The head of a decades-old nonprofit organization that has an office in New Canaan is retiring after 40 years of service. Katie Banzhaf, executive director of STAR Inc.—established in 1952 and serving individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families—has aided in the advancement of pediatric therapy services, paid employment opportunities for people with IDD, inclusion in schools and the community, improved accessibility with ADA, residential and supported housing options, assistive technology and smart homes, senior memory care and sending individuals to college.
“My passion has always been around the employment of people with special needs,” Banzhaf told NewCanaanite.com. “At a very early age, I just realized that life could be better for people with special needs. I wanted to be part of that.”
The Cincinnati native got her start volunteering at what was formerly known as the Orient State School, an institution for people with mental health and IDD, as a teenager. On Tuesdays, Banzhaf and her peers would visit and take the residents out into the community.
While working for Marc Gold & Associates as a consultant and providing training on systematic instruction and job placement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities around the country and worldwide, Banzhaf received a call from STAR and the rest is history.
“I’ve now had a 40-year history here at STAR and I’ve watched so many of our clients grow up.