History of National Easter Seals, Goodwill Industries, and Easter Seals Goodwill ND, Inc.

The National Easter Seal Society was founded in Elyria, Ohio, in 1919 by a prominent local businessman named Edgar F. Allen. 

Allen's involvement was prompted by the death of his son in a streetcar collision. This personal tragedy made him aware of the inadequate emergency medical facilities of the time, which, in turn, inspired him to lead an effort to build, equip and staff a new general hospital in Elyria. Then, Allen's interest in a boy hospitalized with a disabling condition opened his eyes to the need for expert medical care for children with disabilities. Through contact with this boy, Allen began his lifelong service on behalf of people with disabilities. In 1919 in Ohio, he started the first state organization for "crippled children." In 1921, Allen's organization became the National Society for Crippled Children with headquarters in Elyria.

At the time of its founding, the National Society was the only voluntary agency speaking and acting on behalf of people with disabilities. Once the national organization was launched, the formation of other state societies soon followed. The programs of the new societies worked towards stimulating state legislation to provide medical care and education to children with disabilities. Other activities included sponsoring clinics and school and hospital programs. The ever-popular "Easter Seals" stickers were adopted as a fund raising device in 1934, and the Easter lily became its national symbol in 1952. 

Now known as Easter Seals, Inc., this national organization is rated as one of the top ten nonprofit organizations in the country for services to provide programs for children and adults affected by disabilities or other special needs. Easter Seals also played a key role in generating grass roots support for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1991 which is federal civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in the areas of employment, transportation, public accommodations and communications.

The North Dakota Chapter of the National Society for Crippled Children and Adults (Jamestown) was a statewide organization that was founded in 1947. In those early years, The "Society" (as the North Dakota Chapter was referred to), began with the provision of speech and language screening. The Society's first employee, a speech therapist, traveled throughout the back roads of North Dakota in her station wagon, going into the homes of school children to test them for speech and hearing disabilities. It was determined that there was a strong need for speech therapy within the state. Consequently, the Society worked along with the state legislature to have speech therapy included in the services provided by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and to make speech therapy available throughout the state. 

A few years later, an office was opened in a garage in Jamestown where a staff person worked to raise $125,000 for the Crippled Children's School to construct a new dormitory. This school is now the Anne Carlsen Center for Children, which is located in Jamestown, North Dakota. In the ‘50's the Society's name was changed to Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children and Adults, or just North Dakota Easter Seals.

In the 1960's, North Dakota Easter Seals and the Elks Club established Camp Grassick on Lake Isabel south of Dawson, North Dakota. Together, the two organizations administered a summer camping program for both children and adults with disabilities. 

In 1975, Easter Seals opened a warm water therapy pool in Minot and in Mandan. Although neither pool is open today, Easter Seals ND makes referrals to local hospitals and/or agencies that offer warm water therapy. 

Currently, Easter Seals Goodwill ND, Inc. contracts with the Department of Human Services - Disability Services Division and Aging Services Division - to provide statewide Family Support Services to persons with disabilities and Home and Community Based Services to older North Dakota residents. 


Goodwill Industries began over 100 years ago when Methodist minister Edgar J. Helms accepted the challenge to serve as a settlement worker among the poor immigrants of Boston, Massachusetts. Helms became inspired to improve the immigrants' quality of life, so he took a burlap sack and began traveling to the wealthier areas of Boston asking for unwanted garments and other goods. The poor men and women were then put to work restoring the collected items and learning trades and skills as they worked. Once the items were repaired, they were resold and the money was used to pay the wages of the workers. This cycle of donations, processing, resale and wages was the beginning of Goodwill Industries and remains essentially intact today. 

Gradually, Goodwill Industries spread across the United States, offering programs to help the "unemployable" enter the work world. Although people with disabilities were never excluded from Goodwill Industries' programs, they did not become the major focus of the organization's work until the mid-1930s. It was during the Great Depression that Goodwill turned its attention to the vocational needs of America's people with disabilities. Over the years, as needs have changed, Goodwill has expanded its programs to include, once again, people who are socially and economically disadvantaged. Today, Goodwill serves people with a range of barriers to employment, including a lack of education, welfare dependency, a criminal record or advanced age.

In 1996, Easter Seals of North Dakota sought a merger with Goodwill Industries in order to broaden its consumer focus and its mission to include people who are socially and economically disadvantaged, those with cultural differences, as well as those with disabilities. In joining the ranks of Goodwill Industries, Easter Seals is able to expand its funding sources and to include occupational opportunities such as career development training and life skills development within the Goodwill Retails Stores in Bismarck, Minot, Grand Forks and Jamestown. In 1996, our new name became Easter Seals Goodwill ND, Inc

For the future, Easter Seals Goodwill ND, Inc. will develop new programs and projects that can be sustained over time, can provide substantial benefits to people with disabilities or other special needs, and can lend themselves to adaptation and replication throughout our great state of North Dakota.