Wendy Sullivan, Easterseals Midwest CEO, has more than 37 years of experience advocating for the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities into our communities. Easterseals Midwest is a nonprofit organization changing the way the world defines and views disability by making profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day. The organization employs 1,700 employees delivering services to nearly 5,000 individuals in Missouri through four divisions: Autism Services, Community Living Services, Early Childhood Services and Employment Services.
As a special education teacher, Wendy came to Easterseals Midwest to work directly with people with disabilities, helping them to live in their own homes, find jobs, and make friends. Promoted to positions of increasing responsibility, she was appointed CEO of the organization in 1997. Under Wendy’s leadership, the expansion of programs, mergers, and acquisitions has made Easterseals the largest organization of services to people with developmental disabilities in Missouri. The organization continues to expand to meet the needs of individuals and families throughout the state, as well as in Kansas and Illinois.
To further Easterseals' mission and to advocate on behalf of all people with disabilities, Wendy has led initiatives to deinstitutionalize individuals with developmental disabilities and increase funding for services. She serves on the Affiliate Leadership Council and Public Policy Committee at the Easterseals national organization. As a volunteer, she serves as the president of the board of directors of L'Arche USA, an international faith-based organization that seeks to raise awareness of the gifts of people with developmental disabilities. Wendy lives in the Shaw neighborhood in St. Louis with her husband. They have six grown children and five grandchildren. She enjoys backpacking, movies, and travel.
What do you love most about Your City?
What I love most about St. Louis is the rich history our city has, and we experience much of this history through our city parks. I love Tower Grove Park because it is part of my neighborhood. You can walk throughout the park and never see the same thing twice because it is more than 250 acres and it is near the Missouri Botanical Garden. The homes in the area are historic. The farmers market offers the freshest produce. There are frequent weekend festivals and events to attend where we can spend time exploring and learning about St. Louis.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
During most weekdays, I eat breakfast in my car, which is usually toast, a piece of fruit, and coffee. I recently discovered Fiddelhead Fern Café on Russell. They have wonderful egg dishes and great coffee.
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – I wake up to the smell of coffee brewing and watch the sun rise.
10:00 AM – I am most likely meeting with members of the Easterseals Midwest leadership and management teams. Other days, I could be traveling to one of our offices located throughout Missouri.
12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal?
I like the power triangle of Brick Tops, Brio and Schneithorst’s Restaurant & Bar, a locally owned restaurant with Bavarian-influenced entrees. This is a central location and easy to access. I am all about convenience.
7:00 PM - By 7:00 p.m. on weeknights, my husband and I catch up on the news and discuss our day.
11:00 PM – I am in bed asleep recharging for another active, engaging, and fulfilling day.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
As a runner, I have learned to drink water to stay hydrated throughout the day. In the morning, I drink coffee. Occasionally, I’ll have a glass of red wine with my husband on our back porch after work, talking about our day, what our family is doing, and simply enjoy being outside.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
The most used app on my phone is Twitter. Each day, I read the Twitter accounts of the Dalai Lama for inspiration, The New York Times for national and international news, and the national Easterseals Twitter account (@Easter_Seals) to keep up on legislative matters and learn what our sister chapters are doing around the country.
For Instagram, my favorite account is the one set up by my kids so I have immediate access to the most current photos of my grandchildren.
What should everyone try at least once?
People with disabilities have touched my heart and I am a better person because of those experiences. I would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to meet people with disabilities in their neighborhoods, work place—perhaps within their own family. Taking the time to get to know a person who may initially appear to be different will change your life.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
My husband and I enjoy jazz. There are two places in St. Louis that offer incredible live jazz experience – The Dark Room at The Grandel and Jazz at the Bistro.