In an era of social change, the 1950s and early 1960s saw the rise of a national parents’ movement demanding civil rights for children with disabilities.
Dr. Gunnar Dybwad (1909-2001), an early and prominent advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, noted how “disability” is a natural part of the human condition. He framed intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) as a civil rights issue rather than a medical or social work problem. As he once stated, “There will always be people who are treated unequally because they are perceived as different.”
In 1962, Venice area parents joined the growing national parents’ movement and sought to be the dominant voice in our community and advocate for educational and community services for their children; therefore, establishing the South County Association for Retarded Children, Inc., now known as the Loveland Center.
1962 – School chartered as South County Association for Retarded Children Inc. Later that year, an anonymous person coins the name Loveland.
1964 – Loveland Center formally incorporates and receives 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
George O’Brien steps in as the first CEO.
1967 – Loveland School for Retarded Children classes begin in new Venice location at 4002 S. Tamiami Trail.
1983 – The Lovelanders, a nonprofit group consisting of parents, caregivers, friends, and community support is established to fundraise, provide social events for students, and volunteers to help Loveland Center.
1984 – Loveland officially changes name to Southwest Florida Center for the Handicapped Inc.
1986 – Loveland opens its first group home.
1989 – Supported Employment program established.
1990 – Carl Penxa steps in as new CEO.
1994 – Supported Living program is introduced.
1995 – Loveland partners with the Venice Theatre to create the Loveland Follies; first performance in 1996.
1996 – Student Volunteer program starts.
1999 – Student Volunteer program receives JC Penney Golden Rule Award and The President’s Service Award Citation.
2001 – Loveland Center builds its new four-building campus and relocates to South Havana Road following a $2.3 million capital campaign.
2002 – Student Volunteer program receives Florida Governor’s Points of Light Award.
2004 – Loveland Legacy is created to increase the number of planned gifts.
2007 – New Phase II facility completed.
2009 – Loveland conducts its first annual Christmas BBQ fundraiser.
2010 – Loveland Follies receives three International Community Theater awards.
The John Cox Friends4Life scholarship program established.
2014 – Loveland breaks ground and begins construction of the residences.
2015 – Loveland introduces a new, multi-sensory room in Phase II.
2016 – In June, Residents move into the Nancy Detert Residences at Loveland Village.
Carl Penxa announces his retirement. Daniela Koci steps in as new CEO
2017 – Loveland Center celebrates its 55th Anniversary with a Gala: “Emerald Nights: Celebrating the Past and Ensuring the Future.”
Launch of the Hearty Kitchen Academy.
Loveland Center welcomes a new president and CEO, Patrick Guerin III.
“Equality Through Opportunity” sets the tone for the future of Loveland.
For more than 55 years, Loveland Center has been an agent for change, fostering a social agenda aimed at destigmatizing and normalizing how our community views the population we serve.
Today, Loveland Center continues its quest to bring visibility and opportunity not only for our participants at Loveland, but for those in our surrounding communities.
Loveland’s programs provide various services that enable individuals the opportunities to discover untapped potential, build self-confidence, and further develop skill sets that allow for increased independence– creating the platform to advocate for themselves. Through self-advocacy, individuals are empowered to become a part of their community and not apart from it.