She gives the community a hand

Laura Stewart is a no-nonsense therapist, a mother of two, a fan of the Lakers and president of Wellspring Therapy.

At 53, Stewart is not merely a basketball fan. She competes in three-on-three half-court games in an adult league that attracts women in their 80s and sideline paramedics who are quick on their feet.

It is her love for therapy and basketball that sync when Stewart explains what Wellspring Therapy is to a potential employee during an interview. These times call for Stewart to spin Laker metaphors — if the interviewee is a Lakers fan, she noted.

“I’m not looking for Kobe Bryant. We’re looking for Derek Fisher,” she said, mentioning a recent game in which Fisher had two critical steals. “He may not be the best or score 20 points every game, but he’s always there for the team.”

Teamwork is the philosophy of Stewart’s therapy business, which she built from the ground up and expanded to two Glendale locations. Operating her own business was never something Stewart, a hand and occupational therapist, had ambition for at the start, she said. Rather, her passion paved her way.

Born in Shanghai, Stewart, left China to study in the United States at age 20. She graduated from UCLA and worked at a hospital for 10 years with colleagues she adored, doing the work she loved — hand therapy. But a controlling boss eventually led her to pursue Glendale by car to search for her own clinic space.

“Finally, I said, ‘Why am I not happy coming here?’”

Her husband Roger also nudged her in the right direction. “You always mentioned you wanted to do it on your own. Give it a try,” he said.

She opened her first clinic in a 400-square-foot space on Brand Boulevard in 1995.

Today, there are a handful of therapists and staff members at each of her clinics where patients seek physical therapy, occupational therapy, hand therapy, aquatic therapy and a new offering — physical fitness training.

Marilen Grimm, an occupational therapist who began working with Stewart in 1995, is impressed by her colleague.

“She is a brilliant lady,” Grimm said. “She does what she says she will do.”

So in traditional fashion, when a therapist asked Stewart to consider offering a place for student athletes to train, Stewart replied with an affirmative, “Sure.”

In March, that facility celebrated its grand opening, drawing 200 people from the community. The mission is to offer a place for athletes — especially student athletes — to properly train muscles and thus prevent injury. The new center opened at Wellspring Therapy’s Montrose location where it occupies an ample portion of the industrial warehouse it once was.

Since 2002, Dr. Christophe Lee, an orthopedic hand surgeon of Glendale’s Lee Orthopedic Institute, has often sent his patents to Stewart’s clinic where, he said simply, “They like her, they like her therapy place.”

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