Last week, United Ability, one of Birmingham’s most treasured organizations, celebrated its 70th birthday on August 30.
Beginning from a living room conversation among a small group of compassionate, concerned citizens, United Ability (formerly known as Spastic Aid at its founding and then United Cerebral Palsy) was established in 1948. The group’s mission back then was simple. Provide services to medically fragile individuals with nowhere to turn for help.
In 1972, the nonprofit became United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham. Many longtime residents of Birmingham were first introduced to the organization through the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham telethon that was held annually on WBRC 6.
In 1982, Dr. Gary Edwards took the reins as CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham and over the past 35 years dramatically expanded the organization from a roughly 25 member staff to a team of over 170 today.
In 2001, United Ability moved from their building on the north side of Birmingham to the beautiful Hand in Hand structure. Five years later the addition of the LINCPoint building was completed.
In February 2017, the agency became known as United Ability to more accurately reflect its comprehensive services for persons with all types of disabilities and to reach more families in need.
Tina Shaddix, who has worked for United Ability for 39 years and is the Chief Financial Officer, describes the impact their work has on families and our community.
“I was in a grocery store one day, when a parent and a child walked up to me and asked, are you from United Ability?”
After Shaddix answered yes, the parent then said, “I just want to thank you again for what you have done for my child and my family. If it weren’t for you and United Ability, my child would not be in first grade this year.”
Shaddix added, “That happens all the time. It is a small example of the number of people we’ve touched over the 70 years. I can’t begin to count all the people, but we’ve touched them in small and large ways. We’ve been there, with them, throughout their entire lives. That’s what we are all about.”
Over the past 70 years, United Ability has grown to eleven programs, and in 2017, they served over 4500 children, adults, and families.
“We have incredible people working here. They have that passion. They give everything they have, and then cry because they can’t give more,” concluded Dr. Edwards.
It is that passion and love that has made United Ability, a Birmingham treasure for the past 70 years.