Since 1870, we've served the changing needs of the Kansas City children and families.
Our mission is to help at-risk children and families reach their potential through education, counseling, and social services.
The vision of Gillis is that all children and families will live in emotionally stable, safe and nurturing environments.
Gillis Center...Serving Children & Families Since 1870
Gillis Home - My Home by Robert E. Winger
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A past Gillis resident named Robert Winger recently sent us a letter about his time here at Gillis. Robert lived at Gillis from 1937-1946 and since leaving Gillis spent 7 years preparing for the Christian Ministries and 52 years as a Pastor. His story takes us back in time to a Gillis after the Great Depression. We are so happy to hear the years he spent at Gillis had such a positive impact on his life. Thanks Robert for sharing your story!
Would you believe me if I told you I have about eighty brothers and sisters? Probably not. However, that’s what I often tell people. The truth is I only had one real brother. However, because my parents were not physically or financially able to care for me, I grew up at Gillis Home. I came to Gillis at the end of the Great Depression and lived there during all of World War II. When my brother came back from the war in 1946 he became by guardian. As a child at Gillis I was never without friends. I fondly remember the names of many, some with whom I still keep in touch.
When I arrived at Gillis Home, in 1937, the beautiful and spacious grounds were attractive and inviting. Gillis was operated by the Women’s Christian Association, and was located just outside the city limits of Kansas City, Missouri. The home began in 1870 and was originally located at 8thand Troost, and was moved in 1927 to the present location at 8150 Wornall Road, South of Waldo. Transportation was convenient from anywhere in KC by way of the historic Country Club and Dodson street car lines.
On the grounds four beautiful and modern brick buildings were built to care for the growing number of needy children in the Kansas City area. The first building housed the administration offices and contained three stories with living quarters for the superintendent and staff, the infirmary and dental office and laundry room. This building also included a very large meeting room with a stage where all of the children would gather for special events which were held often throughout the year. They provided wonderful programs for our entertainment as well as religious services and a variety of other activities.
All of the children lived in three huge cottages on the circle drive. The outside appearance of these cottages was identical. They were two stories high and housed about 25 children in each one. The Central Cottage was reserved for the very young children. The older girls lived in the East Cottage and the older boys lived in the West Cottage. The main floor of each cottage had a foyer, kitchen and dining room, library with study tables, a family room with comfortable furniture and a very large general-purpose recreational room with a fireplace and an attached portico. There were two very large dormitory rooms on either end of the second floor, where we slept and kept our few personal possessions in a small locker. Our cottage housemother had her living quarters between the dormitories and was always available.
We were all well fed and clothed, had good health and dental care, lots of opportunities for play and exercise. We took trips to the zoo, art gallery, circus and had many other special activities. We attended the public schools and local churches in the area. Community organizations and philanthropic individuals shared with us. We were able to participate in far more activities than thousands of other children who were not blessed by living at Gillis Home.

I am and always will be grateful that MY HOME was GILLIS HOME!
Comfort Room
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Some students struggle with sensory overload which leads to a state of severe agitation and anxiety and of course can impact academic success. Aware of this issue and its impact on classroom success, Gillis School Director, Pam Sanders, began to seek a solution. She discovered that research suggests that sensory activities such as rocking in a chair and drawing can combat this issue. Sensory activities help students better comprehend their environment, develop and engage new neural pathways in the brain, increase body awareness, and develop language. Thus, the Comfort Room was born in the Gillis School. To help students find school success, they are now offered a visit to the Comfort Room to help gain composure and to avoid any crisis behavior. Many have already found that this is the one thing that really helps them refocus and we can see this impact in their learning. The room includes an oversized soft chair that rocks, a CD player with head phones, bean bag chairs, journaling and art supplies, yoga mats, nature and relaxation CD’s, scenic posters on the walls, a large comfortable rug, an aromatherapy diffuser kit, and a sound machine. A special thank you to our donors who supplied the necessary items for the Comfort Room.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
We see transformation at Gillis in many ways – through the new found hope of a child who has finally met someone who wants to become his adoptive parent, through the mother who has regained the love and respect of her daughter who she once abused, through the student who can finally finish a chapter book with the help of a caring volunteer and through the many children who leave Gillis after they’ve found the healing they desperately need and an improved path for their future.
Recently we provided our students the opportunity to be the ones providing transformation. The art room needed a fresh look and each student got to be a part of making it happen. They each got to paint a canvas in true artist style; messy! They wore a trash bag and flung paint against the canvas. There were two distinct results…the renewed art room and the unexpected impact on the students.
They walked away with inspiration to make their world look renewed and transformed the want they want…to design and create their own personal masterpiece. Each student has a renewed outlook on themselves and their surroundings. It’s sometimes the unintended outcomes that are the most bittersweet.

Harvesters BackSnack Program
Monday, September 30, 2013

On Friday mornings Gillis students and staff can be found sorting through boxes of food to organize and prepare for the distribution of Harvesters BackSnack program to Day Treatment Students.  Not only does this program allow for the distribution of over 100 meals a month to families in need, but it also provides a space for Gillis students to practice serving one another.

Each week, 25 Gillis students are sent home with a BackSnack backpack full of non-perishable foods to ensure they will have food available throughout the weekend.  Harvesters provides the food and the backpacks, and Gillis Day Treatment employees collect the backpacks, clean them out and pack them with food. Schools distribute the backpacks on Friday to students who bring them back on Monday to start the process again.  Studies by the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership have shown that as a result of participating in the program students’ absences and tardies decrease, discipline issues decrease, and both social skills and grades improve.

The BackSnack program is a way that the Day Treatment School is able to go above and beyond meeting our students’ and families’ needs in the community outside of the normal school day.  Not only does it help meet a huge need in our community, but it allows opportunities for the development of social responsibility in our students.  Knowing that we are able to assist our families beyond the walls of the school building is extremely important, and I feel this program does just that in a very tangible way.  Please feel free to contact me at 816-508-3590 if you are interested in receiving any more information about the program or would like to donate backpacks to help keep the program running efficiently.

Thanks everyone for all of your support!

Kelly Hughes
The Reading Buddies are Back!
Thursday, August 15, 2013

Who is excited for school to start?  Well - Volunteer Reading Buddies are - because we have MISSED seeing the kiddos!  The highlight of my week is Wednesday mornings as I race to Gillis to spend time with the kiddos AND spend time with a great group of volunteers who have become dear friends.  We all started with the common interest of helping a Gillis kiddo work on their reading - and what we all experienced instead was a Gillis kiddo teaching us some of life's most valuable lessons- like friendship, true laughter, patience when reading is hard and courage to try.  If you have not had a chance to stop by the Reading Program on Wednesdays at 10am, we would highly encourage you come on by!  It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face because we get to see the kiddos at their best - as their effort with the Reading Program is simply put - AWESOME.  So glad for school to start soon! 

Rhonda Meyer, Gillis Volunteer

Save the Date for the 33rd Annual Spirit Awards. Click here for more information about this event.
Interested in volunteering at Gillis? Click here to learn more about our current opportunities.
Campus-Based Treatment
When provided a structured environment with safety, boundaries and compassion, our troubled boys can work to overcome the trauma in their pasts. Confident that they are safe and cared for, the boys learn to trust again. Our hope is that through healing therapies, each of the boys will be able to live in a loving home where he can flourish.
Community-Based Intensive Family Counseling
These programs increase opportunities for children, youth and families to improve and strengthen relationships that will have a positive impact on their lives athome, school and in the community. Each of the programs offered represents a blend of therapeutic interventions to meet the unique needs of each individual and family served.
School-Based Day Treatment
Students in Gillis Day Treatment School have an opportunity to experience success in a classroom setting. Educational services at Gillis are integrated with a comprehensive plan of care that includes pre-vocational or vocational skills development, and activity services such as art, music and recreation.
Community-Based Social Services
Historically, children coming into contact with the child welfare system for abuse and/or neglect were often removed from their parents care and placed in foster care. With proper support and education, many of these children can remain with or be reunited with their parents or caregiver.