visibility as well as more spacious rooms for therapy, conferences, and the potential for growth. We moved into our 604 Washington Street location in December 2009 and began seeing clients and students in January 2010. In December 2012, the Speech Center was selected by the Medical Center Foundation to be the recipient of the 2013 Medical Center Open Golf Tournament proceeds. Our dreams became reality through the money that was raised on our behalf. We planned and installed a sensory room with state of the art equipment for our autistic and sensory involved students and have just had the finishing touches completed in our sensory garden, which will provide a completely unique experience for our students. We have been truly blessed to offer these experiences to our students. In addition, we have installed a security system for the safety and well-being of our children and are in the process of acquiring a small activity bus to use for field trips to area places of interest which will reinforce language and learning. The Speech Center has also been blessed with donations from the Rotary Club of Gainesville through the Dr. Hart Joiner Endowment for Children and Youth, the Roy C. Moore Foundation, the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County, the Clorox Company, Motorola Foundation and the many individuals who remember the Speech Center with memorial gifts and annual support. You, too, may want to become a financial supporter of the Speech Center and to be a part of the team that will help us provide the quality speech-language services that our community has come to expect.