Know your nonprofits: SRVS

Access to education and job opportunity are key to successful communities, and this includes individuals with disabilities. Local nonprofit SRVS provides essential services -- from skills development to work placements -- to make sure all Memphians can contribute in meaningful ways.
SRVS (Shelby Residential and Vocational Services) has been offering programs and assistance to individuals with disabilities, and their families, since 1962. The agency is the only nonprofit organization in Shelby County to serve individuals with disabilities from birth throughout life, with the addition of its SRVS Kids & Families early intervention program.
“Our purpose is to enhance the lives of the people we support in a way that brings peace of mind to families,” said SRVS Executive Director Tyler Hampton. “Our services include skills development, employment, residential and children’s services, among other supports.”
SRVS children's services include an inclusive preschool and early intervention and therapeutic services. SRVS Kids & Families was established in July of 2014 through a merger with Special Kids & Families. It provides support to children with developmental delays from birth through age 12. The program's inclusive Play Do Learn school is the only totally inclusive preschool in West Tennessee.  Early intervention and therapy services equip families with the knowledge and peer support to understand their child's developmental needs. 
SRVS offers programs that enhance practical life skills for adults, as well as a Community Employment Services program. The goal is to place individuals with disabilities in jobs within the community.
“In 2013 SRVS joined the U.S Department of Labor’s Employment First Initiative, working with the state’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to put in place the systems changes needed to effectively move to integrated, community-based employment for people employed in our occupational workshop,” said Hampton. “Since the workshop closed in June 2015 after 53 years, we’re proud to have placed 37 people in fulfilling jobs at AutoZone, Kroger, ServiceMaster, American Stairways, ABM, Express Vending and other companies. Finding jobs for people is an ongoing process, so our employment staff is constantly reaching out to new companies willing to invest in great workers.”
When SRVS moved into its new location at 3971 Knight Arnold three years ago, it began laying the groundwork for teaching adults through a Montessori curriculum.
“As far as we know, our program is the only Montessori program for adults with disabilities in the country,” said Hampton.
Astrid French, SRVS Quality Improvement Project Manager, said, “We wanted to try it to see how we could apply it to our population, see how it could be adapted to our individuals’ skill levels. Now that the program is fully established, we have a program that can maintain and build upon the skills of individuals who come over from our closed workshop.”
SRVS staff have found that the curriculum increases program participants’ degree of personal engagement and gives them purposeful activities. They gain the opportunity to be contributing members of their community.
“At SRVS, we are offering individuals with disabilities a way to learn practical life activities that are generalizable to work activities,” said French. “We want our program participants to begin thinking in terms of how they can contribute to an employer. Our goal is to foster independence, allowing individuals to reach their fullest potential.”
French added, “Additionally, working side-by-side with people without disabilities gives program participants a richer variety of relationships. It makes them a real member of their community, not just an observer. It enhances the overall quality of their lives.”
Volunteer Mary Dudley explains why she chooses to give her time to SRVS.
“I’ve been a SRVS volunteer for the last eight years,” said Dudley. “Because my brother is a program participant, I have a personal understanding of the need for their services. I also know the great value that their services provide to both the participants and their families.”
To volunteer for SRVS visit Volunteer Memphis to see a list of all available opportunities. 

Read more articles by Emily Adams Keplinger.

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