From our humble beginnings in Dakota County supporting eight children with disabilities to the more than 3,000 people with disabilities we partner with today, Lifeworks has made a steadfast commitment to quality care and innovative programs for individuals with disabilities in our community for more than 50 years.
As the years have gone by, Lifeworks has evolved from a small grassroots organization to the highly impactful nonprofit it is today.
During the 1960s, school districts did not accept children with developmental disabilities into their classrooms, leaving parents to either send their children to Minnesota state hospitals, or keep them at home without much-needed resources. In response to these limited options, a grassroots movement led by seven families in Dakota County resulted in the creation of a day program for children with developmental disabilities that would later be known as Lifeworks.
1965 – Lifeworks is founded in Minnesota’s Dakota County.
1966 – The organization is officially incorporated as Dakota County Day Activities Center, Inc., the first official name of Lifeworks.
The 1970s were a decade of important change for Lifeworks, as the organization hired a new executive director three times, experienced multiple changes to the leadership on its Board of Directors, began serving adults, went through the process of changing its name, started an early intervention program, and hired a teacher of great importance to the future of Lifeworks.
1972 – The organization begins serving adults in its new space: the Ames Estate on Blue Gentian Road
1973 – Judy Lysne is hired as a teacher for the children’s program, who served as President and CEO of Lifeworks until 2017.
The 1980s are perhaps the most defining years of the organization’s history. During this time, the organization made two name changes to more accurately reflect its ever-changing mission, began serving individuals year-round for the first time, expanded its services to Hennepin County, developed expertise in supported employment, and saw its early intervention program become the largest in the state before transferring the children to the school districts.
1983 – The organization is awarded a federal grant to establish “Project Dakota,” which was designed to develop an effective and practical service delivery system which would serve as a model to others in Minnesota who wanted to begin or improve early intervention programs.
1985 – Lifeworks begins developing expertise in supported employment, the start of business relationships that have become one of the organization’s greatest strengths.
The 1990s were a period of relative stability as the organization flourished from the changes it made in the last decade. In this time, Lifeworks developed a model of values based decision making to guide its choices. As its leadership aged, the organization developed a unique new leadership model to lead it into the future. A final name change also occurred during this time, along with continued growth of supported employment.
1993 – The organization adopts a model of values-based decision making. Its decisions are to be ethical, respectful, responsive, and resourceful. This model continues to guide all Lifeworks decision-making today, and was expanded in 2015.
1996 – The organization makes its final name change, settling on the name it’s known for today: Lifeworks Services, Inc.
The 2000s marked an era of expansion for Lifeworks, as services expanded to the Mankato area, into Fiscal Support and Multi-Sensory Environments, and internationally with a relationship with professionals working with people with disabilities in Denmark.
2000 – Lifeworks begins services in the Mankato area in response to requests from families, case managers, and school staff.
2000 – In December, Lifeworks began providing Fiscal Support, supporting a growing trend toward self-direction for individuals and families.
2010 – Present
Since 2010, Lifeworks has continued to expand, building the first program location that is fully owned by the organization and celebrating 50 years of serving our community and people with disabilities as we live and work together.
2012 – Lifeworks builds a program location in Apple Valley, the first to be owned by the organization.
2015 – The organization celebrates its golden anniversary – 50 years of providing quality care and innovative programs for individuals with disabilities.