The Opportunity Center’s vast history began in 1956
Prior to the 1970’s, public schools did not provide education for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A determined group of parents took on the responsibility of educating their own children by forming the “Opportunity Center School”. Along with the school, the parents formed the OCRC (Owensboro Council for R— Citizens), which was a member of the NARC (National Association for R— Children). Some of the participants we serve today were schoolchildren of the Opportunity Center in the 1950’s.
A ground-breaking school and an innovative sheltered workshop
Many of the children receiving education at The Opportunity Center School were growing into adulthood, and so vocational programs were started. For a period of time, as a Sheltered Workshop was being developed, OCRC provided both a school and a Sheltered Workshop with a vocational training program. By the mid-seventies however, public schools had assumed complete responsibility for education – so the Opportunity Center workshop (OCW) served primarily adults. It was during this time that in keeping with the National and State associations that the C in OCRC came to refer to “citizens” instead of “children”.
Moving from training to job placement
The idea was to prepare individuals with disabilities to live and work in the mainstream of society to the fullest extent possible. In addition to the sheltered workshop, Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Training programs were provided to help people prepare to enter the regular workplace. Innovative programs such as Work Stations in Industry (mowing, weed eating, parking lot maintenance, etc. ), Janitorial Services (various community locations) and Pinocchio’s Deli were brought into existence. Job Placement was provided for many individuals after receiving training in these programs.
The legacy of Pinocchio’s Deli and who we are today
Established in the summer of 1979, Pinocchio’s Deli served the Owensboro community as a full service deli. It was fully staffed by people with developmental disabilities, supervised by a couple of trained managers. As it received accolades through the media, visitors from around the nation flocked to Owensboro to see what it was all about. Local and national television and radio programs provided news clips about Pinocchio’s. Newspapers around the world presented stories. Even a health textbook included a chapter about Pinocchio’s. Many people were trained for competitive employment there. Some remain employed today.
The 1980s and 90’s brought many changes to the organization. De-institutionalization efforts for adults with Developmental Disabilities across the state brought new citizens in need of employment services and Day Training to Owensboro. OCRC worked closely with state and local agencies in providing these services for our New Neighbors, as the program was called.
In the 2000’s the Opportunity Center continued providing great service to its clients and community. In 2017, the O.C. expanded its services by providing case management. We moved to our current location at 3560 New Hartford Road in January 2020.
Today our goal is person-centered, innovative programming; focusing on community involvement and choice. From job training to life skills, our organization is driven by our incredible participants. We will strive to continue “creating endless possibilities” for decades to come!