Hendricks County, a rural setting on the West side of Indianapolis, was a quiet community in 1958. Large farms and small community groupings sometimes kept neighbors at a distance, but not for long. There were a few families living in the area who had children with special needs. They sought to fill those needs through local schools but were unsuccessful. Children with developmental delays or physical impairments could not be served in regular classes because teachers and accommodations were not available. But, these families were intent on having their children live as normally as possible within their small communities.
These families found each other as they searched for the same educational setting for their sons and daughters. The Crises, the Owens and the Wheelers became friends and supported each other and their children. They knew it would be easier to effect change in Hendricks County with a group of advocates, rather than an individual family. They began by having monthly meetings in a room at the Court House. They would discuss the type of services needed most by their children and where to obtain it. They formalized the group by naming themselves as officers, and in September of 1959, they opened their meeting to all residents of Hendricks County to determine the best way to access education for children with special needs. Their persistence finally made an impression on the local school board and before the end of the year, special classes were added to the local curriculum.
In 1961, this small group had grown and decided to incorporate themselves as the Hendricks County Association for Retarded Children. With their growth in size, came growth in knowledge. They became aware of what was available to children in other counties and wanted the same things for Hendricks County children. As a group, they approached local business organizations and asked for funds that would be used to build a school of their own. In August of 1962, there were 14 children attending a class at the Danville Christian Church. In November of that year, a fund drive was initiated to collect $10,000 to build a 2 room building at 405 Lincoln Street to house the Hendricks County Association. Contributions were supplemented with funds from candy and cookie sales through the month of November. At the end of the month, Mrs. Moran, then Executive Director, announced they had collected $12,627 along with donated materials and equipment.
The HCARC maintained their connections in the community. Members of local clubs and civic groups volunteered to assist with the growing number of children and teenagers. The Jaycees and Homemakers Club became regular contributors which assisted with the expenses of the continually growing organization.
In 1968, as Opportunity Cottage, jobs were being solicited for the older teens and young adults. The work would provide them with job skills and an income. By this time, many of the initial enrollees had reached the age of 20, and plans changed to include activities for adults. Because they operated Opportunity Cottage as a school, the summers meant closing for the Cottage. This also meant no programs for the adults now being served for the summer months. By 1975, programs included year-round activities. In 1976, a generous benefactor bequeathed $30,000 to add on to the existing building. This was enough to double the size of the school. In May of 1982, Opportunity Cottage was serving 26 adults, 8 pre-school children, and 8 infants in an early stimulation program.
By 1989, enrollment had increased and diversity of those attending exceeded the utility of the building at 405 Lincoln Street. Besides the work services done by participants, a day service program had been added to assist those with more complex conditions which required closer monitoring. The enrollment in adult programs outnumbered that for children, so plans began for a new building. The ground was broke by two of the original HCARC enrollees. It was decided to move the Adult Services to the new location, and leave the Early Intervention program at 405 Lincoln Street.
In 1991, an open house was held to celebrate the completion of construction at 1001 Sycamore Lane. The new building included a double-sized kitchen, 3 large rooms for vocational training and contract work, a loading dock and several offices for staff and administrative personnel. A large reception area welcomes visitors.
While still in our building on Sycamore Lane, we continue to grow. When the State of Indiana released funding for Supported Employment services, Sycamore grew even more. Employment Consultants worked one-on-one with individuals to identify talents, skills and interests that could help guide job seeking. By hiring qualified, caring staff, Sycamore developed a reputation of excellence throughout the State. We now serve residents throughout central Indiana and Evansville.
Sycamore’s Zero Exclusion policy gives everyone a chance to work/live in the least restrictive environment possible. People with disabilities become people with jobs; people with homes and room-mates; people with responsibilities; people who lead productive, contributing lives in their communities.
Sycamore’s continued efforts are based upon the principle that persons with developmental and other disabilities have the same basic rights to human dignity and freedom as all other citizens. The purpose of this agency is to assist the people we serve in the development of those abilities and promote talents that will enable them to exercise their rights as citizens to the fullest extent. We strive to accomplish this through training, functional instruction, providing individualized planning and locating opportunities for inclusion in meaningful work.