GREAT FALLS - Easter Seals-Goodwill has come a long way since its Montana beginnings in 1947.
As the agency marks 75 years in the Treasure State, it’s celebrating its accomplishments and looking forward to the future.
“We serve individuals from early childhood all the way up to end-of-life care,” said Michelle Belknap, Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain President and CEO.
In Montana, Easter Seals-Goodwill began in Helena and its first program was a cerebral palsy center in Billings. It’s Great Falls roots go back to 1950.
In 1957, the organization’s first Montana facility was built on the east end of Central Avenue. The facility was remodeled starting in 2013 and is used today for its programs for adults with intellectual disabilities and adult day programs.
“Say you have an elderly parent and you don’t feel comfortable during the day leaving them home alone, they could come to our adult day program and they do a lot of fun activities,” said Belknap. “They go on trips, day trips and they’ll do a lot of cooking.”
The organization also offers workforce development programs.
“We have what we call a senior community services employment program that works with individuals that are 55 and older,” said Belknap. “Sometimes people need to re-career, later in life. Or they need additional training to get a good job. So we will work with them on that.”
The agency also offers a clinical program helping people stay in their homes, a home health agency in Cascade County to provide assistance and a hospice program.
In 1979, it affiliated with Goodwill and today has 20 retail stores and one outlet in it’s four state territory of Montana, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.
“Those stores not only provide job training and employment, that’s something that a lot of people don’t realize, that we provide in our stores,” said Belknap. “But we also provide gently used clothing at affordable prices.”
Its corporate office in downtown Great Falls features an array of artwork created by the people served. It also houses a series of puppets that were used to educate children about living with disabilities.
Last fiscal year, the organization touched the lives of more than 11,000 people.
And Belknap says she does not see the easter Seals-Goodwill growth slowing down anytime soon.
“I see the next 75 years; we have more opportunities particularly in the workforce development area and the clinical services those are growing needs in all of our communities,” said Belknap. “We also have a lot of opportunity for more Goodwill stores throughout our territory.”
The organization will have and open house in conjunction with a Great Falls Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event on Thursday, May 19 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Easter Seals Goodwill headquarters at 425 1st Avenue North In Great Falls. For more information, call 406-761-3680, or click here to visit the agency website.