tersignis (Flora and Tony)

When social services agency Marygrove needed help to quickly expand a program serving troubled teens in St. Louis County, Missouri, it reached out to Ascension President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony R. Tersigni, EdD, FACHE.

For more than 170 years, Marygrove, part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, has provided quality mental health services to severely disturbed children, young adults and their families who are economically disadvantaged. Marygrove is one of the largest therapeutic residential treatment programs in Missouri and offers a new beginning for the 200 children and young adults it serves each day. It has been supported by Ascension and its historic religious sponsors for many years.

So when St. Louis County decided last year to close its own residential facility for budgetary reasons, it looked to Marygrove. The county had operated the Lakeside Residential Treatment Center – which provided psychological and psychiatric services to teens referred by the St. Louis County Family Court for therapeutic care, addiction counseling, sexual abuse trauma and other psychological issues – for more than a half-century. But it determined that Marygrove could serve those youths more efficiently, saving county taxpayers up to $1.4 million a year.

Marygrove was happy to take on the challenge, but it meant furnishing an unused space on its campus as well as hiring and training additional professional staff – some of them, it turned out, from the Lakeside facility. St. Louis County offered to cover the costs of renovating existing space into classrooms, but Marygrove needed additional funds, and quickly, when the county unexpectedly decided to close its facility at the end of December.

Marygrove CEO Sr. Helen Negri, LCSW, BCCSW, contacted Tony, and in short order, the Tersigni Family Foundation cut Marygrove a check for $250,000.

"We are profoundly grateful for the generosity of the Tersigni family," she said. "Their gift is making it possible to respond to the emergent needs of our community and help some of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised young people."

"I can't imagine what we would have done without them," said Kathryn Feldt, Marygrove Chief Development Officer.

In addition to therapeutic residential treatment, Marygrove's broad spectrum of programming includes therapeutic foster care, transitional and independent living programs, crisis care, education and recreational therapy, individual, group, and family counseling, parenting education, and mentoring. Marygrove enriches the lives of more than 1,300 young people each year, many of whom have been through multiple, failed placements in other residential facilities or foster homes. Many come from abusive, violent and severely disruptive family situations; some come from failed adoptions; and, in many instances, children are discharged from psychiatric hospitals directly to Marygrove.

The Tersigni Family Foundation, launched in 2012, supports the mission and ministries of the Roman Catholic Church and organizations dedicated to education. In 2014, Tony and his wife, Flora, through their foundation, established a challenge grant that resulted in their donation of more than $2.5 million to the Ascension Ministry and Mission Fund to support the development and education of Ascension associates.

Late last year they initiated another challenge grant of up to $1 million more to that effort. In 2015 the foundation donated $1 million to St. John Hospital & Medical Center in Detroit, part of Ascension Michigan, to enhance the care environment for women and babies in its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Birthing Center.

In addition, last year the Tersigni Family Foundation made a $375,000 contribution to the Catholic University of America School of Nursing's simulator laboratory, allowing for major expansion of the lab's high-fidelity simulator capabilities. The laboratory is renamed the Tersigni Simulation Center.

"This incredible gift allows us to have more equipment and more room, which gives students the flexibility to spend increased time in the lab practicing their skills," said Alice Myers, Director of Simulation and Information Technology at the school.

"God has blessed our family more than we deserve," Tony said. "We believe in giving back. We try to put money where it can make a difference for the most people possible. There is a great sense of pride for us in being able to serve organizations like Marygrove, the Catholic University of America, and of course the ministry of Ascension."​