From their humble beginnings operating out of the basement of a wood-framed house in Queens 65 years ago to now servicing over 1,500 people at several different facilities, the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP) has grown to become a leader in helping people with developmental disabilities.
QCP was founded in 1950 as United Cerebral Palsy of Queens (UCP) by a group of parents who needed services for their children with cerebral palsy. The agency operated out of the basement of a house in Queens before their first building was erected at 82-25 164th St. in Jamaica in 1958.
As the children grew, the facility expanded, doubling in size in 1966 to begin providing vocational services to those it helped.
The group then expanded again in 1974, building the Natalie Katz Rodgers Training and Treatment Center at 81-15 164th St. to provide day programming for people who were living in institutional settings.
In 1979, QCP began providing residential services with the opening of the Robert T. Groh Residence in Jamaica Estates, which houses eight seniors.
During the late 1980s, a Day Habilitation site for 150 people was constructed in Bellerose, Queens, creating five residences, providing a home for 10 adults each. QCP also added services for seniors, focusing on community-based recreation and health education for those reaching retirement age.
“One of the elements of developmental disabilities is that it really doesn’t get cured. I mean, it’s a condition which is going to be with someone for their entire life,” said Charles Houston, executive director of QCP. “As the child grows, they need specialized educational services and therapies, and as they get older, they need other kinds of services.”
In 2001, UCP officially changed its name to Queens Centers for Progress, reflecting their services to both cerebral palsy patients and those with various developmental disabilities.
QCP now services over 1,500 people of all ages, from all walks of life, providing a place to live and work, life skill training, education and therapy. The agency prides itself on individual-based programming for each of its clients.
“The overall approach that we take is developing plans for people very individually,” Houston said. “You really have to start with where each person is individually in terms of what their abilities and interests and goals are and then develop a range of services really tailored for that person to try to help them make progress and achieve their own goals in terms of being more independent. So that means very different things for different people.”
QCP helps its clients become involved with the community through a successful community-based employment program.
“Most of our job-related services are out in the community in a program model called Program Employment, where we have somebody go right out onto a job site after our staff arranges with an employer and they actually do the training…there rather than here,” Houston said. “It’s a much better way to develop lasting job placements.”
QCP also hosts several events throughout the year to help raise money for their services. On Saturday, April 25, QCP will host its 39th annual Footsteps for Progress Five Mile Walk. Approximately 250 participants will meet at QCP located at 81-15 164th St. and walk to Kissena Park, around the lake and back to QCP, where brunch will be served to the participants.
WPIX reporter Narmeen Chodhury—a Queens resident—will be the MC for the walk. New York State Senator Tony Avella will be the event’s Grand Marshal for the third consecutive year, and Queens Park Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski will lead the walk.
Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the walk will begin at 9 a.m.