The Central Florida Sheltered Workshop was founded on September 13, 1962 by a group of parents to ensure vocational opportunities for their children with disabilities once formal education from the public school system was complete. This vocational training center was the first work-oriented rehabilitation center for people with intellectual and physical disabilities in the Greater Orlando area. In 1965, eight people received services at a small converted store in College Park.
Founded in 1980 with a small grant from the Department of Children and Families, Life Concepts, Inc. began providing residential and rehabilitative services to children and adults with disabilities who had previously lived in large state institutions. During the first year, Life Concepts opened two group homes, four supervised apartments for 28 residents, and a vocational training center serving 25 adults.
In January 1981, Life Concepts was awarded a management contract to operate the first 24-bed ICF/DD cluster homes built by the state of Florida. Licensed on May 12, 1981, it catered to the most medically fragile individuals. Two additional group homes were also developed that year.
In 1983, Life Concepts was awarded additional state contracts for the management and operation of two more 24-bed ICF/DD cluster homes – allowing for the expansion of quality services to children and adults with disabilities in the Tampa area in 1984.
By 1985, the State of Florida was anticipating the closure of Sunland Hospital, but there were 12 people with specialized needs who were ineligible for the services currently available. Again, Life Concepts was asked to develop and manage a residential program specifically for these individuals – which resulted in another group home opening in the fall. To provide recreational opportunities for children and adults with disabilities, Camp Thunderbird was also acquired that year.
In October 1986, Life Concepts was awarded a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) loan authorization to construct a six-bedroom group home, meeting the stringent life safety codes for people with physical disabilities. Despite delays, the home opened in April 1991. After its initial award, Life Concepts was awarded additional loan authorizations to construct 10 one-bedroom apartment units and purchase existing apartments and group homes. To help increase independence and daily living skills, Life Concepts opened the first supported living homes in Central Florida in 1988.
On July 1, 1994, the Central Florida Sheltered Workshop and Life Concepts merged – forming the largest nonprofit service provider to people with developmental disabilities in Central Florida. The name Quest, Inc. was adopted February 1, 1995. Additional group homes were also added in Tampa in 1994 and 1999.
In response to the growing need for quality early intervention and therapy services for children with autism and other disabilities, Quest opened the Quest Kids program in 1996. To also allow these children access to a much-needed classroom setting and educational programs, Quest opened Quest Kids Academy and partnered with the Florida Autism Center of Excellence (FACE) in 2009. A group home for individuals with intensive behavioral challenges was also opened in Tampa later that year.
During the last few years, Quest has focused on creating additional vocational options - including Orlando’s first Project SEARCH program, a one-year training program that provides competitive employment opportunities to high school students with disabilities, in 2010, and Quest Shreds, a secure document destruction service for local businesses that provides job opportunities for people with disabilities, in 2011.
Since its inception, Quest has transformed the lives of thousands of individuals. But with nearly 166,000 individuals impacted by a disability in Central Florida alone, our vision and our mission have never been more important or relevant. Now at more than 25 locations in Orlando and Tampa, Quest continues to build communities where people with disabilities can achieve their goals. Our 50-year history is just the beginning.