STAR Center, Founded by Couple to Help Their Children, Now Assists People with Disabilities Statewide
By Jennifer Graves
On June 1, after more than 33 years in education, I started a new career path. That’s an interesting thing to do at my age and stage of life, but one I felt called to do. I left education to lead a nonprofit organization that has its headquarters in Jackson, TN, but now serves all 95 counties in our great state. The mission of the STAR Center Inc. is simple, and one that I have lived my whole life believing in, “To help any person, with any disability, to realize their potential.” And it’s all because a mom and dad wanted to help their children.
The STAR Center was founded by Margaret and Chuck Doumitt and opened on April 21, 1988. When their two children, George and Angela, began losing their eyesight, Margaret and Chuck searched the nation to find solutions. At the time, the only resources available that would help their children to realize their potential were assistive technology centers in distant major cities.
Rather than relocate from their home in Jackson, the Doumitt family organized a support group of parents, medical professionals, and concerned citizens in West Tennessee. After long consultations with community leaders, Project STAR was launched in 1988 in the basement of the gymnasium of West Jackson Elementary School.
Today, the STAR Center is in a 33,000-square-foot facility in North Jackson. We continue to stay true to our mission. Because a mom and dad wanted to help their children, they decided to serve a community. Because a mom and dad decided to serve the community, STAR served more than 4,100 clients in 2021. We have placed 82 clients in jobs, and we have more than 100 clients in our home care department. All because Chuck and Margaret Doumitt wanted to help their children. You can read more about the STAR Center here.
Rural communities often struggle in providing services. Our goal at the STAR Center was to find the gaps in services and fill them. In October 2021, STAR was awarded the contract to provide Assistive Technology services across the state. We now have personnel in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, Cookeville, and at our headquarters in Jackson, to serve all of West Tennessee. We offer the following services:
Assistive Technology: We work with any individuals to provide technologies to level playing field in the classroom, in the workplace, or at home. We offer AT evaluations to see the specific needs and make recommendations based on professional standards. Our assistive technology services are available in all 95 counties! Any individual who has an open case with the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program or the Department of Veterans Affairs may qualify. We also accept private-pay clients, who can contact the STAR Center Inc. directly.
Employment Services: We offer vocational evaluations. Clients of Vocational Rehabilitation can receive these services at no cost to the client by simply requesting it through their Vocational Rehabilitation counselor. This is a valuable service that many adults and students with disabilities would benefit from as they prepare for adulthood and/or independent living. The STAR Center is also able to offer job search assistance, and job coaching on site for those clients in the West Tennessee area.
Music Therapy: If you have ever seen music therapy in action, you know that it assists individuals in reaching non-musical goals. Our success stories in music therapy never fail to amaze me. Our music therapists are available to come into hospitals, schools, rehabilitation facilities, hospice homes in West Tennessee.
Speech/Language Therapy: Our speech therapy department is available to contract with school systems. Our therapists will come into your schools and serve your students or if you are local to the Jackson area, clients are welcome in the STAR Center. We also serve individual clients who may need assistance due to medical or other issues.
Vision Services: The STAR Center’s history is rooted in vision needs! We offer services to improve daily living for people with low vision and blindness. Did you know that the highly respected Southern College of Optometry has an office in our Jackson location in order to better serve rural West Tennessee? Our vision services are available throughout the state of Tennessee.
Home Care: Disabilities and aging can make caring for oneself or others overwhelming. Our services help individuals stay in their homes as long as possible. We offer both companion and personal care services in West Tennessee to assist with things as varied as helping your loved one get dressed in the morning or coming into the home to provide helping hands while you are out of the home.
So, to the parents who are reading this blog, it may read like an advertisement, and that’s OK, but my goal was simple, to let you know the power of a parent. What you need for your child may not be readily available, right now, but don’t lose heart. Look at what Chuck and Margaret did! They did this for their own children, but literally, thousands have benefitted. Press on, Mom and Dad! Never ever, give up. Your love powers the journey.
If you want additional information about the STAR Center, Transition Tennessee will have a webcast on the center on Thursday, Dec. 8, from 3:00-3:45 CT. Here is the link to register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_s3QLp1_HScmLGzMv_LdtCQ. Or you can go through the website (that will then redirect them to Zoom):
I’m grateful for Jennifer for taking the time to share the history of the STAR Center as well as the wonderful services the center is now offering to Tennesseans across the state. I have heard for years what great work the STAR Center does, and I look forward to hearing more about the work the center is doing. And I’m always gratified to hear when parents, seeking to help their own children, are able to have such impact on other families and their loved ones. If you have questions or comments, please contact me at email@example.com. Thank you for reading!
Jennifer Graves, Ed.D., is president of the STAR Center Inc., in Jackson, TN. Jennifer is originally from Goodlettsville, TN. She and her family made their home in Collierville, TN, before moving to Jackson to begin an inclusive post-secondary education program at Union University. Her email is Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org. The website for the STAR Center Inc. is www.star-center.org.