Corbrook: Inspired by a young woman’s dream
In 1949, Jean Lauder was a young adult living with cerebral palsy in the Toronto Area.
Although already an active member of the Young Adults Cerebral Palsy Association, options for adults such as Miss Lauder were limited. And Miss Lauder had a dream.
She envisioned “A workshop or centre where the physically handicapped could function as a person, not just as a dependant on relatives and friends, where there would be social contacts and communications, and where there would be rehabilitative and productive work.”
Enter the women’s fraternities Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta and Alpha Omicron Pi – of the University of Toronto – who had collectively chosen cerebral palsy as the focus of their altruistic efforts.
Inspired by Miss Lauder, a committee of these fraternities met in November 1949 to begin the research, planning and plain hard work necessary to make her dream of greater personal autonomy a reality.
June 30, 1950 marked the official opening of the “Intra-fraternity Recreational and Training Centre.” One-half day, once a week, 28 cerebral palsy “patients” and exactly $99 in the bank.
The rest, as they say is history.
Over the next 60 years, the organization that in 1968 would come to be known as Corbrook continually transformed itself in response to the ever-growing need for its services.
In the beginning, centre activities were mainly therapeutic, social and recreational. Crafts were made and sold to help fund the program. Over time, people with range of diagnoses and varying levels of abilities began to attend the centre. In the early 1960s light packaging and assembly contracts were acquired, which provided training, work and incentive payment opportunities.
A second location, originally named Scarbrook Enterprises, was opened in 1981 to provide employment services and other support to people in the east end of Toronto.
Today, Corbrook provides a wide range of services including Person-Directed Planning, supported community activities, employment supports for individuals and businesses, adult literacy and respite to people across the Greater Toronto Area. Among those who employ a workforce of people with varying levels of abilities, we are also the largest provider of custom packaging and assembly services in the region.
Over the last six decades, Corbrook has helped literally thousands of people enhance their skills, build their self-esteem, become more independent and enjoy a higher quality of life. All thanks to the inspiration of a young woman with a big dream.
An Interview with Gloria LeGrow
Reflections on a life’s effort: A conversation with Honourary Director Gloria LeGrow
Gloria LeGrow spent almost 50 years supporting Corbrook, until her retirement from the Board in 2004 at the age of 80. On the occasion of the organization’s 60th anniversary, she offered her reflections on the impact Corbrook has had on the people it has supported over the past six decades.