Laura Baker School Association

aka Laura Baker Services Association   |   Northfield, MN   |


Our mission is to respect the life choices and dreams of people with developmental disabilities and help them reach their goals.

Ruling year info


Principal Officer

Sandra Gerdes

Main address

211 Oak St

Northfield, MN 55057 USA

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NTEE code info

Developmentally Disabled Services/Centers (P82)

Other Housing Support Services (L80)

IRS filing requirement

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Laura Baker Services Association's mission is to respect the life choices and dreams of people with developmental disabilities and help them reach their goals. Our mission emphasizes two aspects of service that are often neglected – focus on the individual and freedom of choice.
Well-meaning government agencies have traditionally evaluated this population as a whole when making funding and policy decisions. The problem with this approach is that individuals with developmental disabilities have a full spectrum of service needs and a one size fit's all approach is ineffective. This has created challenges for individuals to access the right services for themselves.
In addition, individuals with developmental disabilities' voice often goes unheard. Unless the person has a strong family advocate representing them, freedom to direct their own service plan is the exception. There is also a need for increased advocacy to help influence policy direction at an agency level.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Oak Street Services

Oak Street Services: is a licensed intermediate care facility (ICF-DD) that provides a home with services for people 16 years or older who, because of their developmental disabilities including people with Prader-Willi Syndrome, are not able to live independently in the community.

Population(s) Served
People with intellectual disabilities

COMMUNITY-BASED LIVING provides residential services in multiple homes in Northfield. Each of the homes has 24-hour staffing, providing people with developmental disabilities the support, training and assistance they need to live as independently as possible.

Population(s) Served
People with intellectual disabilities

FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICES helps families navigate the world of raising a special needs child and ensure the successful future of their special needs adult. We do this primarily through Respite Care events.

Population(s) Served
People with intellectual disabilities

CREATIVE ARTS PROGRAM uses art and music as creative tools so clients can focus on developing physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills. Our creative arts programing serves as a catalyst that enriches the individual and community life of clients and staff by providing opportunities to learn from each other through shared creative experiences.

Population(s) Served
People with intellectual disabilities

PATHWAYS TO THE FUTURE helps to serve as a voice for people with disabilities and engaging the community to advocate for: Accessible, affordable housing, adequate respite resources for families and Public Policies that benefit people with disabilities.

Population(s) Served
People with intellectual disabilities

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The foundation of what we do at Laura Baker Services Association (LBSA) is to provide our core services. Our direct services are based in Northfield, MN and extend into Rice County. We serve 85 clients ages 5 to 87. Our services will continue to be focused on the individual, allowing each client to set goals that are meaningful for them. We will also continue our systems advocacy work on the county, state and national levels, focusing on areas that, in consultation with stakeholders, are deemed the greatest priority for people with disabilities:
1) Improving housing options;
2) Increasing workplace opportunities; and
3) Addressing respite care needs for caregivers of people with disabilities.
In addition to our core services and advocacy work LBSA has set specific organizational objectives that include:
1) Adopting internal practices to ensure our clients are reaching their dreams and goals.
LBSA seeks to ensure that each department within the organization is setting specific goals and developing a formal procedure for evaluating progress on a quarterly basis as well as reestablishing goals annually.
2) Appropriately and effectively use technology to further our mission.
LBSA will begin to include the annual evaluation of areas of the organization that can benefit from the use of new technologies.
3) Maintaining a reputation as an “employer of choice".
This will involve evaluating retention and satisfaction to determine best strategies for recruiting and retaining members.
4) Ensuring our organizational processes will effectively support organizational needs.
LBSA's goal is to ensure that our organizational processes are flexible, efficient and clearly defined. This will involve the development of an end to end process for key operational processes within the organization with the goal to have these processes documented and become standard procedure for all employees including new hires.
5) Expand/change our services in response to newly arising needs/initiatives and to educate customers about our services.
The current political climate is creating policy and funding changes that are fast changing. LBSA has a goal to ensure we are implementing ways to stay connected with the current needs of our clients and their families as the political and economic environments change.
6) Building/expanding our relationships with people who are passionate about our goals and have the time, talent, and treasures to further those goals.
One of LBSA's key strengths has been collaboration. LBSA seeks to ensure that we continue to foster existing partnerships and investigate potential new partnerships in a changing environment.

We have identified a number of specific strategies that tie into our 2018 organizational objectives listed above including the following:
1) Internal Practices - In concert with our Board of Trustees, we will create plans for finding and working with community partners to create accessible, affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities in the Northfield Community.
LBSA will host a family support meeting to identify and discuss current housing issues within the special needs community. LBSA will continue to cultivate relationships that will lead to the development of collaborative housing solutions and will participate in the Northfield HRA Affordable Housing Task Force.
2) Use of Technology - We will standardize the use of end to end processes so that process becomes standard operating procedure. In 2018, we will pursue the use of mobile technology for development efforts.
LBSA will make the evaluation of the use of technology a part of our standard end to end process evaluations and annual goal planning processes. LBSA will meet with vendors and implement the use of mobile bidding/donation applications to help grow development efforts.
3) We will evaluate the creation and utilization of employee satisfaction surveys. We will develop a leadership development curriculum for each supervisor within the organization.
LBSA will leverage a consultant to develop a plan to evaluate employee satisfaction and develop a plan for developing and retaining top employees.
4) We will create a data warehouse that will allow us to access data from several systems and report accomplishments and needs.
In order to creating reporting efficiencies and consistency, LBSA will explore a data warehouse project that will identify key metrics needed for reporting and develop a process for merging data from multiple systems to allow for ease in reporting desired outcomes.
5) We will continue to explore options for service development through needs identified at the monthly family meetings. Service development areas include housing, and advocacy.
In addition to housing, we will create an advocacy calendar and corresponding process for alerting the LBSA community of key policy and funding changes for individuals with developmental disabilities and special needs.
6) We will determine appropriate methods to measure and report engagement.
LBSA will develop goals for reporting on engagement and advocacy efforts and the corresponding procedures for tracking and reporting.

LBSA was founded in 1897. For almost 120 years, we have provided housing, educational and support services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Understanding that the needs of each individual are unique, we empower individuals and families to choose from a continuum of care to ensure that everyone is leading safe and fulfilling lives. Our long history of providing excellence in service combined with our experience in partnering with a wide variety of organizations put LBSA in a unique position to achieve the organizational goals we have set for ourselves.
Over the long history of service, LBSA has developed a reputation as an agency known for thought leadership and action in the field of developmental disabilities and special needs. Some examples of this leadership are reflected as follows:
1) Advocating for, and encouraging others to advocate for, equitable pay for Minnesota caregivers.
2) Convening the Intentional Community Development Group, three Northfield-based organizations representing seniors, independent home owners and disabled populations, to collaboratively develop housing open to a broader spectrum of persons and financed by the community through social impact bonds or other innovative means.
3) Publishing an informational blog with over 800 unique subscribers, who are connected by issue interest or live/work in Northfield. This blog disseminates key policy positions and educational information. Often included is a call to action.
Our organization is fortunate to have many long-standing partnerships with individuals and organizations which we have built strong partnerships with. As we listened to family members concerns, we realized that we cannot solve these problems alone. The challenges are too complex and will require partners to help us develop solutions. LBSA spent a lot of time developing these relationships with various community partners in past years and we will continue to be involved in the process of designing and implementing solutions to problems like housing, family support and employment which our clients and their loved one's face in years to come. A few of these partnerships include:

Our executive director, Sandi Gerdes, sits on Governor Dayton's Council on Diversity and Inclusion. We have also recently partnered with Northfield HRA Affordable Housing Task Force, Cannon Valley Special Education Cooperative, Northfield Public Schools, Northfield Poverty Task Force, Three Links Community, Northfield Construction, Carleton College Center for Community and Civic Engagement, St. Olaf College Civic Engagement Center, St. Olaf College Department of Social Work, St. John's Lutheran Church, Northfield Arts Guild, Neuger Communications, Great Nonprofits, Northfield Promise and many more. LBSA views its status as a leader and collaborator, not as an end goal but as a continual process.

Redesigning what we do for today and into the foreseeable future requires ambitious goals, radical collaboration, creative problem solving, patience, persistence and the willingness to take risks.
In 2017, we were able to achieve many significant accomplishments.
We created a leadership development curriculum to ensure that all staff members have the opportunity to develop leadership skills. The 2017 curriculum concluded with a large group Leadership session in November hosted by leadership consultant, Ken Hedberg.
We conducted a learning fair in August as part of our staff development program providing an opportunity for all employees to teach and learn from each other.
We partnered with two St. Olaf College Interns to host a reverse job fair in February with 8 employers and nearly 20 people with disabilities making connections.
We received a “Top Rated Nonprofit" designation from Great Nonprofits in 2017.
We received a $17,000 grant from St. John's Lutheran Church in Northfield to create community connections through arts and technology.
We continued our advocacy efforts by producing an advocacy marketing packet that highlight LBSA policy positions for fair compensation for support staff and housing options for people with developmental disabilities.
We conducted several advocacy campaigns throughout the year including an employee campaign where more than 50 employees wrote to legislators advocating for fair compensation and a petition with over 200 signors.
We had 311 individuals engaged in our social media and email advocacy campaigns in 2017.
We increased the number of followers to the LBSA Facebook page by 13% which will assist with our advocacy and development outreach.
We continued our efforts of supporting families by hosting monthly respite services to individuals with special needs.
We facilitated a quarterly support meeting for family members to discuss concerns and potential service solutions for individuals with developmental disabilities.
In 2017, we completed a feasibility assessment of a collaborative housing initiative with Three Links Community, Northfield Construction, and Village on the Cannon and individuals and parents of people with disabilities. This assessment will be a catalyst as we continue to work on creative housing solutions with the City of Northfield and other members of the Affordable Housing Task Force.
We engaged with the Northfield Community by working with over 250 volunteers and over 20 community collaboration partners throughout the course of 2017.
We partnered with Carleton College to develop an employee survey that will serve as the basis for ensuring that LBSA has engaged employees.
Most importantly, we continued to provide quality, individualized service to our clients in another year that saw Medicaid reimbursement payments frozen.


Laura Baker School Association

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Laura Baker School Association

Board of directors
as of 06/07/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Bob Gilbertson

Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver

Term: 2022 - 2024

Carrie Duba

Northfield Public Schools

Cheryl Buck


Jim Loe

Community Resource Bank

Caroline Yaun


Bob Gilbertson

Forsgren Fisher

Ruthie Neuger

Engage Print

Steve Underdahl

Northfield Hospital & Clinics

Kent Holden

Holden Farms

Matt Christensen

WA Insurance Group

Kenna Schulz

Schulz Electric, Inc.

Meleah Follen

Healthy Community Initiative

Gretchen Ehresmann


Phil Strom


Noorah Aldaghlas

Carleton Student

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/8/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data


No data

Sexual orientation

No data


No data