The St. Paul Jewish Community Center began offering segregated services for individuals with disabilities in the late 1970s. In early 1984, there were no programs for individuals with special needs in place at the JCC, and staff noticed a decline in attendance of the families with children with disabilities. The staff decided to meet with these families to better understand how the Center might serve them. At the meeting, it became evident that parents felt their children needed opportunities to interact socially with peers of their own age without disabilities.
With endorsement from the Board of Directors, and assistance from Dr. Stuart Schleien, an associate professor in therapeutic recreation at the University of Minnesota, and Richard S. Amado, licensed behavioral psychologist, JCC staff created a grant proposal. They requested a one-year grant from the State of Minnesota Developmental Disabilities Council to include 12 children and youth with disabilities into the Centers regular programs and classes. After receiving the grant, the JCC formed an Inclusion and Accessibility Services Department.
The program's foundation was laid in fall 1984. Staff formed a committee including: a) specialists in related fields, b) parents of children with disabilities, c) interested leaders of the JCC, and d) a part-time Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), who was hired to oversee the facilitation of inclusive services (Heyne, Amado, & Denelle, 1987). The committee reaffirmed parents wishes and was founded on the basis that any JCC program could be integrated successfully, given proper support, and the need for other segregated experiences would no longer exist.
The first year's pilot project demonstrated that there was an overwhelming need for children with disabilities to participate in settings that allowed for socialization with peers without disabilities (Heyne et. al, 1987). The success of the first year prompted the staff to write a proposal for a second grant. For the next two years, the JCC received federal funding through the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. As a result of this funding, the program expanded to include 24 children ages three to 21 with cognitive and/or physical disabilities into a large variety of JCC classes and programs. The professional staff position of the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist was made full-time to meet the demands of the growing department.