In the 1950s, families had little choice with regard to the care of their loved ones with developmental disabilities; they could remain at home without support and services, or receive services outside of the home and community in large healthcare institutions.
In 1957, three Guilford families – Dan and Eleanor Reinhardsen, Reeves and Dorothy Spencer and William and Regina McNeil – pooled their resources and SARAH was born.
Since education was among the greatest needs at the time, SARAH was established as a school for children with intellectual disabilities.
A Very Special Education
The Reinhardsen, Spencer and McNeil families were joined by other shoreline families to raise funds for teachers, transportation and speech therapists to open an independent school.
From borrowed space in a church basement, the schoolhouse relocated to North Guilford at the intersection of County Road and Route 77 where it successfully served the academic and social needs of its students until the introduction of special education legislation providing for inclusion of children of all abilities in school districts.
SARAH continued to meet the diverse and ever-changing needs of the community it served with the expansion of services in the 1970s and 1980s to include vocational training and job placement leading to the creation of SARAH businesses and residences.
Open for Business
In 1975, federal law mandated public education for children with disabilities. SARAH concentrated its efforts on vocational job training to ease the transition from school to life in the community.
In 1973, The Apple Doll Tea House was opened in Guilford; it was the nation’s first food service training program for people with disabilities. Along with the Tea House, the Apple Farm Bakery, Greenhouse horticulture program, firewood, concrete products and sewing outlet all provided choices in vocational employment and interaction with the public.
SARAH’s restaurants provided a variety of jobs and a close connection with communities. The Country Squire in Killingworth and Brandenburg’s in Madison were among the shorelines finest.
Second to None
Between 1985 and1995, SARAH divested itself of small businesses and concentrated on training workers on-site in community businesses. Employers came to realize that hiring people with disabilities through SARAH Employment Services is a profitable employment solution – and a winning proposition for all: employers obtain a reliable work force while employees earn an income and build a sense of self-esteem.
By 1996, fifty-seven businesses throughout south central CT were hosts to SARAH workers.
Today, with the aid of job developers, hundreds of men and women are finding steady and meaningful employment with businesses in the region through offices in North Haven, Branford, Madison and Westbrook. All agree SARAH employees’ work ethic is second to none.
Home Sweet Home
To address the need for independent living for adults with disabilities, SARAH opened its first community residence in Branford in 1977. It was the first residential community in Connecticut to be operated by a private agency.
As homes were added in other communities, SARAH’s resolve to provide a warm, nurturing natural environment and personalized residential care made our homes models for other agencies in Connecticut and across the country.
Since the mid-1980s, residences for individuals with multiple disabilities including those who are medically fragile were opened. They live as welcome neighbors in comfortable homes professionally staffed around the clock.
SARAH SENECA and SARAH Tuxis Residential Services were established as independent agencies in 1990 to more effectively handle these growing needs.
Lifelong Achievement Awards
In 2009 and 2010, SARAH recognized individuals whose lifelong work had significantly contributed to the mission and core values of the SARAH Family of Agencies. This award recognized extraordinary service and outstanding dedication to SARAH.
2009 Lifelong Achievement Awardees
Reeves and Dorothy Spencer
William and Regina McNeil
Daniel and Eleanor Reinhardsen
Dudley and Marjorie Herbert2010 Lifelong Achievement Awardees
Chester and Angelica Bentley
John and Marie Hartigan
William and Luella Horan
Stuart and June Hotchkiss
Stephen and Barbara Kuziel
James and Diana Morris
Douglas and Coleen Proctor
Bruce and Judy Reiber
Stanley and Molly Ulsh
Robert and Jane Zettergren
- Supports over 600 children and adults with intellectual and other disabilities.
- Employs approximately 500 adults in Connecticut.
- Combined operating budgets of $20 million.
So many remarkable things have happened over the years at SARAH and we have much to celebrate. Most importantly, we celebrate those who make it all possible. Together, with your support, we have made a difference in countless lives of children and adults with intellectual and other disabilities.
Thank you for caring, for believing and for joining in the quest to achieve with us.