Our History


The National History of Easter Seals

Easter Seals has been helping individuals with disabilities and special needs, and their families, live better lives for more than 80 years. From child development centers to physical rehabilitation and job training for people with disabilities, Easter Seals offers a variety of services to help people with disabilities address life’s challenges and achieve personal goals.

In 1907, Ohio-businessman Edgar Allen lost his son in a streetcar accident. The lack of adequate medical services available to save his son prompted Allen to sell his business and begin a fund-raising campaign to build a hospital in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio. Through this new hospital, Allen was surprised to learn that children with disabilities were often hidden from public view. Inspired by this discovery, in 1919 Allen founded what became known as the National Society for Crippled Children, the first organization of its kind.

In the spring of 1934, the organization launched its first Easter “seals” campaign to raise money for its services. To show their support, donors placed the seals on envelopes and letters. Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoonist J.H. Donahey designed the first seal. Donahey based the design on a concept of simplicity because those served by the charity asked “simply for the right to live a normal life.”

The lily — a symbol of spring — was officially incorporated as Easter Seals’ logo in 1952 for its association with resurrection and new life and has appeared on each seal since.

The overwhelming public support for the Easter “seals” campaign triggered a nationwide expansion of the organization and a swell of grassroots efforts on behalf of people with disabilities. By 1967, the Easter “seal” was so well recognized, the organization formally adopted the name “Easter Seals.”

Today, Easter Seals assists more than one million children and adults with disabilities and their families annually through a nationwide network of more than 450 service sites. Each center provides top-quality, family-focused and innovative services tailored to meet the specific needs of the particular community it serves. Primary Easter Seals services include:

  • Medical Rehabilitation
  • Job Training and Employment
  • Child Care
  • Adult Day Services
  • Camping and Recreation

Easter Seals also advocates for the passage of legislation to help people with disabilities achieve independence, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Passed in 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination against anyone who has a mental or physical disability, guaranteeing the civil rights of people with disabilities.

At the core of the Easter Seals organization is a common passion for caring, shared by its 13,000 staff members and thousands of volunteers, and by those who support its mission. This heart-felt commitment to helping people with disabilities and their families is what Easter Seals is all about.

The Local History of Easter Seals

Easter Seals of the Birmingham Area is one of twelve rehabilitation facilities owned and operated under The Alabama Easter Seal Society (Alabama Society for Crippled Children and Adults, Inc.).  This facility dates back to 1950 when the Alabama Society co-sponsored a teacher who went to the homes of severely handicapped individuals to teach crafts. It soon became obvious that there existed a large number of disabled people who were in need of vocational services. The Society then formed a workshop in 1952. This facility, located on 18th Street South in Birmingham, was known as “Alacrafts”. Alacrafts provided vocational rehabilitation services to disabled individuals in the Birmingham area for approximately fifteen years.  In 1964 Spain Rehabilitation Facility was constructed. The primary emphasis at the Spain Facility focused on physical medicine, rehabilitation research, and education. The need for a post-physical restoration and vocational rehabilitation program became apparent.

With this awareness, Society leaders formed a problem solving committee as it was also apparent that the Alacrafts workshop had outgrown its space. Working closely with the Jefferson County Chapter of the Alabama Easter Seals Society, monies were raised for the construction of the Occupational Rehabilitation Center. Construction was completed in December of 1968 and the staff of Alacrafts moved into the “Center”. The North Central Alabama Rehabilitation Committee (Easter Seals of the Birmingham Area Board of Directors) was formed to serve as the governing body. The Jefferson County Chapter (Central Alabama Chapter) of The Alabama Easter Seal Society continued to offer active assistance to the organization in the manner of voluntary as well as monetary support, received from their affiliation with United Way of Central Alabama. Space constraints again confronted the Center and in July of 1997 the organization moved to its current location at 2717 3rd Avenue South Birmingham, AL 35233. Soon after the name was changed to Easter Seals of the Birmingham Area.

 

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