Elm City Rehabilitation Center, a not-for‑profit organization, was founded in August 1959, and has been at its current location on W. Walnut St. since 1974.  Vocationally oriented, ECC helps people with disabilities be independent and live in the community.


By: Mark Gillespie and Vi Hutton


Elm City Center began in 1959 when Robert Manlove, a counselor with the Illinois Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, met with Jacksonville educators Robert Blazier and Harry Emerick.  They began to plan to rehabilitate people toward community living.  Soon Jackie Hanback joined in working with them.  From their discussions came the concept of the Elm City Center we know today.  Using volunteers and school classrooms during the summer, they began teaching vocational and daily living skills to 8 individuals.  Elm City Center became a 501(c)3 organization on May 27, 1971.

In 1959 the first space was rented above the Times Theater.  There were many moves until in 1974, the City Council voted $40,000 in revenue sharing funds for Elm City to buy the WJJY TV building on West Walnut.  Our campus has grown over the years, with an addition to the north of the old TV studios where we used to build pallets, and then another as a work space and warehouse for products we packaged for Capitol/EMI.  The GTE telephone building to the west was purchased and became classrooms, with a connecting hallway to the administration building / production areas.  Then a new building was erected on the west part of our campus for additional classroom space, a kitchen and lunch room, and packaging, area.  That building was then expanded further to the west as the packaging program continued to grow.  The Main campus sits on 14.5 acres with approximately 100,000 square feet under roof, and houses our offices, warehouses, truck docks, vocational training areas and classrooms.

The Social Center was originally on East State Street, but in 1995 the Illinois Power Building was purchased.  In 1998, the Social Center was named for Clyde L. York, a long time supporter and member of the Board.  The Social Center was open Monday – Friday in the evenings.  Individuals could go to cooking class, play bingo on Wednesday nights, watch TV, play pool, use the computers, exercise, do crafts, play cards or board games.  Staff was on duty to serve drinks and free meals were offered several times a month.

Morgan County Housing has 3 brick homes and a 10 unit apartment complex that were especially built for Elm City Center Individuals.  We also work with people who have their own apartments throughout Jacksonville.  In 2012 we opened our first CILA residential program for people who moved from JDC once it closed.  Since then we have opened two more CILAs.  We also work with many people living independently in over 20 apartments or their own home throughout the Jacksonville area.  We also provide services to Individuals living in Morgan, Sangamon, Pike, Green, Cass, and Scott counties.

In 65 years, the Center has only had 4 Executive Directors:  Perry Hensley from 1966 – 1968, Betty Teaford from 1969 – 2001, Tom Frederick from 2001-2019, and our current President and CEO David Pennell from 2019 – present.  Since our beginning, we have grown and prospered as a premiere provider of services to Individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities or with mental illness.  The foresight and dedication of our administration, staff, volunteers, supporters and others, beginning with our founders and including all who have been involved over the years, are what make Elm City Center a truly amazing organization.

A note about our building

On Columbus Day, 2014 we were visited by J. Mitch Hopper, one of the first technicians employed at the television studio that is now our administration building.  He has a website of interest that describes the station’s short history: http://www.brainmist.com/wjjy_tv/wjjy_tv.htm