The Old Mill Center: Giving Children a Chance to Succeed

oldmillcenterA generation ago children and adults with disabilities were isolated away from the community. They had their own schools, work environments, and care facilities. One woman, however, did not think this was the best option for them, so Bev Larson created the Old Mill Center in Corvallis more than 35 years ago. This center, located at 1650 SW 45th Place, believes “that children have the best chance to succeed if they have a strong foundation for the future.”

Dr. Bev Larson and the Old Mill Center began by serving eight families in 1977; today the center serves 1,600. The center began with an integrated preschool, which combined students with disabilities with mainstream children in the same classroom. Dr. Larson believed that bringing children from diverse backgrounds together allowed them to gain a unique foundation, while developing skills and values such as acceptance, compassion and understanding.  Dr. Larson was considered a pioneer in her field, and was one of the first in the nation to use this bold approach to educating children. Today, the practice of mainstreaming children with physical and emotional disabilities is widely accepted.

The Old Mill Center provides a wide range of unique services that “address the educational, social, emotional and family needs of a diverse population of children.” These services allow the Old Mill staff to provide all types of support for at-risk children from birth until age 18, and also provide services for their families. Some of the services provided include; The Relief Nursery, Healthy Families Program, an Integrated Preschool, Intensive Day Treatment Program, Child and Family Counseling, and the Court Mandated Co-Parenting Program.

The Relief Nursery is a therapeutic early childhood program for at-risk children 6 weeks to 6 years that is completely free to families. This program offers many parent education options, family strengthening and preservation programs, intensive home visiting, substance abuse assessment and other counseling services, in collaboration with the Corvallis Public Library, Linn-Benton Community College and other agencies.  It can help families provide safer homes for children, set realistic expectations and goals for children and create stronger family bonds. The Nursery offers on-site childcare for children during parent support group time, support for attachment or bonding issues and help for families who are involved with foster care. The program is funded through grants from the State of Oregon, United Way, the City of Corvallis, Samaritan Health Foundation, and other community partners.

The Center’s Child and Family Therapy program helps children of all ages and their families to connect on a deeper level. Counseling has been shown to help children and families with reducing the impacts of trauma, dealing with school difficulties, and many other concerns, as well as bringing enrichment and comfort to many families. This part of the program is funded through the Oregon Health Plan, Private insurance, and small grants from the local community.

The Court Mandated Co-Parenting Program is a three-hour, one time class that helps parents work with their children and support them during and after a divorce. Topics include grieving and how to move on, how children react to conflicts, active listening and strategies for children and parents to use to cope with the stress of a divorce. It has a fee of $45 dollars per person and is held twice per month. One client said of this class; “This class helped me learn how to make a better, more positive relationship and connection with my daughters.”

There are several ways that community members can become involved with the Old Mill Center. The center relies on the generosity of volunteers, and financial supporters to provide all of these services. Volunteer opportunities include Grant Research and Writing, Data Entry and Donation Processing, Administrative Support, Facilities Maintenance, and other positions. Childcare providers are also needed for parent group classes. To volunteer you can submit an online application, or call 541-757-8068.

Another way to help the Old Mill Center is to donate funds. A donation can supply anything from diapers and cleaning supplies for a family in need, to Child-safe counseling groups for 20 children for 10 weeks, depending on the size of your gift. Your donation is tax deductible, and you can donate online, or by sending a check to the 1650 SW 45th Place, Corvallis, OR 97333. You can also help by using the search engine, and typing in Old Mill as your charity. The Center receives a penny for every search.

Learn more about Old Mill Center at their website:

— Kyra Young

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