It was 1952 when a group of parents gathered to talk about the dilemma they were facing. You see, their children were developmentally disabled and the public school systems had turned them away from enrolling.
These parents knew their children deserved better and could achieve so much more in life than society assumed, if only given the chance.
That chance happened when the parent group forged together and created their own non-profit organization on October 28, 1952. Classes began in November that year; one teacher serving 8 children. At the time, they met at Howard Methodist Church on Cherry Street. The cost of running the small school was covered by the parents it served as well as generous donors from within the community. Later that month, they also petitioned the Hancock County Child Welfare Board to be legally situated to receive funds from the state to support classes.
Knowing their school would grow quickly with so many more children in need, the parents didn’t slow down in their plans for further funding and growth. It was about this time that the children and their families received one of the greatest gifts they could imagine.
Tell and Opal Thompson lived in the community and had a developmentally disabled son of their own. With the school having such a positive impact on their own family’s life, the Thompson’s lovingly donated 3 acres of land so the school could construct its own building. Later, Opal set aside a portion of her estate to be given to the Center when she passed away.
By 1962 they had started an Adult Activity Center, and in 1964 pre-school classes were offered. It was time to work toward that new building.
The community, on board with all the efforts, overwhelmingly passed two levies - one of which was used to construct the building that is home to Blanchard Valley Center. The other levy covered operational expenses. The school officially opened in 1966 and by 1971 it had to add two more classrooms.
Today, Blanchard Valley Center begins serving children in need before they’re even born, and stays with them all the way through adulthood. We are humbled by our past and those families who sacrificed so much in time, money, and sweat equity. Our gratitude to the Thompson’s could not be greater. And our hope for the future is solid and sure knowing we are surrounded by the continual support of our community and the families we serve.