Pathlight is the first organization in Hampden County founded with a mission to support people with developmental disabilities and their families.
Pathilght establishes the first nursery school for developmentally disabled children at Grace EpiscopalChurch Parish House in Chicopee.
FIRST DAY SCHOOL
Many educational programs are created during this timeframe, including the first developmental day school in western Massachusetts.
BELCHERTOWN STATE EXPOSE
Executive Director Charles Veith accompanies Springfield newspaper reporter Jim Shanks to expose horrendous conditions at Belchertown State School.
Pathlight establishes residential services by creating the first community residence in Massachusetts.
Pathlight creates the first program in Massachusetts to provide long-term specialized foster care families for those with developmental disabilities.
INTENSIVE RESIDENTIAL SERVICES
The first small, community-based intermediate care facility in Massachusetts is created for people with developmental disabilities.
Pathlight expands services to include programs that do “whatever it takes to strengthen the whole family.”
Previously called Community Resources for People with Autism, Pathlight established Autism Connections as a parent-found program for children with autism. This was the first autism resource center funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Family Empowerment, a family program that supports individuals with special needs and their families joins Pathlight.
The Employment Supports division was established to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities can contribute to the world in which they live.
Whole Children merges with Pathlight to further expand family support services.
Milestones is founded to continue providing expanded family support services to transition age children and adults
Founded in 1952 by five mothers of young children with developmental disabilities, Pathlight was the first organization in Hampden County dedicated to serving individuals with intellectual disabilities. These women shared a dream that their children would live and grow as valued members of their communities, despite the fact that this vision challenged prevalent societal expectations that people with developmental disabilities were best separated from their families and placed in institutions.
Together, these mothers and their families joined forces in Western Massachusetts and beyond to create a movement designed to create opportunities, build relationships, and improve lives of those with developmental disabilities. They recruited friends, neighbors, local businesses, and community organizations to help. They were joined by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Springfield Druggists Association, Holy Name Social Center, Lodge of Elks, Springfield Fire Fighters’ Union, local banks, school superintendents, legislators, and Community United Way, to name just a few.
PATHLIGHT EXPANDED RAPIDLY
The founders and their growing organization pioneered new services, such as the first nursery schools for children with developmental disabilities and the first language development programs in Springfield and Westfield. In West Springfield, they started the first privately run developmental school in Massachusetts. Later, as a result of an exposé of conditions at Belchertown State School and threats of legal action, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recognized a need to take action. State officials approached Pathlight in 1971 about creating services in the community for people who would shortly be deinstitutionalized. The Board of Directors responded by creating the first group home for people with developmental disabilities in Massachusetts.
Since then, Pathlight has continued to pioneer innovative programs designed to meet emerging needs. Family Based Living (originally called Specialized Home Care) was founded in 1974. This was the first program in Massachusetts to recruit families to open their homes for children and adults moving out of institutions. The program was replicated statewide and evolved into the shared-living model that is popular today. Later, Pathlight created group homes for developmentally disabled people with complex medical needs, some of whom had spent years in nursing homes having their medical needs met, but little or none of their life needs met. Pathlight also offers an array of family services for children with developmental disabilities.
FAMILY, FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, AND COLLEAGUES
Now, more than sixty years later, Pathlight serves all of western Massachusetts and northern Worcester County. We do this by providing for the evolving needs of those in our community with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout their lives. Whether enrichment and skill-building classes or educational advocacy, employment support or the creation of a home, Pathlight seeks always to help each individual realize their fullest potential.
Pathlight is a private non-profit community organization that supports children, teens, and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. It is directed by a volunteer board of family members of individuals with developmental disabilities and community members.