Easterseals South Florida (ESSF) was founded in 1942 and was originally called the Crippled Children's Society. ESSF was the first offer an education to the children with disabilities at a time when they were not allowed in the public school system. Renting a church basement and hiring a teacher, a handful of students began attending classes. ESSF Board of Directors was instrumental in advocating the public schools in Miami. Since those humble beginnings, ESSF has expanded its mission to help people of all ages overcome or minimize the challenges of disabilities on activities of daily life.
In 1957, ESSF opened a new comprehensive rehabilitation center. Ten years later, the Demonstration School for Children with Learning Disabilities was created. In 1972 a heated, indoor therapeutic pool was constructed. Scoliosis screening services for all middle school students in Miami-Dade County was started in 1977. In 1982, an early intervention component was added, providing developmental intervention for children ages birth through two years of age at the center and in the child's home.
In 1983, a Vocational Services Department was established which encompasses job development, placement, supported employment and supported living. As a continuation of its pioneering efforts, ESSF established the Therapeutic Day Care Center for people with Alzheimer's disease in April 1986. In 1989 Easterseals began providing in-home respite services to adults. In 1993 the Culinary Arts program began in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the South Florida Training and Employment Council.
In 2000, tutoring was provided to students at risk of dropping out of school through a grant from South Florida Work Force. The expansion of the organization continues today, most recently with an additional facility that opened in Hialeah in August 2001 for therapeutic day care for people with Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive impairments.
Easterseals Broward County
The Broward County Society for Crippled Children was chartered June 9, 1941, as the South Florida Chapter of the Crippled Children's Society with W.J. Philbrick, President, and Walter B. Wilson, Secretary. For the next three years the group functioned as a volunteer organization, spending their funds and time in assisting the Health Department and Board of Education in providing services to handicapped children.
Easter "Seals" were first used as a fundraising medium in 1942 (the first in Florida) and careful management of Easter "Seals" receipts made possible the establishment of the first direct service program for crippled children in 1950. The original facility was housed in a building at the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station and services consisted of physical therapy, equipment loans, purchase of physicians' services, and an educational program for handicapped children.
In 1953 the program had grown to the utilization of two full-time physical therapists, a part-time teacher and part-time speech therapist. The facility was known during this year as the Easter Seals Clinic and School
In 1954 the facility name was changed to the Easter Seals Clinic, a name which was retained until 1968 when it was again changed, this time to Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. The operation is most popularly known as "Easterseals Center".
The demand for services continued to increase in proportion to the population growth of the area, and in 1959-60, a 7500 sq. ft. building was constructed in Fort Lauderdale. The land was obtained from the Broward County Commission and a Federal Grant for $10,175 helped pay construction and equipment costs.
In 1968 an expansion program was initiated to add a second floor to the Easterseals Center. A federally funded matching grant was obtained and construction took place during 1969-70.
In 1984 The Board of Directors for the Easterseal Society created an Ad Hoc Building & Location Committee to determine the best site for a new Easterseals Center. After four years of effort by the Board and Staff, a generous gift from Mr. & Mrs. William D. Horvitz made the new Center a reality. Built in Plantation on West Sunrise Boulevard at NW 70th Avenue, the 17,000 sq. ft. facility was dedicated in 1988 and know as the Norma & William Horvitz Easterseals Center.
Working together as teams in 1988 Easterseals leaders created new solutions through Easterseals services for children with and without disabilities, vocational training and employment, and new niche programs designed to meet the needs of the community. This transformation addresses critical changes in the healthcare system and establishes new benchmarks for quality, comprehensive development programs and an information/technology network nation wide. In 2000 Easterseals Society of Broward County changed its name to Easterseals Broward County to conform to National Easterseals Brand.