Pony Bird Uses Merger Grant Strategically

Pony Bird has received several grants from a major YouthBridge Community Foundation of Greater St. Louis fundholder over the last eight years. Pony Bird’s mission of enriching the lives of individuals with disabilities is a perfect match for YouthBridge and for this fundholder. When Pony Bird and NextStep for Life announced their merger in 2022, applying for a YouthBridge Partnership and Mergers Grant was an obvious step. Both entities had a relationship with YouthBridge, so they were familiar with and excited about the funding and capacity building support YouthBridge provides.

Sara Sucharski, President & CEO of Pony Bird, explained that funds from the grant were used very intentionally to address overall efficiencies and effectiveness. The leadership engaged a consultant to guide them through the process of merging infrastructure, technology, and agency processes, but also to help establish the new company’s culture. Employees from both organizations were able to express what they valued as well as what they felt could be improved. While understanding that not every request could be granted, employees and stakeholders appreciated being heard. These discussions led to the creation of the new Pony Bird Compass – statements of the company’s Mission, Theory of Impact, Vitals, Beliefs, and Values. These statements ring true each day, and are especially impactful in March, National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Pony Bird has four core program areas: community living, community support services, employment, and family support and leisure. These programs encompass assistance from birth to end-of-life and are much more than traditional round-the-clock care or day care. Pony Bird staff and supporters believe deeply that individuals with disabilities are vital members of every community. Sara explained, “We embrace the idea that a person needs community relationships to be whole. Being active is also extremely important. It affects physical and mental health, so we provide many opportunities for activity.” She credits being active as one of the main factors in the overall health, well-being, and longevity of individuals served, citing specifically one of the individuals who is now 74 years old and highly active.

Caring for an individual with disabilities involves more than that person. Pony Bird feels strongly that families need resources. The organization offers a broad spectrum of programming – from a lending library with materials, developmental toys, and equipment, to social activities that involve families, to vouchers for respite care for the caregiving family.

YouthBridge is proud that its grant award helped to support the successful formation of the new Pony Bird. Sara is also grateful for the opportunities to connect with other YouthBridge resources. She appreciates YouthBridge’s Lunch & Learn seminars for the information received, but also for the ability to connect with peers and YouthBridge staff to share thoughts and issues in a safe space. Sara remains excited about what the future holds for Pony Bird and its relationship with YouthBridge.


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