Meet Sam Gershman, LBSA’s Lead Family Navigator

For six years, Sam managed to work as a radio producer at WDLB and WOSQ, all while serving at-risk children through AmeriCorps.

Sam explains that he worked with youth who came from a variety of backgrounds – whether they had disabilities, a bad situation at home, emotional disorders or maybe needed extra homework help after school. That isn’t all – he also used to be a youth mentor at his old church. “A lot of our church staff weren’t really sure how to connect with the kids who were kind of marginalized. A couple of pastors who I worked with noticed that I tend to work well with just about anybody.”

Originally born in Central Wisconsin, Sam relocated to Rochester in 2018 with his wife, Melanie, a nurse at Mayo Clinic. He commutes to Northfield and is excited to learn more about and engage with residents and the community. He already loves Northfield’s welcoming energy. Sam’s background of community service and mentorship came organically, as his mother was an advocate for sexual assault victims. “I’ve got a lot of incidental knowledge from connecting people with resources that they need,” Sam explains. “I did a bit of volunteering with the local women’s shelter in my hometown,” he adds. “For me, it’s constantly been of great personal and professional importance to know what resources are out there and to be able to connect people to them. Because not everybody knows.” Sam enjoys working for nonprofit organizations like Laura Baker Services Association, which he says provides the freedom to really serve the community. “I think all jobs serve people – profit or nonprofit,” Sam notes. “There’s a little extra freedom in the nonprofit space to keep fighting for people.”

Sam says it’s LBSA’s person-centered approach that drew him in and got him excited. “Unfortunately, it’s rare. LBSA, from the beginning, has always been person-centered, community-centered, letting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities be part of a larger community. When so many other organizations tend to segregate them and cut them off from the rest of the world, LBSA says, ‘You’re part of this community. You’re valued.’ LBSA’s respect for the humanity of the people they serve … that was really admirable to me and got me really excited about this program.”

Family Navigator Services, LBSA’s newest addition to its inclusive and valuable set of services, is a customized support program that helps individuals, families and caretakers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sam runs the program as the Lead Family Navigator and says the work experience at LBSA is very collaborative and familial.

“People will ask about my expertise because I might be younger than one of their loved ones. They wonder what I could possibly know about this space,” Sam continues. “While I might be the face of this program now, I’m far from the only person who has knowledge to weigh in. Sandi, our CEO, has been in the space for more than 30 years. She’s been around Northfield this whole time with a lot of love, compassion and knowledge to offer. So does everyone else on our staff – it’s amazing. We have the benefit of decades of experience working in this space.”

Are you a parent, family member or caregiver of a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities? Do you need help navigating the complex systems required for support? Schedule a free consultation and learn more about Family Navigator Services at laurabaker.org/services/family-navigator-services.