Bridgeport Regional Center

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Bridgeport Regional Center
Construction Began 1951
Current Status Active
Building Style Single Building
Alternate Names The Kennedy Center



In 1943 Mrs. Evelyn Kennedy's first experience in hearing the term 'Mental Retardation' was when her doctor told her "You have a mentally retarded son". Their lives were centered on their son and they soon found out there was no place to turn for help, not even books in the library. When her son Brian was 5 she went to the Superintendent of Schools in Bridgeport only to be told there were no programs for children like hers. Special Classes were for children with IQ's over 50. There was no obligations for children like her son Brian.

On a snowy February night in 1951 12 families came together at Mrs. Kennedy's house to see what they could do for their children. They pleaded with the Board of Appropriations in Bridgeport to help them to keep their children home, and out of that came funds for two classes to start at Columbus School in Bridgeport. These trainable classes were the first of its kind in the New England States. They named their association 'The Parents and Friends of the Mentally Retarded' and held meetings twice a month.

Other communities wanted help in starting their parent groups so they traveled around the state in helping other groups get started. Their next need was a center for a nursery program. The Bridgeport Brass Good Neighbor Fund purchased a lot and with the money they had in their treasury designed and built a building with help from local contractors. It then took 18 months to complete it. Their programs soon expanded to their full capacity and it was time once again to move. The Mayor of Bridgeport gave them 3 acres of land on Virginia Ave. and Washington D.C. gave them a federal grant for $100,000. They also raised $375,000 to cover the cost of the new building. They realized all to soon, after the building opened, that they could not continue the expense, the demand was so intense for services, and it was overwhelming.

Their only alternative was to have the Department of Mental Retardation take the building over and provide the services desperately needed. Evelyn Kennedy made a trip to Hartford to insist that Bridgeport was past due in having a Regional Center. They then turned the building over to the DMR for $50,000 the amount owed on it. That was the beginning of the Bridgeport Regional Center. In 1951 they decided to take the older children and open another facility. They opened in one building, moved later to another one and finally to a factory building on Garden Street in Bridgeport that was donated to them. They also received a donation of about 1 million dollars to renovate the building and The Kennedy Center opened in the early 1970's.[1]

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