Dennis Allen became CEO of Hattie Larlham in 1988, and since then, the organization has expanded the services it provides to children and adults with developmental disabilities.
When Allen came on board, the nonprofit organization was providing services to 180 families. But he knew that there was still a long way to go, and in the past decades, his commitment to the organization’s mission has helped Hattie Larlham implement many new social enterprise ventures to help people with developmental disabilities live longer, richer lives.
Allen believes that to help people with disabilities feel healthy physically and emotionally, there must be more educational and socialization opportunities in their daily lives. However, social norms perpetuate the idea that people with disabilities are cannot execute jobs that require interaction with the public, so this sector is largely unemployed.
Allen has played a significant role in changing those misconceptions by leading Hattie Larlham to implement and oversee a variety of social enterprise programs — including a pet boarding facility, a chain of local coffee shops and an art program — that provide meaningful employment and engagement opportunities for people with disabilities. Allen and his team are driven every day by the effect these initiatives have in instilling people with disabilities with a greater sense of purpose and self worth. Today, as Hattie Larlham marks its 50th anniversary, it provides services for approximately 1,500 people with developmental disabilities.
In 2010, Allen recognized another opportunity to expand Hattie Larlham through a fourth social enterprise and formed Hattie’s Vending Co., which services 79 vending machines in the Akron area. Through collaboration with organizations such as universities and local boards, Allen continues to establish additional job placement opportunities for people with disabilities.
How to reach: Hattie Larlham, (330) 274-2272 or www.hattielarlham.org