Our service to the community began more than 60 years ago, when Mrs. Gertrude Saidman sought to create a “home” for children with special needs after having trouble finding services for her daughter. Together with Rabbi Chaim Williamowsky and Hyman Paper, they create our predecessor, the Jewish Foundation for Retarded Children, which was incorporated in 1958.
In just a few short years, the organization secured 6200 2nd Street NW–which sat about 13 miles from the current Early Learning and Early Intervention Center (ELC)–to serve as a private residence and school for children with mental disabilities. In June of 1961, 25 students started summer camp with the foundation, and the residential program opened a few months later in September
The Foundation, which changed its name in 1970 to the National Children’s Center, was truly before its time. At the height of civil and racial unrest around the country, the organization did not enforce segregation and made sure all people knew they were welcome. It honored not only its Jewish heritage with a Kosher kitchen, but also the rules for other religions’ dietary restrictions for its non-Jewish students.
A November 1976 issue of The Washington Post described NCC as equal parts “training center” and “treatment center,” as it integrated “training programs for people in all aspects of special education, from pediatricians to teachers, psychologists to speech therapists and social workers.” That ingenuity still inspires the leadership of the modern day NCC. With partnerships with local universities, including Howard University and George Washington University, NCC is still a fertile ground for medical professionals to learn and give back to their community.
Today, as a 501©3 nonprofit organization, NCC continues to be a refuge for thousands of individuals and families who are often underserved and overlooked. The ELC provides early childhood education to children ages zero to five in an inclusive educational environment. Students also have access to a variety of on-site therapies and healthcare professionals to ensure early detection and treatment. Initiatives like the Parent Café empowers parents and caregivers with the tools to support the growth and development of their children.
Community Support Services’ serves adults 18 and older through several core programs, including Residential Services, which allows those in our care live independently; Employment Readiness and Supported Employment, which helps those in our care overcome barriers to gainful employment; Community Day Services, which allows people in our care to be active outside the home; and the Day Habilitation Program, which offers ways to express creativity and build life skills.