This photo is of Anixter’s 13 founding women from back in 1919

Our History

THIS LONG AND CHERISHED HISTORY STARTED BACK IN 1919

It all began in 1919 when thirteen women founded an orphanage as a promise to their friend who had lost all but one of her children to the influenza epidemic. The Douglas Park Jewish Nursery was incorporated on June 6, 1919. It opened its doors on September 7, 1919 with beds for 40 children. The name changed in November to Douglas Park Jewish Day and Night Nursery.

great photo of the Lester J Anixter street sign with a beautiful park background

Names of the Agency from 1919 to the Present

  • 1919 Douglas Park Jewish Day Nursery (September)
  • 1919 Douglas Park Jewish Day and Night Nursery (November)
  • 1956 Douglas Park Nursery and Training Center for Retarded Children
  • 1957 Chicago School for Retarded Children
  • 1979 Chicago Services for Work and Rehabilitation
  • 1983 THE CENTER for the Rehabilitation and Training of the Disabled
  • 1993 Lester and Rosalie Anixter Center (a.k.a. – Anixter Center)
    Lester and Rosalie Anixter were introduced to “The Center for the Rehabilitation and Training of the Disabled” by their accountant and good friend, Jack Ehrlich. Jack’s mother, Florence was one of the 13 women who founded the orphanage in 1919 that is now Anixter Center. “The Center” was renamed the Lester and Rosalie Anixter Center in 1993.
  1. 1919

    Incorporated June 6 as Douglas Park Jewish Day Nursery to provide services to children who lost one or both parents to the influenza epidemic of 1918. The Nursery opened on September 7, 1919 with beds for 40 children. The name changed in November to Douglas Park Jewish Day and Night Nursery.

  2. 1956

    Nursery closed when the board of directors changed the agency’s mission to begin serving children with disabilities.

  3. 1957

    Ground was broken to build a school at 6050 N California Avenue in Chicago. The agency was renamed the Chicago School for Retarded Children.

  4. 1959

    Byron Center at 6050 N. California began offering services to children with mental retardation.

  5. 1961

    A workshop was added to the school’s basement to educate and train adults with mental retardation. Services were provided to approximately 40 children and 40 adults. Anixter Center’s Packaging Business was launched.

  6. 1968

    The agency’s first self-contained workshop opened in the 4300 block of Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.

  7. 1969

    The agency purchased the Levy Center at 6610 N. Clark and expandedthe adult vocational training program to serve 100 participants. The agency became known as the Chicago School and Workshop for the Retarded, although this was not an official name change.

  8. 1970

    Opened the Uptown Workshop for 25 deinstitutionalized adults living in sheltered care homes.

  9. 1971

    Opened the Lincoln Park Workshop for 50 deinstitutionalized adults at 2032 N. Clybourn and for 25 adults at the Sheridan Workshop at Sheridan and Wilson.

  10. 1972

    Expanded the Lincoln Park Workshop to serve 150 people.

  11. 1979

    The agency’s name was changed to Chicago Services for Work and Rehabilitation, serving 500 people.

  12. 1981

    Janitorial Service opened for business to provide full-service maintenance to major Chicagoland businesses. Anixter Center’s first HUD building, the Skolnick Building, opened at 1401 W. Chase in Chicago.

  13. 1983

    Changed the name of agency to THE CENTER for the Rehabilitation and Training of the Disabled.

  14. 1986

    Inaugurated the Factory Program to help special education students referred by the juvenile justice system in making the transition from school to work.

  15. 1989

    Purchased Pen Prints, Inc., a specialty imprinting and foil stamping business, to provide work experience to students in the Factory program. Pen Prints last year in business was 1995.

  16. 1993

    Lester and Rosalie Anixter were introduced to “The Center for the Rehabilitation and Training of the Disabled” by their accountant and good friend, Jack Ehrlich. Jack’s mother, Florence was one of the 13 women who founded the orphanage in 1919 that is now Anixter Center. “The Center” was renamed the Lester and Rosalie Anixter Center in 1993.

  17. 1996

    American Rehabilitation Association presented its Innovative Rehabilitation Award to Access at Anixter Center.

  18. 2000

    Evanston Home opened in June for eight medically fragile children.

  19. 2002

    The Factory is renamed, The Roberta Bachmann Lewis Factory Program, in honor of a beloved board member.

  20. 2004

    Anixter Center was named Chicago’s 12th largest charitable organization by Crain’s Chicago Business.

  21. 2006

    Anixter launches its new customized employment services program to help Anixter clients find jobs within the community.

  22. 2008

    Anixter Center becomes the manager of the Kolmar House CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement) in Skokie. Kolmar House was created for a young man who has autism and challenging behaviors. It was designed to provide the young man with the optimal tools and supports needed to ensure successful integration and inclusion in his community.

  23. 2010

    Anixter Center launched the new brand and tagline “The Ability to Soar” at Kids and Kites Day at Montrose Beach in Chicago.

  24. 2012

    Anixter Center hosts its first spring fundraising benefit.

  25. 2014

    Anixter Center expanded its programs to include 35 different programs in residential, educational, employment, socialization, rehabilitation and health services.

  26. 2016

    The Chicago Hearing Society observes its 100th Anniversary.

  27. 2018

    The Community Resource and Support Legacy program was moved to the 6050 N. California building.

    Closure of the Anixter Center packaging Services.

    The Anixter Center Reopened the Avondale location for CILA.

    Closure of Brown CILA.

    Sale of Zion and Bosworth buildings.

    Repurposing of the Roscoe CILA as the Williams Mental Health Residential site for 8 adults transitioning from nursing home care, based on the Williams consent decree.

    Closure of the Atrium Substance Use Disorder site.

    Opened 2 new Substance Use Disorder sites.

    Rebecca Clark joined Anixter Center as President and Chief Executive Officer.

  28. 2019

    Closure of the Stuart G. Ferst School

    Beginning of Mesirow private partnership model: Mesirow Inclusive Opportunities.

    Anixter Center celebrates 100 years!