From our humble beginnings as a series of small local programs for children with special needs to our work empowering adults with developmental disabilities today, EmployAbility has made a steadfast commitment to quality care and innovative programs for individuals with disabilities in our community for more than 60 years.
As the years have gone by, EmployAbility has grown from a small, grassroots organization to a non-profit providing services to individuals in Chatham, Bryan, and Effingham Counties.
During the 1950s, school districts did not accept children with developmental disabilities into their classrooms, leaving parents to either send their children to Georgia state hospitals, or keep them at home without much-needed resources. In response to these limited options, a grassroots movement led by Lillie Mae Kicklighter and five other parents resulted in the creation of a day program for children with developmental disabilities that would later be known as EmployAbility.
1951 – EmployAbility founded as a private, one-room school in Forsyth Park.
1957 – The organization is officially incorporated as Kicklighter School, the first official name of EmployAbility.
The 1970s was a time of dramatic change for EmployAbility, as the organization began serving adults, became its own independent nonprofit with its own Board of Directors, and went through the process of changing its name.
1972 – The organization known as Kicklighter School was renamed The Chatham Association for Retarded Citizens and began serving adults as well as children in its facilities on Eisenhower Drive.
1979 – The Chatham Association Center became a new, independent non-profit dedicated to serving adults with developmental disabilities.
The 1980s helped define the mission and the focus of EmployAbility, as the organization developed the first work activity program in Chatham County for adults with developmental disabilities, developed its expertise in supported employment, and built business relationships that have become the organization’s greatest strength.
1980 – The Chatham Association Center develops a work activity program for individuals with developmental disabilities which would serve as a model for other organizations in Chatham County.
1985 – The Chatham Association Center begins developing expertise in supported employment, the start of business relationships that have become one of the organization’s greatest strengths.
The 1990s marked a period of growth and development for EmployAbility, as services expanded across multiple counties in Coastal Georgia.
1990 – The State of Georgia awards our organization its first contract to provide specialized and supported employment services to adults with developmental disabilities.
1994 – The Chatham Association Center changes its name to Coastal Center for Developmental Services, Inc.
The 2000s were a period of relatively stability as the organization flourished from the changes it made in the last decade. In this time, EmployAbility developed a model of social enterprise that provided both experiential learning opportunities and additional revenue. The organization also saw continued growth of supported employment.
2005 – Chatham Industries becomes a subsidiary of Coastal Center for Developmental Services and implements a social enterprise training model to offer both experiential learning and revenue for program growth.
2008 – Our organization, in partnership with the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, St. Joseph’s / Candler Health System, and Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) launched Project SEARCH, an innovative school-to-work program offered to high school students with developmental disabilities.
2010 – Present
Since 2010, EmployAbility has continued to expand, creating new programs to prepare individuals with developmental disabilities for employment and community integration.
2010 – The introduction of the MePower Campaign and dedicated the MePower Garden.
2015 – Our organizationa launched a Community Employment Transition Program, a 10-week community-based training in preparation for employment.
Inclusively serving people with disabilities for more than 60 years.
Meet the team helping to change lives here at EmployAbility.