Our History

1970 - 1971

In the spring of 1970, families and concerned community advocates formed a committee to study the need for residential living facilities for adults with intellectual disabilities. Their vision and enthusiasm led to the incorporation of SLI. Until that time families with children who had disabilities had to make a choice between keeping adult children at home and institutionalizing them.


The first group home opened at 1216 Fillmore. Twelve men and women from Topeka and surrounding towns moved in.


Maggie Beers chaired the first Festival of Trees. At that time SLI was short $16,000 to balance the budget. That year the Festival raised $16,000!

1980 - 1989

We expanded our service delivery to include Independent Living. Many persons served had gained the skills to live in a less restrictive environment. Sheltered Living counselors helped Independent Living clients learn how to budget for food and grocery shopping, how to use the bus system, money management and other skills. As new people came into our services and existing persons served asked to move to smaller homes, we began to offer Semi-Independent Living opportunities in small apartments. Staff lived on-site and were able to help with daily living skills and transportation.


We opened our first Assisted Living apartments at Brookfield and Villa West. This was the first time in Topeka an agency provided services for individuals with severe and multiple disabilities. The developers for each complex worked with us to design the living spaces to meet the needs of our persons served. At each complex, two apartments were linked together and it was the first time we employed awake staff overnight. SLI built 3 additional group homes to meet the expanding need for services and continued to open apartments. State institutions were downsizing and the Topeka State Hospital closed.

1992 -1996

The staff outgrew the basement office of our group home on 36th Street and the Board of Directors purchased the Cattlemen’s Association building on Fillmore Street. Since 1972 we had provided only residential programs and all of our persons served either worked or received day services from other agencies. In ’92 some of our clients had no day service programs to attend and we opened our first program in the basement where the former office had been. In 1996, we purchased and remodeled the church across the street from the main office, opening the Maggie Beers Training Center for persons served who needed an alternative day program.

1997 – 2000

Earned our first Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation. CARF is an independent not-for profit accrediting body whose mission is to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons served. Founded in 1996 as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, now known as CARF, the accrediting body establishes consumer-focused standards to help organizations measure and improve the quality of their programs and services. Non-profit organizations go through a rigorous peer review process and demonstrates to a team of surveyors during on an on-site visit that its programs and services are of the highest quality, measurable, and accountable. The certification outcome represents the highest level of accreditation that can be awarded to an organization and demonstrates the organization’s substantial conformance to the standards established by CARF.

2000 – 2003

2nd CARF certification

2003 – 2005

3rd CARF certification


4th CARF certification.

2008 - 2010

Purchased a home on 31st Street with living areas on the main and lower level that was occupied by five young men. We provided Community Living (residential services) for 158 men and women. Thirty-nine clients attended the Day program. Five case managers worked with 126 families. In total, we provided services for 229 men, women and children in the three programs and employed 170 staff. The fifth CARF award was earned. In 2010, in order to consolidate and provide better services to many of our clients, we purchased three new side-by-side homes for our clients.

2011 - 2012

Celebrated the 40th Anniversary of providing services in Topeka. From the beginning, Sheltered Living, Inc. was on the leading edge of services for individuals with intellectual disabilities. We began the Sheltered Living Legacy Campaign in 2011 to continue being in the forefront of service delivery. After a successful campaign, the day program, case management services, residential and administrative personnel were headquartered in one location at 3401 SW Harrison. In 2012, SLI earned its sixth three-year accreditation from CARF. Sheltered Living put itself through a rigorous peer review process and was awarded the highest accreditation.

2013 - 2014

A long term goal of Sheltered Living has been to improve the environment for our Adult Life Skills program while at the same time consolidating office staff into one functional location. On November 11th, 2013, that goal was achieved as the doors were opened at the new service center at 3401 SW Harrison as a part of the organization’s Legacy Campaign. As the first client entered the facility that was the moment to begin the next 40 years of services and supports for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The new service center brought more opportunities for clients such as the Community Integration Program (day services) with more opportunities for individual interest and supporting individual growth. With a grant received for the Supported Employment Program new opportunities were added such as a cleaning crew, car detailing and a landscaping crew for clients to build skills and find a job in the community. A keyless access control entry system for our 21 homes front door was made possible through grant dollars received from Capitol Federal Foundation and Lewis H. Humphreys Charitable Trust. This new system ensures the efficiency and safety for both clients and staff; but most importantly the new system provides our clients living in the homes more independence and a greater sense of control as well as pride.


After input from community members, board, staff and clients, Sheltered Living, Inc. was changed to SLI. The name change occurred to reduce confusion on the type of services provided, the changes in the field and the word “sheltered” was not indicative of the SLI mission. SLI was awarded their seventh accreditation by CARF International. The in-depth peer review showed SLI demonstrated the highest level of quality services and programs, strong commitment and adherence to business and governance standards. Festival of Trees added its first ladies night, “Tinsel & Treasures” and with an overwhelming success bringing in significant additional fundraising dollars. The Employee Services and Supports Director received the SHRM-CP (Society of Human Resource Management-Certified Professional) certification. SLI’s supported employment program acquired its first contract with an outside business for janitorial services. All 21 SLI homes had computers installed to increase communication and use of technology. SLI added $20,000 worth of fire systems to eight homes. Encryption software was purchased and added. A restroom door in the reception area at 3401 SW Harrison was made accessible. SLI increased use of social media significantly. The Washburn University baseball team volunteered at the annual SLI softball cookout and the annual SLI fall festival. A Washburn University student completed a practicum with the CEO and developed a legislative advocacy plan for SLI. A Washburn student began a marketing internship that will continue into 2016. Capital Federal employees volunteered to do landscaping at 3401 SW Harrison. Advisors Excel, MARS, Prairie Band Casino, Target & Westar employees volunteered to do painting at five homes. Westar donated a van to be utilized by the maintenance department.


SLI celebrated 45 years of service in Topeka and was honored by Larry Wolgast, Mayor of Topeka, declaring the month of May as SLI Month. An Open House celebration and ribbon cutting was held to celebrate with the community, donors, and SLI families. Over the 45 years SLI has gone from serving 12 people to serving 131 people in 21 homes, a community integration program serving 40 people, a job training program serving 16 people and targeted case management serving more than 212 people. Six clients shared their stories as a part of the video production "Because of SLI I..." that aired on WIBW-TV for several months. Pathway For Hope was initiated thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor with the funding managed by the SLI foundation. The fund provides support to people with intellectual disabilities with a priority to SLI clients. SLI received a $233,363 grant from the FHL Bank of Topeka to support the renovations of the Shenandoah homes where 30 SLI clients reside. Burlington Northern Santa Fe volunteers provided landscaping, painting and minor repairs on three SLI homes. SLI initiated a peer-to-peer socialization with SLI clients and RoadRunner players.


SLI owns 21 homes that serve 100 clients with 24/7 supports in community living, 33 clients in independent living, 49 clients in Community Integration, 203 clients in Targeted Case Management and 16 in job training.  A SLI storybook was created highlighting five of our clients and families who openly shared their personal stories giving our community the opportunity to become more aware of the impact of intellectual disabilities.  The Festival of Trees celebrated its 40th year with the new addition of a mural painted by Staci Ogle and NOTO artists.  The Festival also incorporated an online bidding system for the silent auction of donated items and trees/wreaths along with registration for Tinsel & Treasures and the Festival Auction Party.  A Festival of Trees strategic plan was initiated to incorporate changes in future years.
It was a successful year with grants from Capitol Federal Foundation and Lewis Humphreys Charitable Trust, funding Relias training software for staff.  SLI received an additional grant of $134,283 from FHLBank of Topeka to support additional renovations for the Shenandoah homes where 30 SLI clients reside.  Additional grants were awarded from Sunflower Foundation for technology improvements and upgrades, KDOT for operating expenses and Blanche Bryden Foundation for SLI client camp.  

Corporate employees from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, FHL Bank of Topeka and Westar volunteered to do fence building and painting at three SLI homes.


The year ended with 131 clients in our 21 community and independent living homes.   The Community Integration Program had 54 individuals enrolled and many involved in volunteering and job training.  The Targeted Case Management program works diligently with 198 clients. 

SLI received their first donation from a perpetual gift from the Philip & Betty Sisk estate.

The Festival of Trees held its 41st year and added new fencing around the tree area.  The Tinsel & Treasures event in its fourth year was a success.  The SLI staff will continue working on the strategic plan for the festival. 

A new website was completed and new information added to bring more awareness to the community on what SLI is all about and what we do.  Staff worked with Gary Piland of Umbrella.  Another new addition was a new donor database, DonorPerfect, with better technology and the ability to integrate our event donor information into the database. 

SLI purchased and tore down the building on the corner of Croix and Harrison as an investment in the overall clean-up of the neighborhood and for additional parking.  The building was vacant and deteriorating for many years.  SLI partnered with Bahm Demolition and Schmidt, Beck and Boyd Engineering on the project. 

SLI was awarded another three-year accreditation by CARF International (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities).  This is an in-depth peer review and SLI demonstrated the highest level of quality services and programs, and strong commitment and adherence to business and governance standards.

Grants were received from Blanche Bryden Foundation & Cox Communities for summer camp; Blue Cross Blue Shield for client’s advocacy; Sunflower Foundation for technology improvement and upgrades; KDOT for four vehicles and vehicle security cameras (SLI owns 43 vehicles and 16 are wheelchair accessible).

The Kanas Disability & Health Program selected SLI to work with clients on improving health and quality of life.  The clients attended a 6-week training session. 

Westar volunteers built a loft in the 31st Street garage for Festival of Trees storage.   



Clients in the Community Integration Program actively participated in the Topeka community by volunteering 10,613 hours at locations including but not limited to Meals on Wheels, Topeka Rescue Mission, Adopt a Park through Keep America Beautiful, Friendship Meals, Landon Trail with Board vs. Brown, and more. The value of this is $247,813.55.

Parker Wise, Eagle Scout candidate, planned and implemented a unique Eagle Scout project that introduced seven SLI clients to joys of Scout camping. Parker and scout volunteers welcomed SLI to Falley Scout Reservation for a weekend of traditional Scout activities and experiences including tent building, wall climbing, flag raising, fishing, and more. Thank you Parker, Troop 249 (Prince of Peace Church, Shawnee District BSA/Jayhawk Council BSA).

Festival of Trees completed its 42nd year and said good-bye to the Ag Hall as we prepare to move the event to the Exhibition Hall in 2020. More than 4,500 visitors got to enjoy volunteer designed trees, wreaths, mantlescapes, and porchscapes. The SLI client tree was awarded a ribbon and sold for $1,300. Our CIP program helped create tasty treats for the Holiday Market and had the highest amount of sales among all of the vendors netting $1,900 to support the work of SLI. Festival of Trees raised over $128,000.

Work began on converting SLI property south of the Headquarters into new parking for staff and visitors. The project is scheduled for completion in January 2020.



The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on SLI.  2020 started in a positive way as the clients and staff cheered on their KC Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl LIV.  Our Chief's victory party in February was one of the last times that we gathered together.  As the pandemic unfolded around us, SLI developed plans to ensure the health and wellness of clients and staff. In mid-March, operations at the headquarters facility were closed down and all program services were implemented in client homes. Most administrative staff set up home offices which required a significant amount of technological infrastructure improvements. Home quarantining remained in effect for most of 2020.  

Three major grants were acquired in 2020 to support programming and respond to the financial impact of COVID-19. The Capitol Federal Foundation awarded SLI a $21,352 grant that led to the creation of the Retirement Community Integration Program. A $20,000 grant from Lewis Humphrey Charitable Trust was used to support general operating expenses. And finally, we received $139,258 from the CARES Act which was administrated by Shawnee County. These funds were used to purchase PPEs, specialized cleaning equipment and supplies, computer equipment, and more.

No pandemic was going to stand in the way of Festival of Trees. With some creativity, the FOT Committee planned a virtual event called "Home for the Holidays" that raised nearly $110,000 featuring beautiful four-foot trees and a live show. We missed being together but we are thankful for everyone who helped to make the event happen.  

2020 must be remembered for the dedication of SLI staff and the patience of our clients and their families. It was a difficult year and yet we conquered it together!  



The impact of the pandemic followed us into 2021 and continued to challenge our dedicated SLI team. They responded with hard work, creativity, and a steadfast commitment to the mission of SLI. Operations returned to “normal” in the spring but we reverted to home quarantine by August due to the resurgence of the delta and omicron variants. As with 2020, staff provided community integration services in the client homes and administrative staff returned to working from home offices.

SLI undertook a reorganization in the spring which included staffing and programming. It also included the temporary closure of two homes to consolidate clients and reduce the staff load. This brought much needed relief due to the staff shortage impacting businesses across the nation.   

Despite the challenge of COVID-19, SLI prepared for and was awarded its ninth 3-year accreditation from CARF International. This undertaking and the result demonstrates the strength of our organization.

SLI was thrilled to be awarded a $25,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. This grant supports the automation of client record keeping and activity tracking. The project will take up to three years to fully develop and implement.

Festival of Trees grossed $114,590 with its highest net of $101,066 thanks to our friends at Fairlawn Plaza. Plans were revised to hold the event at Fairlawn Plaza due to the uncertainty of large group gatherings related to COVID-19. The event was open to the public for 12 days and during that time more than 3800 visitors viewed the trees, wreaths, silent auction, and the Sweet Shoppe.


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