Hearing center aims for 90 more years

Columbus Speech and Hearing Center celebrates milestone, sets the bar high for future treatment


While much has changed since the organization that became the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center was founded more than 90 years ago, some things have remained the same, center President and Chief Executive Officer Dawn Gleason said during an anniversary celebration last week.

"I really feel like the spirit and values and the culture those original founders started with still remain," she said Aug. 15, speaking to a crowd comprising staff and board members, former clients, corporate sponsors and private donors gathered at the center, 510 E. North Broadway.

The observance of the 90th birthday for what was launched in June 1923 at the YWCA as the Columbus League for the Hard of Hearing, featured as much of a look ahead as it did a glance back at the organization's history. Gleason spoke of the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center being around for another nine decades, and Roland Tokarski, board president, invited people back for the 180th anniversary gathering.

During his brief remarks at the picnic gathering, which featured Angela An of WBNS-TV (Channel 10) as master of ceremonies, Tokarski said the center had changed thousands of lives -- including that of his own son, Roland John.

In 2005, when the boy was 1 year old, he was diagnosed as being deaf, Tokarski said. It was quite a shock for Tokarski and his wife, Stacey, who were first-time parents.

"You don't know where to turn and what to do," Tokarski told the crowd.

Eventually, the couple turned to the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center, where Rollie Jr. received thousands of hours of counseling help along with cochlear implants. Rollie, now 9, just started the third grade in a normal classroom, his father said.

"Our goal is to continue to set the bar to be the best speech and hearing center there is," Tokarski said.

"We've got a very rich history," Gleason said during her remarks -- but not all that much was known about that history, she said, until officials began delving into photos, meeting minutes and news clippings that had been in storage.

"It's great to know that we all care so much about speech and hearing," Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks said.

She, too, has a personal connection to the center. Her son, Evan, when he was in the second grade, wasn't developing as quickly as he should, particularly in the area of language.

When Evan was found to have hearing loss, Brooks said he came to the center every week for two years. Evan graduated from Dickinson College last year and now works in the tech industry in New York City, his mother said.

"There have been so many people helped by Columbus Speech and Hearing," Brooks said.

Columbus Speech and Hearing Center is the largest provider of outpatient speech and hearing services in central Ohio, according to its website. The center serves more than 8,000 clients every year.