The Bluegrass Parkinson’s Alliance is the oldest organization of its kind in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Formerly the Lexington Area Parkinson’s Disease Support Group, BPA was created because in the 1960sand 1970s there were no support groups, little information readily available about Parkinson’s Disease and no resources for care partners.
In 1966, Nellie Reed’s brother-in-law was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Nellie saw first-hand the toll that the disease took not only on her brother-in-law but also on her sister, who became his caregiver and breadwinner for the family. As a result of this experience, Nellie began a year of thinking and planning in 1978. She had no experience organizing groups, but she worked hard to educate herself on the topic of how to organize a PD group. On Wednesday, August 8, 1979, Nellie had an announcement published in the Lexington Leader about starting up a PD support group. She anticipated a lot of phone calls – but got nothing.
A few days later Dr. Norman Bass, the Chairman of the Department of Neurology at UK, contacted Nellie and offered to help her start a support group. He offered the services of a social worker, Mary Leonadakis, who was instrumental in organizing the initial meetings. The first meeting was held in mid-August, 1979, at Arlington Christian Church on North Limestone. This first meeting had 5 people; the next month 4; the next month 3.
At this time Associate Minister John Browning, from Crestwood Christian Church, specialized in starting small groups. He began working with Nellie on organization, planning, and goal-setting for the group. By the end of 1979, there were 12 regular members. The group grew in membership and continued to meet throughout the 1980’s and 90’s. In November 1995, the Lexington Area Parkinson’s Support Group officially became a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. The original bylaws and Articles of Incorporation were signed on December 11, 1995. In 2020, because of the group’s growth and expansion, the Board of Directors renamed the organization Bluegrass Parkinson’s Alliance.
From this small, dedicated group, the Bluegrass Parkinson’s Alliance has grown to nearly 500 members in 2020. Crestwood Christian Church in Lexington has remained the group’s home for the past 40+ years. In 2019, BPA hired its first employee, Executive Director Laura Soldato. Nearly all activities are still organized and planned by dedicated volunteers so that 100% of all donations to BPA go to help the people with Parkinson’s and their care partners. Donations to BPA enable us to offer nearly all programs free to members.