After 44 years of leading the Kistler Center, Jennifer Kistler transitioned in August of 2022 from her role as executive director to one of a consulting nature, providing support as needed. In addition, she continues to use her skills as a registered nurse to provide education and assistance to Kistler Center staff and families.
Gregory’s sister and Michelle’s mother, Jennifer decided to become a registered nurse after Michelle was born with spina bifida, adding to the need for specialized care in her family.
Jennifer is a long-time advocate for people with disabilities and has served a wide range of disability and nonprofit groups. She has been recognized for her leadership at the local and state levels, including the Healthcare Community Leadership Award, Firekeeper Award and Arkansas Volunteer Coordinators Association Boss of the Year.
Jennifer was in the third grade when her younger brother and best buddy, Gregory, was hit by a car after school. She experienced first-hand how her family’s life was changed by Gregory’s accident. Then, after Michelle’s birth, Jennifer and her parents started an outpatient therapy clinic to serve the children of the Fort Smith area.
When The Gregory Kistler Treatment Center began in 1978, six children were being treated each week. Now, thousands of children have come through the doors for physical, occupational, or speech-language therapy.
During Jennifer’s leadership, occupational and speech-language therapy was added to the physical therapy services initially offered, and in 1995, a successful capital campaign was conducted. The Kistler Center was certified in 2011 as a Community Employment Support (CES) Waiver provider. And, in 2012, the Center was certifies as a provider for Autism Waiver. Now, the Kistler Center serves children and adults. Both the CES Waiver and Autism Waiver programs are a natural continuation of Kistler Center services.
Jennifer enjoys being a positive influence, often personally guiding families by relating to their difficulties, needs, and the numerous challenges faced as they navigate toward the best paths and opportunities for their own success.