Feb 23, 2023 6:54 PM

A Special Place in the Community

Posted Feb 23, 2023 6:54 PM

Special Needs Foundation Executive Director Ricci Neilson and case services coordinator Megan McIntire pose in front of medical equipment.  The organization has been helping Burlington residents since 1951. Photo/Andy Schneider

By Andy Schneider

 For those in need, finding necessary medical resources can be difficult. That is where Burlington’s Special Needs Foundation comes in. 

The organization has been  helping Burlington residents since 1951, providing free rentals of vital medical equipment such as walkers and heart rate monitors. 

It currently helps between 30,000 to 50,000 residents per year. Its mission is to improve health, welfare rehabilitation, employment, education, recreation facilities, and opportunities for children and adults with disabilities in Des Moines County. 

“The need in Des Moines County is always rising,” said executive director Ricci Neilson, who began working at the Special Needs Foundation in 2020. 

The foundation exists through the interest accrued from an endowment fund and with monetary, equipment, and supply donations. 

“We have everything from Depends, to diabetic supplies, feeding tubes, heart rate monitors — we have a little bit of everything,” Neilson said. 

The Special Needs Foundation also supplies medical equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, benches, canes, crutches, toilet seat risers, lift chairs, hospital beds, and more for those in need. 

This type of equipment is crucial to residents unable to pay for this equipment. 

“We are an amazing place. We do a little bit of everything. If we don’t have it, we can get it for you,” Neilson said. 

The foundation offers help with questions about Medicare, Medicaid, and even SNAP Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

Neilson said it is all accomplished with a limited staff consisting of one full-time employee, one part-time employee, and a few volunteers. 

“We can’t always say yes, but I hate to say no. I will try to help you find what you need where you are,” Neilson said. 

The Special Needs Foundation offers more than equipment and supplies. The organization supports multiple programs, offering scholarships for people with disabilities. 

The foundation also sponsors the Special Needs Boy Scouts, the Special Olympics, Hope Haven, Day of the Child, a water exercise, and a camping program. 

Neilson stressed the foundation isn’t just for the elderly or people with special needs. 

“It’s for anybody in the community,” she said. 

The foundation has been providing direct service to children and adults with disabilities and chronic health conditions since its inception. 

The foundation was incorporated in 1951 by concerned citizens. Founder Edward B. Gnahn was dedicated to helping those who faced challenges. 

In 1958 Gnahn left his estate in trust for the Special Needs Foundation, enabling assistance to continue for future generations.

The Special Needs Foundation is located at 829 Harrison Ave. and can be reached at (319) 752-8222.