From humble beginnings in 1966 to today’s organization that serves more than 200 individuals daily, MALCOLM EATON Enterprises has evolved to continually meet the demands of people with disabilities in Stephenson County.
The organization incorporated as the Association for Retarded Children of Stephenson County and was originally a day care center providing classroom services for children with disabilities who were not being served in the public school system. In January 1967, the group opened its first production center in downtown Freeport with major support from both individuals and local industry. Eight consumers attended.
In 1968, the organization changed its name to the Association for the Handicapped of Stephenson County. By 1974, a Birth to Three, Early Intervention Services program started. Early Intervention eventually served hundreds of children before progressing into today’s Respite program.
Production center growth boomed during the 1970s with the downtown location adding 6,000 square feet for more contract work. By the early 1980s, it was time to move. A property donation and public fund-raising campaign made the June 1983 relocation to the current facility at 570 West Lamm Road possible. Shortly after, the organization changed its name to MALCOLM EATON Enterprises, honoring Malcolm Eaton — a longtime volunteer “who made a difference.”
The late 1980s saw the start of the Supported Employment Program – now known as the Community Employment Program – while the Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILA) residential program began in 1990. Both now enjoy major success in the community with employers embracing the jobs program and individuals living in two MALCOLM EATON-owned homes and a variety of apartments.
After years of subcontracting work, MALCOLM EATON took its production center to a new level in 2002 by manufacturing its first product: bathroom tissue. The organization was awarded a state contract to produce the product. In 2006, Spirit Bathroom Tissue, a retail product was launched with one- and two-ply products introduced.
The organization reached a major milestone when it opened the West Campus at 2900 West Loras Drive in Freeport in August 2009. This facility is home to the expanded and relocated Developmental Training I program. The DT I program grew from 50 to 120 when individuals from Frances House of Rockford began receiving services at MALCOLM EATON Enterprises. Other programs continue, based at what is now known as the Main Campus on Lamm Road.
Today, the organization thrives with three levels of Developmental Training offering vocational training at the two campuses and the Manufacturing Center and Spirit Bathroom Tissue going strong. Plus Community Employment, residential services, Xtreme Xpeditions Summer Camp for youth and a host of other programs serve the needs of the youth and adults with disabilities in the area. The first 45 years were only the beginning for MALCOLM EATON Enterprises.