Those were Luke Queen’s words about Life Bridges to the Rotary Club of Cleveland.
He said great things are happening at the organization, and he wants the community to know about them.
Life Bridges serves individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“We do serve the full range. We serve people that their skills are such that you could not readily tell in a conversation that they need extra support in the community. They work in the community. They live in the community. In addition to that we have people who are paralyzed from the ears down,” Queen said.
Queens said Life Bridges is blessed to be growing in a time when 30 similar agencies in Tennessee have shut down in the past 10 years.
“We have 38 residential facilities around Bradley County. They’re everywhere,” Queen said.
Life Bridges is the third-largest agency of its kind in Tennessee.
“The reason we are third largest is because we have amazing support from the community,” Queen said.
Life Bridges is also the eighth-largest employer in Bradley County.
Raymond Brown of Life Bridges said the organization had three employees in the 1970s and now has close to 500.
“We have one of the few developmental medicine centers in the United States right here in Bradley County,” Queen said. “In that development center we have 32 RNs, we have 27 LPNs, we have a full-time physician’s assistant, a full-time physical therapist ... we have a full-time speech and language pathologist ... then we have a whole team who works with those folks. We have five medical doctors who work out there,” Queen said.
There is only one other such center in the state, according to Queen.
This developmental medicine center was started in 1991. Such clinics address the many, diverse physical needs of special-needs clients.
There are only six medical specialists dedicated to issues of swallowing in the state, and one of them works at Life Bridges. This swallowing specialist was able to work with a client who had not had a drink of water in 10 years because of a feeding tube. She was able to take her first refreshing sip in years.
This client had come from another institution to Life Bridges.
“You have no idea the challenges to transition to move from these state-run institutions to agencies like Life Bridges,” Queen said.
This transition includes becoming a part of a community.
Such transition and the overall improvements in the care of the intellectually disabled is the subject of a book the organization will publish next year. The book will also give the history of Life Bridges.
“A lot of them cannot speak on their behalf, and they live in a community that has opened their arms wide,” Queen said. “I guess its because of the commitment we have of faith in a God that loves us, and we turn that around and do the same for the people that we serve.’
He said for many at Life Bridges their work is more than a job; it has become a passion.
Queen commented that the physical therapist had worked at Life Bridges in direct care back in the ’80s.
“We have a saying at Life Bridges, ‘If you can’t find them, grow them,’” Queen said.
He said this phrase demonstrates how the nonprofit grows strong leaders from its nonleadership positions.