ST. LOUIS — Children who need help with their speech and language skills now have a place to go in north St. Louis.
The Walker Scottish Rite Clinic, a program of Maryville University, has a new office on Prairie Avenue that sits in the city's Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood. The program was created to give better access to families where their services are needed most.
The clinic has provided speech and language therapy to children ages 2 through 6 at no cost to families since 1988.
On Wednesday, Lakeecia Thomas brought her 3-year-old, Mason, to the new location which opened in June.
"We live about ten minutes away, so easy drive for us," Thomas said.
Thomas and other children who came in for the program practiced reading and writing exercises.
“These kids come to me and sometimes they have no words at all or just a few and within a few months it's so great to see them become their own little persons and to really just start expressing themselves,” said Nina Mendoza, a speech and language pathologist at the clinic.
This location is new for north city. The clinic partnered with pastor Andrew Alexander on a space at the Tabernacle Hub. It is an old school turned into a church and resource center shaping up for the community inside the community.
"It brings me great joy to know that we got a chance to play a small part in helping people get what they need and casting hope," Alexander said. "Because a lot of times we meet people that think this can't happen in our neighborhood. Or if it comes, it's not going to stay."
The Walker Scottish Rite Clinic serves about 500 children every year. The new office will allow them to help an additional 30 to 40 families.
"Anytime we can make it easier for families to get the services that they need for their children that need speech and language therapy. It can make a big difference. Being right in the community makes a big difference," said director Jacob Gutshall.
"It's a blessing to really see that Mason has exposure to the resources that are here as well as the professionals that are here that really take their time with him and that are truly dedicated to his development," Thomas added.
If a child needs help, parents can contact the clinic which will then set up a screening to determine if the child needs the services and will start the referral process.