A History of the Shirley Eves Developmental and Therapeutic Center


Services and charities for children with disability New Jersey
Founder, Shirley Eves


The Shirley Eves Developmental and Therapeutic Center, incorporated in 1952 as United Cerebral Palsy of Cumberland County, will celebrate their 60th year of providing services to children and adults with disabilities in September 2012.

The Center, as we know it today, began as the dream of a dedicated group of families in Cumberland County in the early 1950s. Many of these families had children with cerebral palsy and found a lack of therapy services for their children in our area. This determined group of parents secured donations of land, building materials, money, and volunteer labor. They literally built the center which we still operate today at 313 N. 10th Street in Millville. The Center’s early focus was on providing physical and speech therapy to children with cerebral palsy.

Key contributions in the 1950s came from the Cumberland County Shrine Club who donated the land upon which the center is built and the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority of Millville who raised the bulk of the money for the building fund. The Bridgeton Community Chest and the Colony for the Aged Association of Roosevelt Park also made significant contributions in 1953 to the building campaign. In May 1954, a Mother’s March was held. For two nights, approximately 25 mothers went door-to-door throughout Millville collecting money for the cerebral palsy cause.

For two years, therapy was provided in donated rooms at the Local VFW.

Ground-breaking ceremonies for the building were held on March 22, 1954. The center opened for services on November 21 after being built entirely by volunteer labor during the spring and summer of 1954.

Throughout the 50s and 60s the United Cerebral Palsy Center continued to grow and expand in the community. The Special Education classes of the Millville School district were held in the center in the 1960s. Numerous community groups in Cumberland County including the Girl Scout Troop 345, Brownie Troop 359, Greater Vineland United Fund, and the Bridgeton United Fund for Red Feather raised monies and donated equipment to the center.

In early 1962, Shirley Fredericks Eves was hired as the Executive Director. Under her leadership until her death in 1978, the center became a haven for persons with disabilities in Cumberland County. After her death, the Board of Directors renamed the building in her honor and we became known locally as the “Shirley Eves Center.”

In 1974, the Center formed a partnership with Children’s Seashore House of Atlantic City to establish an Early Intervention Program for children aged birth to 3 years with disabilities. The services of the center were now expanded greatly to include’ physical, speech, special education, and occupational therapies, and social work services four days a week to all children with disabilities in the community. Comprehensive child evaluation services including neurodevelopmental, medical, audiological, ophthalmological, and nursing evaluations also became a part of the center.

The decade of the 80s was one of rapid growth for the Shirley Eves Center. As recognition of the many unmet needs of persons with disabilities grew in the United States, so did the response of the Shirley Eves Center. In 1984, two programs that were forerunners in services for the disabled were established: the Respite Care Program and the Toy Library Program. The Respite Care Program provides much needed relief for families caring for a child or family member with a serious illness or disability. Seventy-three (73) families receive Respite Care services annually. The Lekotek Toy Library Program loans developmental toys, helps parents learn to play and enjoy their child who has a disability, and prevents child abuse and neglect. It has been recognized as the only Lekotek program nationally to reach children at risk of abuse and neglect in their own homes through play. One hundred and twenty (120) children receive Lekotek services.

Project Open House was also established in 1986. This exciting program builds 15 ramps each year throughout Southern New Jersey in Cumberland, and Salem counties. The building of ramps actually allows persons in wheelchairs access to their own homes, and ultimately, to the entire community.

In 1987, the Shirley Eves Center saw the completion of another long awaited dream – a large addition to our original building. Once again we formed a partnership with the Millville Board of Education and the students of the Millville High School Building Trades Department completed the addition in one school year. We are delighted to have such a cooperative relationship with the Millville Board of Education and our community. After a long two year capitol campaign that included a large donation from Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Carley and The Carley Foundation, the new building was erected.

In 1992, we became incorporated as the Shirley Eves Developmental and Therapeutic Center. We continue to keep abreast of changes in rehabilitation and strive to serve families and children in our four county area.

Our Respite Program continued to grow and in May of 1994 we began Hotel Respite weekends. Two weekends per month, two clients and staff go on outings from 9:00 AM Saturday to 5:00 ~ Sunday evening. Additional request for mid week or week long will be considered. Based on availability of funds and staff. Many excursions into the community allow a respite for both the families and the D.D.D. client.

Also in 1998 we received a contract with the Department of Health to begin a “Least Restrictive Environment” Early Intervention Program. In this program, children birth to age three receive Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Special Instruction and Social Work services at home, at a day care or in the least restrictive environment asked for by parents.

The past 60 years have seen many changes in attitudes, services and programs for persons with disabilities throughout our country, New Jersey and here at the Shirley Eves Center. We continue to stress inclusion, integration and independence for the children and adults with disabilities.