Harbor House was founded in 1992 by the parents of eleven men and women with mental retardation, developmental disabilities and brain injuries to create a safe and supportive environment in which their sons and daughters could gain the benefits of a regular job. In the beginning each parent volunteered to staff the workshop working one to two days a week. As the number of participants increased, paid supervisors were hired. For the first two years Harbor House operated in space donated by Incarnation Church before moving to the commercial space on St. Andrews Church Road.
For the first six years funding was based on workshop proceeds, which came from a variety of jobs completed by the participants and parents. They began by cleaning medical chart folders and processing microfilm for CARITAS Hospital. Plexiglas strips from Rohm and Haas were recycled into key chains and rulers then sold. Harbor House also processed Norton Healthcare’s invoice mailings. During this time a screen-printing business was started. The operations demanded many skills that few of the participants could master requiring a great deal of volunteer hours on the part of the parents; therefore they sought other means of funding and ceased the screen-printing operations in 1996.
In early 1996 one of the founding parents approached a relative who was attending Bellarmine University and asked her to write a business plan for Harbor House. She agreed. Upon completion of the business plan, the board of directors hired Maria Smith as the Executive Director. In December of 1996 Harbor House began a new business venture to operate an automated bulk mailing service. This affords Harbor House the ability to be a self-sufficient non-profit organization..
During 15 years of successful growth, Harbor House has established a model program that addresses the needs of disabled adults by providing a variety of programs and services tailored to each individual’s abilities. Each participant at Harbor House is assisted in making appropriate choices for self-fulfillment and meaningful contributions to society through professional case management; life skills training; self-care and home management training; supported employment opportunities; and community work reintegration (within our own onsite mailing operations and through assistance with off-site job placement).
Expansion of our facility in July 2003 has allowed us to provide more of these services to a wider population of deserving participants. Harbor House is ensuring that disabled adults have locally available programs and services tailored to their abilities. Harbor House continues to grow in services, production, and programs.
The founding parents of Harbor House envisioned an organization that would provide their sons and daughters with challenging, enjoyable and productive work, with more opportunities to integrate with the larger community.