James Metzenbaum, a prominent Cleveland attorney and state senator, founded the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Foundation in memory of his wife, Bessie Benner, who died in 1920. In 1948, The Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Foundation was incorporated and 50 acres of land were deeded to the foundation. Construction of the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Opportunity School began in the summer of 1965 and was finished the following spring. The first full year of operation began in September of 1966, with a class of 59 students.
In 1967, Senate Bill 169 was passed, which provided for county boards of Developmental Disabilities. Since the passage of that bill, the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Center has operated under the name the Geauga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Operating funds are provided by state and local sources, and Medicare provides funds for waivers and the Residential program.
In 1971, The Center received a $350,000 grant for the construction of a sheltered industries facility. In 1976, four residential houses were built on the property, after an additional grant of $100,000 was received from the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Foundation. In 1977, the official name was changed from the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Opportunity School to the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Center in order to incorporate all three facets of the facility: school, workshop and residence.
In 1987, a new Adult Services Workshop was built on the western edge of the property. Major renovations and additions to The Metzenbaum Center, including a physical education facility and a therapy pool, were completed in 1991.
The Metzenbaum Center and the Educational Service Center (ESC) collaborated to provide educational services to preschool and school-age children in the spring of 2011. The ESC currently runs the preschool program, which is housed at Metzenbaum. School-age children receive special education services through their local school district, with nearly $2 million in funding provided by The Geauga County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
The Metzenbaum Center currently serves more than 800 individuals and their families in Geauga County. We are proud to serve individuals in Geauga County with developmental disabilities by helping them Live, Learn and Earn in our community.