In 1967, Marcel and Lois Houle, frustrated by the lack of educational opportunities for their child with a disability, took action. After recruiting local families in similar circumstances, the Houles converted their Saco home into a school—the first step in their lifelong endeavor to ensure a good education and equal treatment for children with disabilities. Originally known as the York-Cumberland County Association of Handicapped Persons, the organization gradually shifted from serving children to serving adults, and grew to include offices in Portland and Auburn. The name would change to Creative Work Systems, yet the organization’s vision of equality and the grassroots spirit on which it was founded would remain.
Ever since the Houles’ initial efforts to dismantle cultural barriers, Creative Work Systems has been a leader. We were one of first organizations in the country to develop a social enterprise model that provides engaging and dignified ways for individuals with disabilities to increase their financial freedom, self-respect and independence, and we have never wavered from that commitment.
Today, through services in Residential, Independent Living, Employment, Brain Injury, and Community Day programs as well as Community Case Management, Creative Work Systems serves hundreds of people with disabilities each year. And with programs such as YES Art Works, Cultivation Works, Maine Woodworks, and our latest venture, Culinary Works, we continue to explore the most innovative applications of the social enterprise model in order to support and inspire people with disabilities at home, at work, and in the community.