Burton Center History

When Felton and Doris Burton's daughter, Debbie, was born in 1952 with Down’s syndrome, there were no community-based programs to help those with special needs. The Burton's joined forces with other concerned parents and  Jenny Ide, the first special education teacher in Greenwood County, to create the first class for people with special needs and the Greenwood County ARC. In the years that followed, this organization would expand and evolve services to meet the needs of their community.

In 1971, the Hope Center was established and the Burton’s dream of creating community-based programs for those with special needs was beginning to be realized. Three years later, the first community residence in the region opened its doors, providing a home for eight females. This residential program has since expanded to include 26 community residences and three supervised apartment living programs throughout six counties.

Hope Center began providing day program services in 1975, and home-based parent training began being offered in 1983. In 1984, the Developmental Learning Center was established to specifically serve children with special needs.

During the late 1980s and early 90s, satellite day centers were opened in Saluda and Ware Shoals. These centers were created to provide day program services and vocational training to members of these communities, and they still do so today.

In 1993, Burton Center expanded its services to individuals with head and spinal cord injuries, autism, intellectual disabilities, and related lifelong disabilities. At this time the organization was operating under the name, Emerald Center Multi-County Board for Disabilities and Special Needs.

In July of 2006, the name was changed to Burton Center for Disabilities and Special Needs to honor the 50 years of service given by Felton and Doris Burton. After Felton officially retired in 2009, Jimmy Burton was named Executive Director of Burton Center.

By this time, Burton Center was already operating nine community residences and an adult day program in Lexington County, the Greenwood Miracle League had been created, and Lander University’s Equine Therapeutic Facility was recently built on Burton Center property.

Everyone at Burton Center is proud of the past, and grateful for the tremendous support provided by communities, parents, legislators, Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, churches, staff, volunteers, United Way, and other human service agencies. It is because of this support that Burton Center has been able to expand our services for more than 1,000 people with disabilities and special needs.

Curious about what we’re up to now? Take a look at our Event Calendar!