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Celebrating 50 years of services

Providing quality services and support in Riley, Geary, Pottawatomie, and Clay counties in northeast Kansas since 1973. 

Our History

The 1970s

  • Big Lakes roots began in 1964 with the formation of the Manhattan Federation for Retarded Children. In 1969, the Federation opened the first adult training program in Manhattan.

  • Big Lakes Developmental Center, Inc. is chartered as a nonprofit Kansas corporation serving individuals with IDD in Riley and Geary counties on January 30, 1973 with Gene Post named the first Executive Director. 

  • In 1975, Dr. Abe Hussein replaces Gene Post as Executive Director and Pottawatomie and Clay counties begin participation in Big Lakes’ programs and services.  The Clay Center adult training center opens.  Residential services for adults with IDD begin with semi-independent and independent living.

  • County Mill Levy funds from the four counties Big Lakes serves is secured for services.

  • In 1978, Jim Shaver replaces Dr. Hussein as Executive Director and remains in that role until his retirement in 2004. 

  • In 1979, Big Lakes opens a new adult training center at 1500 Hayes Drive in Manhattan.

The 1980s

  • Social Service Block Grant (SSBG), State General Fund Grants (SGF) and State Aid through the State of Kansas is secured to expand services to include residential, employment, and respite services. 

  • The first residential home for women is built in 1980.  Residential services expand to include four residential homes by 1989.

  • The adult training service center in Manhattan expands multiple times during the decade.

  • 72 individuals with IDD are receiving services offered by Big Lakes in 1989.

The 1990s

  • Case management services begin in 1991.

  • A new adult training center in Clay Center is built in 1992.

  • In 1993, Big Lakes celebrates 20 years of service to the community.  The Big Lakes Foundation is founded provide financial support for Big Lakes services and special projects including affordable and accessible housing through fundraising.

  • Big Lakes’ children’s programs close in 1995 due to declining enrollment and changes made for public schools to provide educational services for children with disabilities.

  • The DD Reform Act is passed by the Kansas Legislature to reduce the use of state hospitals and promote community services for people with IDD.  The Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver is approved for Kansas by the federal government.  HBCS becomes the primary funding source for services.

  • Big Lakes opens a newly renovated 26,000 square foot training center and administrative offices at our current location at 1416 Hayes Drive in April, 1996 only to be expanded by 3,750 square feet in 1997.

  • Nine residential homes are owned and operated by Big Lakes by 1999 and Big Lakes joins the world wide web with our first website.

  • 140 individuals with IDD are receiving services in 1999.

The 2000s

  • In 2002, the first residential home in Clay Center opens. 

  • Lori B. Feldkamp is named the fourth Big Lakes’ President & CEO in 2004.

  • A 12,000 square foot addition to the Hayes Drive service center and administrative offices and a 1,200 square foot addition to the Clay Center service center are completed in 2008-2009.

  • Fifteen residential homes are owned and operated by Big Lakes by 2009.

  • 185 individuals with IDD are receiving services in 2009.

The 2010s

  • The Zeandale farm program begins in 2010 with the construction of a greenhouse to provide horticultural work opportunities.

  • Multiple major remodeling projects are completed among our older residential homes to bring them up to date aesthetically, maximize capacity and provide accessibility.

  • Seventeen residential homes are owned and operated by Big Lakes by 2019.

  • 218 individuals with IDD are receiving services in 2019.

The 2020s

  • Services are greatly impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020.  Big Lakes continues to provide 24/7 services for over 100 individuals with IDD during this tumultuous time.

  • Big Lakes reaches 50 years of service to the community in 2023 with a yearlong celebration of events and activities to mark this important milestone.  The Big Lakes Foundation celebrates 30 years of financial support for Big Lakes.

  • Seventeen residential homes are owned and operated by Big Lakes.

  • 200+ individuals with IDD are receiving services.

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