When Dennis Allen arrived at Hattie Larlham in 1988, the organization provided care and services for about 180 children and adults with developmental disabilities, worked within a comfortable budget and wasn’t able to look much beyond its primary goals of service to those in need.
So much has changed during the last couple of decades.
Today, Hattie Larlham provides for more than 1,500 children and adults. And much of that growth and improvement is because Allen has built the budget to more than four times what it was during his first days with the organization, which now operates as a nonprofit. Allen has also expanded the scope and breadth of the organization to include the Hattie Larlham Research Institute and recently spearheaded a major capital campaign that will allow for that scope to grow ever wider.
So much of what Allen has accomplished with Hattie Larlham is a result of his emphasis on collaboration. The organization works with several hospitals in Northeast Ohio, including Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, and works with a number of local boards to staff its Hattie’s Cafe & Gifts, a vocation program for adults with disabilities. Allen has also developed partnerships with the University of Akron and Kent State University on research projects, and has formed a formal research affiliation with Akron Children’s Hospital.
Allen wants to not only improve what the organization is doing already but to expand the type of services it can offer, which allows for new ways to serve those with developmental disabilities.
When Hattie Lena Gadd Larlham created the organization in 1961, she cared for one neighbor. Within a couple of years, she had as many as 10 children living in her farmhouse, with a waiting list of more than 100 more. Since then, the organization has rarely stopped growing, and with Allen at the helm, don’t expect that to stop any time soon.