Board Vacancies

Happy People

The Midwest Special Needs Trust (MSNT) is seeking individuals interested in serving on its board of trustees. The organization currently has three board vacancies and is anticipating one more in late July. Board members are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Missouri Senate following a review process. Individuals interested in board opportunities should contact MSNT Executive Director Kathy Birkes for more information on the application process and requirements. Applications to serve on the board should be submitted by Feb. 28.

MSNT, established in 1989 as the Missouri Family Trust by Missouri Statute 402.199, was created as both a Missouri not-for-profit and an instrumentality of the State for the primary purpose of establishing and administering special needs trust accounts for persons with disabilities, to enhance and foster their abilities while protecting their important public benefits such as Medicaid and SSI. When its enabling statute was amended in in 2004 to permit persons residing in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee as beneficiaries, the Missouri Family Trust began doing business as Midwest Special Needs Trust. MSNT also has a Charitable Trust grant program which assists low-income Missourians with disabilities who do not have trust accounts with MSNT. Grant recipients receive financial assistance of up to $1,500 for the purchase of services, equipment and other needs not covered by public benefits or other community programs. MSNT is unique in that 100% of donations made to its Charitable Trust are distributed as Charitable Trust grants.

MSNT is governed by an all-volunteer Board of Trustees. The nine-member board, appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, is divided into three categories. Three members must have an immediate family member with mental illness, three members must have an immediate family member with a developmental disability and three members are selected based solely on their business expertise. Nominations to the Governor include input from professionals, service providers, and consumers. Other applicable criteria are detailed in Missouri Statute 402.201.

One of the founding board members, attorney Jerry Zafft of St. Louis, remains an active member of the Board of Trustees. Jerry’s passion and advocacy for MSNT’s mission provides valuable insight, history and guidance to the organization,
MSNT Board of Directors
One of the most gratifying experiences I have had as an attorney has been the opportunity to participate in the creation of a vehicle by which families can provide for the long-term care of a loved one.The MSNT allows families, including families of low to moderate means, participation in a professionally managed trust for the benefit of a person with disabilities. Being a member of the Board has been both heart wrenching and heartwarming. It is very sad to learn of the dire needs of the indigent disabled Missourian, but it is comforting to be able to alleviate their situation with grants from the Charitable Trust. However, it is very frustrating not being able to provide more to persons in need. It is a challenge I will continue to address as long as I am able.”

MSNT’s trust account beneficiaries benefit from the collaborative approach that its board, Executive Director and staff have developed to address the needs of its trust account beneficiaries. The board is guided by its statute, by the Social Security Administration and state Medicaid program requirements in developing MSNT’s policies and procedures for administering its trust accounts. The Executive Director works closely with and reports to the Board, manages and leads the operations of MSNT, and supervises MSNT staff. In early 2016, Kathy Birkes joined MSNT as its Executive Director, where her broad experience in public service has added another level of expertise to the non-profit organization, “After 10 years at Washington University in St. Louis and 16 years in Missouri state government, including serving as Director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, I cherish this opportunity to utilize my skill set and experience at this unique organization dedicated to serving, on many levels, the financial needs of persons with disabilities.” Staff’s daily focus is the administration of MSNT’s 1200+ special needs trust accounts for individuals with disabilities as well as the administration of MSNT’s Charitable Trust grant program. They all share in their dedication to each individual MSNT serves. MSNT Individual Trust Account Specialist Mary Lou Hughes, with over 25 years of experience in the banking and financial industry, says, “Each time I meet with a trust prospect my primary goal is to learn everything I can about their needs now and in the foreseeable future and offer options and alternatives to address them.”

Kathy Birkes has both experienced and implemented many changes since becoming Executive Director at MSNT. In 2018, a primary focus for Kathy will be recruiting members to fill current vacancies on the Board of Trustees. Kathy encourages anyone interested in serving on MSNT’s Board of Trustees to send a letter of interest to her at P.O. Box 7629, Columbia, MO 65205. Kathy is also available to answer questions and discuss MSNT and its open board positions via email at, or by phone at 573-256-5055.

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