Take two moms who routinely meet in a local restaurant for a visit over coffee and a muffin to talk about how their two sons, who both have ADHD, were getting along in school and life. Lee had run an ADHD support group for five years and Ruth was still operating a support group for families dealing with ADHD with co-occurring disorders. Both knew the ongoing problems, fears, worries and stresses that these special, worried and exhausted families went through every day living with the disorder. They would talk about the different help families needed in their community. They had talked several times about trying to start a service that would address the families’ needs. Lee and Ruth decided that day in January 1994 before they left their favorite coffee spot they were going to get focused and start that organization.
The plan was to meet every two weeks to brainstorm, research, discuss and make out assignments of tasks each had to complete between meetings. Ruth found that the former Great River Regional Library had a two-person study room that could be reserved for two hours at a time so that is where they worked. The study room was free; the library had all kinds of information on the shelves at their disposal and a copy machine that was 10 cents/copy. They even used the small chalkboard on the wall in the study room to map out their ideas. And of course, at the end of every two hours, they celebrated their day’s work by going for a quick coffee and a muffin. From January to July they researched and studied starting a nonprofit organization, fundraising and applying for grants, drawing up budgets, putting a board together, liability insurance, equipment needs and promoting your organization. They talked to other organizations and community leaders to get ideas and advice on how to proceed.
July came and Lee and Ruth had lots of information and knew how to proceed but they still weren’t clear on the exact type of organization that was needed. They decided they needed a focus group of ADHD families to tell them precisely how systems could meet their individual and family needs and concerns. Ruth set up the focus group through her support group, St. Cloud Area Parents Together, and on the evening of August 16, 1994, twenty people attended the two-hour session at Whitney Senior Center. At the end of two hours, the group had covered what worked in the area, what didn’t work, solutions and came up with a very specific wish list.
Now Lee and Ruth carefully studied the information and decided there were a lot of services available but not everyone knew about them. The parents talked about the hours they spent on the phone trying to find and coordinate help, how they had to try and do this and work at the same time and then, in the end, they would come away with nothing. One parent had said, “I wish there was one place I could call to get lots of options instead of having to make lots of calls and come up with no options.” It was clear there needed to be a delivery system on the providers and services that were available and that information needed to be accessible to parents, professionals, and schools. The area didn’t need another direct service provider but rather an information and resource center. That was it! They decided they would publish a directory to serve Benton, Sherburne, Stearns and Wright counties which were the area of the school district. The directory would be a comprehensive listing of medical resources, mental health services, other service providers, financial resources, educational programs, other options for care and recreational opportunities, support services, county information, state and national organizations who work with those who have ADHD.
But in order to publish a directory, they had to be an organization. After doing all the research on forming a nonprofit they knew that was not going to be an easy task. Ruth came up with the idea of trying to work in an existing organization. Not only would that give them a place to work but they could learn more about the world of nonprofit organizations. She decided she would talk to the director of the St. Cloud Area Family YMCA and see if it might be possible to have their idea be a program under the umbrella of the YMCA and they would be responsible for raising the funds and paying the expenses for their directory project. After a couple of meetings, it was agreed that they would be a good fit for both and Attention Deficit Awareness of Minnesota (A-D-A-MSM) was established. They invited professionals in health and mental health care, teachers and community support services to serve on a small advisory board to oversee the project. Next came grant writing to secure funding for a computer, printer and the hiring of two computer consultants who would teach them how to use the computer as they built the database for the directory.
They set up shop in a corner of the Y’s Gymnastic Center in Waite Park, Minnesota – a table, a chair, the computer, the printer, and a file cabinet. Next, they had to gather the information on who treated and worked with those who had ADHD. Then they developed enrollment forms to gather detailed and specific information from physicians, mental health professionals, and service providers. There was no online enrollment in 1995. It was 300 photocopied packets that each contained a cover letter explaining the program and the future directory, a specific enrollment form, a return envelope and then all of that information had to be stuffed into a mailing envelope, stamped and hauled to the post office. While they waited for the enrollment forms to be mailed back they sharpened up their computer skills and researched information on financial help for families, respite care, state agencies, national organizations and put together the mailing list for sending out the finished directory. They did all the data entry, editing, proofing and with the help of their computer consultants who merged all the information in the database, the first edition of the Community Resource Directory (CRD) was ready for the printer. About two weeks later a mountain of boxes containing the printed directories were unloaded in their tiny office and Ruth and Lee set about stuffing mail bags and attaching mailing labels. When it was all done they mailed out 1,000 free directories to clinics, counseling centers and schools in their four-county service area. Their 11-month project had come to an end.
Word spread fast in A-D-A-M’s service area about the directory and they got many requests from parents who wanted to borrow a copy. They set up a lending program that allowed families to sign out a directory for two weeks and included a stamped, self-addressed envelope so parents could mail it back. In 1996 a second edition of the Community Resource Directory (CRD) was published and the demand for more information on ADHD continued to grow. In December 1997 A-D-A-MSM spun off from the St. Cloud Area Family YMCA to form an independent 501 (c ) 3 organization.
Attention Deficit Awareness of Minnesota, Inc. (A-D-A-M) Today: Over the 22 years the organization has had numerous health and mental health care providers, teachers, and other support service professionals who have served on the board. The service area now includes Benton, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, and Wright counties. The organization remains an information and educational resource on ADHD and the related issues that go along with the disorder. A-D-A-MSM is not a direct service provider and never has been. In the early years, the nonprofit had a small paid staff but as funding decreased it now operates thanks to the tireless commitment of a handful of volunteers who take care of all the daily operations to keep the organization running and the board who oversees all the operations and the information that is produced. We are grateful and appreciative to our small group of dedicated donors who make it possible for the organization to remain true to its mission statement for 22 years: A-D-A-MSM is Central Minnesota’s attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder resource center, forging innovative and respectful links between individuals, organizations, and professionals.
The organization has board openings and welcomes inquiries. The nonprofit does not take phone calls but you may contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or write them at A-D-A-M, P.O. Box 6233, St. Cloud, Minnesota, 56302-6233. Feel free to contact the organization with your ADHD questions and needs for information about the disorder or inquiries regarding our services. We encourage you to consider becoming a monthly donor which allows us to expand the information and resources available, while also exploring new services to offer community members like yourself.