Back in late 1948, two Lancaster women had a bold idea.

When Marian Headrick and Oliva Stoner met, they had two things in common: they both had children in their families with developmental disabilities, and they both knew that these children could do more than society dictated.

Mrs. Headrick’s son, James, and Mrs. Stoner’s nephew, Harold Rutter, weren’t able to go to school. At the time, there was no such thing as special education, and children like these were deemed “uneducable.”

And yet, these women wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. And it’s a good thing, because that was the start of the Occupational Development Center. Nearly 70 years, a number of moves, and several name changes later, the ODC continues to move forward pursuing the vision of these two women.

Mrs. Stoner summed it up well when she was interviewed for an article in the Lancaster New Era on February 25, 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

As a testament to Mrs. Stoner’s determination, take a look at this film we recently found in our archive, which we believe was made in late 1950. You can see her nephew, Harold, wearing a hat and running up to the building (then located in the Boys’ Club building on Pershing Avenue). This is the boy they were told would never walk or talk.

What Mrs. Stoner and Mrs. Headrick began in a basement with two children has grown to improve the lives of many.

Thousands of individuals have come through our doors for the purpose of learning. Initially, to get an education, but eventually to learn important vocational skills that would allow them to earn a paycheck and move closer to independence.

Here we are in 2017 and we continue to move forward. Currently we have 67 adults with developmental disabilities working at the ODC, both in-house and going out as part of our Mobile Work Crews. And we’re adding new services as we seek to help our participants and high school students transition into community employment.

Many of the changes and challenges we now face are the result of state and federal mandates. We embrace these changes and we’re excited to see how the future unfolds as we approach our 70th year. And it’s for that reason that we are unveiling our new look and this new website. We’ve worked with The Curio Collective to create a fresh, new branding identity, and a new website. We love the new look and know you will, too.

We hope you’ll join us on our journey and partner with us as we seek to help our participants build better, more independent lives.

Got questions? Give us a call at 717-397-4269 or email us at We’d love to show you around!