(Chelsea Update would like to thank Joe Yekulis for the information in this story and Kelly Flaherty for the photo.)
St. Louis School for Exceptional Boys in Sylvan Township was established in 1960 as a home for 60 boys with special needs from the Archdiocese of Detroit who were in need of special attention.
At that time, several Servants of Charity priests were imported from Italy to manage the operations and help the children grow into adults. Now known as St. Louis Center, the programs have grown during the past 57 years to include adult men and women, and now 54 residents from throughout Michigan receive residential services.
While St. Louis Center has adapted to meet today’s needs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), another change has taken place with the hiring of a Chief Operating Officer to manage the 79 employees who work there.
According to Fr. Enzo Addari, SdC., administrator of St. Louis Center, “I am pleased to announce that we have hired Ms. Deana Fisher on March 1, 2017 as our new COO to assist us in strengthening services to our residents as we continue to evolve into the 21st Century as an organization.”
According to Fisher, the potential new growth of St. Louis Center is what attracted her to Chelsea. “This agency in not just in a growth mode, it’s in a let’s take some kind of steroid and explode all over the place mode. That’s what’s so interesting to me. That’s exciting. I’m getting in on the ground level where this agency can make its mark nationally or internationally. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this?”
Fisher grew up in Sterling Heights, and said her earliest influences came from her parents. “My mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was 16, and then she got her Master’s Degree and went into education. She ended up as the Assistant Dean of the Detroit College of Business, which is now Davenport University. My dad was a pipefitter and more of a hands-on type of guy. So one of the earliest lessons learned was a choice between working with your hands or with your head. You can go to school and get an education to work with your head, or you can build buildings and make wonderful infrastructures and work with your hands. It just depends on what you enjoy.”
She went to college at Alma College, a small Presbyterian College in Mid-Michigan, and received a bachelor’s degree in social work.
“I was the third generation in my family to attend that college. My mother’s father was a Presbyterian minister, who died when I was young. But his legacy to our family has carried on through this generation. He walked with Martin Luther King back in the 1960’s when he (MLK) came to Detroit. And at that time, it was not something that Presbyterian Ministers did. He actually lost a congregation over his advocacy for civil rights. I think there’s a part of me that really reflects who he is, because I’ve always taken on the hardest challenges,” she said.
Most recently, Fisher has been working at the Children’s Center in Detroit, supervising foster care and licensing, as well as the Young Adult Program.
“I’ve learned how to establish relationships and a culture of trust, so hopefully I can pull the best out of everybody that’s working at St. Louis Center and help them to become the best of whatever it is they want to be,” she said.
When describing why she accepted the position at St. Louis Center, Fisher added “I knew the foundation here was a good foundation. The values were in the right place, and the things they were trying to do were headed in the right direction. That was number one. I’m very excited to be here and I can’t wait to see where we’re going because it’s going to be a wild ride.”
Fisher and her husband Brian are planning on a permanent move to the area and hope to purchase some land to build a new home. Their three children include Rachel (30), Samantha (23), and Brian Jr. (21).
Addari remains the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of St. Louis Center.
For more information about St. Louis Center, please visit www.stlouiscenter.org, or call 734-475-8430.