Meet Dottie Fanning!

Meet Dottie Fanning!

As part of our Annual Tree of Hope Kick-off, we also include a special recognition event and award several individuals for their outstanding achievements. This year is our 35th year for the Annual Recognition Awards.

Dottie Fanning is one of two recipients of this year’s Public Service Award being recognized for her outstanding, lifetime achievements. When Dottie’s daughter Ellen was diagnosed with Down syndrome, Dottie began to advocate for services in Champaign County on behalf of her daughter. Dottie’s work and advocacy would later come to change the course of history for people with disabilities not only at DSC, but for all people with disabilities in our community.

In the beginning, the early 1960s, a group of 9 parents with children who had developmental disabilities met and agreed to work together to provide a preschool, and services for older children. "This small group of dedicated parents had to make it up as they went along," Dottie recalled. The group decided on a name: The Champaign County Association for the Mentally Retarded. The first services provided were in a space donated by the Champaign Presbyterian Church. CCAMR met monthly and its membership expanded. In order to provide quality services, the group worked, tirelessly, in an effort to raise funds. Bake sales. Knocking on doors for donations. More bake sales! "It was a lot of work, and it didn't work very well,” said Dottie.

Happy Day School was established. A state grant provided financial stability. The Champaign Senior Women's Club, after meeting with Dottie's husband Del, donated money, and a workshop program for individuals past school age was established.

Later, the board for the workshop program, and the leaders of Happy Day School board decided to merge. The newly hired director, David Richter, coined the term Developmental Services Center.  CCAMR continued to function as an advocate for people with developmental disabilities.

Dottie’s involvement as a parent, and advocate continued. She became DSC’s first Director of Residential. During her tenure, she worked alongside others, including DSC’s Board of Directors, and attorney. They worked with the Village of Rantoul, and the Urbana City Council to get the residential homes approved. “We had community meetings, neighborhood meetings, town meetings, to receive public approval. People were worried about people with disabilities living next door!” Once it was approved, we began working with an architect and a local builder, to design and construct the first group homes in Champaign County.

Eight people could live in each home, and Dottie’s daughter, Ellen was among the first to move into the Urbana home. “For the first four weeks, we picked her up to come home for the weekends. After four weeks when I called, Ellen said, ‘Is it okay if I stay here?’ I said to her father, ‘Yes! We made it!”

Annette Becherer, who is currently the Director of Employment Services at DSC, was working as Dottie’s Assistant Director at the time. They, along with another gentleman were writing grants to provide funding for the homes. They built two homes. Going forward, DSC sought to purchase existing homes, and make any necessary renovations.

Annette had this to say about her time working with Dottie, “I had the privilege of working under Dottie early in my career and in many ways owe my longevity here at DSC to her. Dottie was the Director of Residential Services and my supervisor during the mid to late 80s when a national movement to provide residential options for people with disabilities opened the door for DSC to develop group homes, and an apartment building in Champaign County, which is now C-U Independence. I accompanied her to city council meetings and listened to her speak to the concerns of community members who were apprehensive about group homes being located in their neighborhood. At the time, no laws were in place to prevent discrimination against people living in neighborhoods of their choice, so city council approval was required for certain zones.

I participated in meetings she had with parents, many, the founding families of what became DSC, who were sharing their concerns about this next step for their adult child, moving out of the family home, turning the day to day care of their son or daughter over to staff they didn’t know. I listened to Dottie share the story of her own family’s decision to raise their daughter, Ellen, at home.

Dottie did everything with compassion, passion, and a quiet determination as residential opportunities grew under her leadership. DSC’s current Residential Program is the result of this hard work and determination, a legacy all its own. As a mentor, Dottie had a unique perspective being both a parent and also service provider/professional. The longer I have been here, the more I realize just how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to work so closely with her.”

As a parent, Dottie also told us about some of the challenges she has faced, transitioning her adult child into a new home, where she was not going to be there any longer. “This is not easy to do! You have to let go. It doesn’t take long, for the parents and child, but it’s hard to let someone else take care of your child. No one has the same heart of a parent. Parents want to be informed, they want to know schedules, little things about the day, things that are easy for staff to take for granted. Thank you, Dottie for this advice, and wisdom!

The legacy Dottie built while advocating for her daughter will make a lasting impact, well beyond her years. Thank you Dottie for your dedication and service to DSC, and our community. Congratulations on being a 2021 Award Recipient!

As part of our Annual Tree of Hope Kick-off, we also include a special recognition event and award several individuals for their outstanding achievements. This year is our 35th year for the Annual Recognition Awards.

Dottie Fanning is one of two recipients of this year’s Public Service Award being recognized for her outstanding, lifetime achievements. When Dottie’s daughter Ellen was diagnosed with Down syndrome, Dottie began to advocate for services in Champaign County on behalf of her daughter. Dottie’s work and advocacy would later come to change the course of history for people with disabilities not only at DSC, but for all people with disabilities in our community.

In the beginning, the early 1960s, a group of 9 parents with children who had developmental disabilities met and agreed to work together to provide a preschool, and services for older children. "This small group of dedicated parents had to make it up as they went along," Dottie recalled. The group decided on a name: The Champaign County Association for the Mentally Retarded. The first services provided were in a space donated by the Champaign Presbyterian Church. CCAMR met monthly and its membership expanded. In order to provide quality services, the group worked, tirelessly, in an effort to raise funds. Bake sales. Knocking on doors for donations. More bake sales! "It was a lot of work, and it didn't work very well,” said Dottie.

Happy Day School was established. A state grant provided financial stability. The Champaign Senior Women's Club, after meeting with Dottie's husband Del, donated money, and a workshop program for individuals past school age was established.

Later, the board for the workshop program, and the leaders of Happy Day School board decided to merge. The newly hired director, David Richter, coined the term Developmental Services Center.  CCAMR continued to function as an advocate for people with developmental disabilities.

Dottie’s involvement as a parent, and advocate continued. She became DSC’s first Director of Residential. During her tenure, she worked alongside others, including DSC’s Board of Directors, and attorney. They worked with the Village of Rantoul, and the Urbana City Council to get the residential homes approved. “We had community meetings, neighborhood meetings, town meetings, to receive public approval. People were worried about people with disabilities living next door!” Once it was approved, we began working with an architect and a local builder, to design and construct the first group homes in Champaign County.

Eight people could live in each home, and Dottie’s daughter, Ellen was among the first to move into the Urbana home. “For the first four weeks, we picked her up to come home for the weekends. After four weeks when I called, Ellen said, ‘Is it okay if I stay here?’ I said to her father, ‘Yes! We made it!”

Annette Becherer, who is currently the Director of Employment Services at DSC, was working as Dottie’s Assistant Director at the time. They, along with another gentleman were writing grants to provide funding for the homes. They built two homes. Going forward, DSC sought to purchase existing homes, and make any necessary renovations.

Annette had this to say about her time working with Dottie, “I had the privilege of working under Dottie early in my career and in many ways owe my longevity here at DSC to her. Dottie was the Director of Residential Services and my supervisor during the mid to late 80s when a national movement to provide residential options for people with disabilities opened the door for DSC to develop group homes, and an apartment building in Champaign County, which is now C-U Independence. I accompanied her to city council meetings and listened to her speak to the concerns of community members who were apprehensive about group homes being located in their neighborhood. At the time, no laws were in place to prevent discrimination against people living in neighborhoods of their choice, so city council approval was required for certain zones.

I participated in meetings she had with parents, many, the founding families of what became DSC, who were sharing their concerns about this next step for their adult child, moving out of the family home, turning the day to day care of their son or daughter over to staff they didn’t know. I listened to Dottie share the story of her own family’s decision to raise their daughter, Ellen, at home.

Dottie did everything with compassion, passion, and a quiet determination as residential opportunities grew under her leadership. DSC’s current Residential Program is the result of this hard work and determination, a legacy all its own. As a mentor, Dottie had a unique perspective being both a parent and also service provider/professional. The longer I have been here, the more I realize just how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to work so closely with her.”

As a parent, Dottie also told us about some of the challenges she has faced, transitioning her adult child into a new home, where she was not going to be there any longer. “This is not easy to do! You have to let go. It doesn’t take long, for the parents and child, but it’s hard to let someone else take care of your child. No one has the same heart of a parent. Parents want to be informed, they want to know schedules, little things about the day, things that are easy for staff to take for granted. Thank you, Dottie for this advice, and wisdom!

The legacy Dottie built while advocating for her daughter will make a lasting impact, well beyond her years. Thank you Dottie for your dedication and service to DSC, and our community. Congratulations on being a 2021 Award Recipient!