70 Years of Creating Opportunity Through Community
Posted On:January 3, 2018
That’s how old we are this year.
When the idea that became the Occupational Development Center was in its formative stages, Harry S. Truman was President, the average American earned less than $3,000 a year, and a gallon of gasoline cost just 16-cents. The United States had just emerged from World War II a few years earlier, and as a result of the war, the role of women in our society had changed radically.
Why is this important? Because it was the determination of two women that made it possible for us to be here today.
Back in 1948 Marian Headrick and Olivia Stoner put their heads together and determined that something positive needed to be done for some of their family members. Mrs. Headrick’s son, James, and Mrs. Stoner’s nephew, Harold Rutter, were both young boys diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities, or at the time, what was commonly known as “mental retardation.”
At the time, the fate of most kids with a diagnosis of I/DD was either to stay at home with family or be institutionalized. School was not an option as those individuals were deemed “uneducable.” Special education for these kids wouldn’t be mandated in Pennsylvania until about ten years later.
But Mrs. Headrick and Mrs. Stoner weren’t having any of this. They knew that these young men weren’t “feeble” and COULD learn!
Mrs. Stoner summed it up well in 1965:
“Doctor’s said my nephew would never walk or talk because of an injury to his brain. After going from one doctor to another, I paid $50 for an hour consultation with a Philadelphia physician. That was a lot of money in those days. , but the results of the talk changed my nephew’s life and the lives of many others like him.”
The doctor suggested teaching by constant repetition, not just ten times, but hundreds of times. This would eventually persuade the uninjured portion of the boy’s brain to do the work of the injured part.
Six months later, after many agonizing hours of work, Mrs. Stoner and her sister took the boy to the University of Pennsylvania hospital. The doctors were astonished because the child could walk and could speak in sentences of three to five words.
Lancaster New Era, February 25, 1965
So seventy years ago, back in 1948, these two women came up with the idea for what is now the ODC. It was, at first, a special education school for kids with I/DD, and over the years has evolved into what we offer now, with vocational and skill training, and employment services, for adults with I/DD. And these services are invaluable to the businesses and organizations with whom we work.
We are grateful for these two women, their determination, their vision, and their belief that the individuals who come to the ODC are capable of amazing things!
2018 marks our 70th anniversary and we’ll be telling our story all year long, as well as planning some special events and opportunities.
Join us as we journey forward toward what we hope are many more years of celebrating the successes of our participants!