Charlotte Hutchins, a teacher’s assistant at Special Children’s Friends in Ellsworth, serves up a snack to Sophia, one of the 20 children served by the center. Special Children’s Friends has launched a capital campaign that will help it build a large addition so it can better serve children (and more of them). ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY STEVE FULLER

Special Children’s Friends seeking support for growth

ELLSWORTH — A typical room at Special Children’s Friends on Union Street is like a Swiss Army knife — it has multiple functions.

That is because the center that serves children with special needs has run out of room. The building it has occupied since 1989 is filled to capacity and then some, with conference rooms doing double-duty as space for occupational therapy and hallways serving as storage space.

The space shortage not only means current conditions are somewhat cramped, it also means that there are children who need services that Special Children’s Friends cannot help at the moment.

“There are nine children waiting who we cannot serve because we don’t have the space,” said Finance Manager Sarah Rausch.

Executive Director Linda Henderson said the organization has a plan to fix the situation, but it needs help in order to make it a reality.

Special Children’s Friends has worked with an architect and contractor to draw up plans for a 42-foot-by-42-foot new building attached to the existing structure, which would house two classrooms, a large physical activity room and would double the number of bathrooms from two to four.

The price tag for that addition is $332,000. About $93,000 has been raised so far, and the organization has launched a capital campaign with a goal of $150,000. The more it is able to raise through that campaign, the less it will need to borrow to cover costs.

Henderson said the hope is to break ground in the spring of 2017.

The organization recently raised $5,000 by selling 250 Dunkin’ Donuts Community Mugs.

Special Children’s Friends serves about 20 children at its Ellsworth center and another five at a satellite operation in Sedgwick. There are 25 employees in Ellsworth and four in Sedgwick, and the center is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Children served by the organization are dealing with a variety of developmental disabilities, ranging from autism to speech delays. Referrals are made by doctors, daycares or parents among others.

Special Children’s Friends serves children all over Hancock County, either at its centers or through its case management component (which serves close to 80 children). From July of 2015 through June of 2015, communities served included Ellsworth (45 children), Trenton (12) and Bucksport (10) to towns as far away as Mount Desert, Clifton and Winter Harbor (one child each).

It is, according to its website, “the only specialized preschool in Hancock County offering consultation, individualized behavioral planning, and direct student instruction with a board-certified behavior analyst.”

To learn more about Special Children’s Friends or to donate to the capital campaign, visit its website at or find them on Facebook (search for Special Children’s Friends).

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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