What is now Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain began in 1946 as the Montana Chapter of the National Society for Crippled Children and Adults with state headquarters in Billings. During the late 1940s and 1950s, the organization provided a variety of programs and services throughout Montana, including cerebral palsy clinics; occupational, physical and speech therapy; a bracing service; summer camps; speech and hearing screening; and preschool.
By 1959 the organization was experiencing financial difficulties, which led to consolidation and restructure. The state headquarters was moved to Great Falls in 1960 and by 1964 all local affiliates had merged to become a single, statewide organization.
The 1960s and '70s were defined by program growth and evolution, with expansion of speech and hearing services for children statewide and training and day habilitation opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities in Great Falls. In 1978, the organization participated in its first Easter Seals Telethon, raising over $105,800. 1979 saw the acquisition of Goodwill Industries of Montana, and the organization was renamed Easter Seal Society-Goodwill Industries of Montana.
With the acquisition of Wyoming Easter Seals in 1982, the name was again changed, this time to Northern Rocky Mountain Easter Seal Society (NRMESS). A year later the Idaho Easter Seal Society was acquired and by 1987 the organization had obtained the Goodwill affiliation for southern Idaho. By the mid 1980s, the three-state operation was providing a much different menu of programs and services than it offered in earlier decades, most notably home care, case management and vocational services.
Diverse program expansion continued with the addition of adult day services, post-polio support, child care and preschool, hospice and assistive technology. In June 1997, Easter Seals began providing in-home healthcare and private duty nursing services in Cascade County, MT, under the auspices of Medallion Medical Care.
Southern Idaho's first Goodwill store and plant opened in Boise in 1998, providing opportunities to serve more people with disadvantages in the area. A temporary employment agency called Goodwill Staffing Services (GSS) was also launched in Boise. Working Solutions, a work-over-welfare program, started providing services in the Boise area in early 1999.
In September 1999, Easter Seals-Goodwill Child Development Center, called The Growing Place, opened in Great Falls, providing early care and preschool programs, and a Goodwill Industries store and plant was added in Helena, MT. A Supported Living program for developmentally disabled adults began in Sheridan, WY, in 2000.
Our third Child Development Center opened in Boise in June 2001. The Hardin, MT,area was added to the work-over-welfare training sites in Montana in 2002. Other Montana sites include Conrad and Shelby.The organization's vocational and workforce development programs continued to expand as job training and placement programs for non-custodial parents, those with substance abuse issues and offenders were added in Nampa, ID. Clinical services including mental health and psychosocial rehabilitation services for children and adults were added in Bosie and Nampa.
2003 saw the opening of a Goodwill store and processing plant in Nampa, ID and in 2006 a Goodwill Staffing Services office was added in Nampa, with the aid of a grant from Charles Steward Mott Foundation. Two more Idaho Goodwill stores opened--one in Pocatello, in September 2006 and another in Meridian in May 2007--bringing the total number of stores to nine.
In Wyoming the Sheridan Supported Living program grew from one home and three participants in 2000 to seven single-family residences serving 31 individuals in 2007. A cognitive re-training and rehabilitation program for individuals with Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI) was also added to Sheridan's Community Access program in 2006. The ABI program moved into its own Center later that same year.
In December 2006 the organization acquired Easter Seals Utah, expanding the territory to four states. The P.L.A.Y. Project was the first program to be offered through the new Easter Seals Northern Rocky Mountain Utah Division, with services beginning in the summer of 2007.
In May 2007 children's services added a family-centered, play-based program for young children with autism in Boise, ID and Billings, MT. The program, called The P.L.A.Y. Project (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters), focuses on building social, communication and relationship skills in children ages 14 months through 7 years. Due to a lack of participants and increasing expenses in our Growing Place intergenerational child cares, we chose to close the Great Falls and Boise locations.
During this time period the organization experienced substantial and fast-paced growth. In 2008-2010 we built a five-person community home and a 10-person assisted living style independent apartment complex in Sheridan, Wyoming. The project was funded through a HUD grant.
In 2008 we opened a Pediatric Therapy clinic in Billings and later in Salt Lake City, UT. The Billings location expanded over the next several years, adding speech and physical therapy in addition to occupational therapy. The Billings clinic later closed in the summer of 2015.
We took over statewide operation of the Utah SCSEP program from National Easter Seals. In 2009, after a three-month appeal process initiated by our competitor, we were awarded a statewide contract in Idaho greatly expanding our Working Solutions program. The program provides skills training and job placement services for welfare recipients. As part of a Walmart Foundation grant we began a retail skills training program in a designated training center inside the Northgate Goodwill store.
A Safeway grant enabled the organization to begin offering The PLAY Project autism therapy in northern Idaho and Western Montana. The northern Idaho program was later ended when the autism specialist left. We continued to serve participants in and around Missoula until 2015.
We acquired the Utah territory for Goodwill from GII in 2011. Goodwill opened two new Montana stores in 2011-2012; Kalispell and Bozeman, respectively; along with Utah's first ever Goodwill store in Salt Lake City in 2012. A second Salt Lake City store opened in Murray in 2013 and a third was added in Layton in 2015. This brought the number of stores to a total of 15. In addition to new stores, we also relocated the Missoula (2013) and Great Falls (2014) stores to site-built facilities and expanded the Billings store in 2014, increasing the processing area and adding a drive thru donation center.
The organization continues to evolve, remaining committed to enhancing the life of each and every person it encounters while fulfilling its mission of creating solutions that change lives for people with disabilities, for the disadvantaged and for their families.