Our History

Morningside has served Washington State for over 60 years with six program centers rooted in the community.

Morningside was incorporated June 11, 1963 and at that time we were called The Lower Puget Sound Development Center. The company was started in the basement of the First Baptist Church by a group of courageous parents looking for meaningful programs for their sons and daughters with disabilities. This was at a time when there were few choices available in the community and the alternative was placement in a state institution. In 1964, four agencies merged to form Morningside – Lower Puget Sound Development Center, ARC, UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) and the Society of Crippled Children decided that the community would be better served by merging and chose to call this new company Morningside.

More than 60 Years of Morningside: 1963-Present

The Beginning (1963-1973)


Morningside was formed. Four agencies including Lower Puget Sound Development Center, ARC, UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) and the Society of Crippled Children decided that the community would be better served by merging and chose to call this new company Morningside.


Mr. Taylor Bishop generously donated 10 acres of land on Olympia’s westside for our offices. In 1970 Morningside broke ground.


The Main Center building was dedicated in a ceremony attended by the Governor. Janette Loutzenhiser, our first Executive Director, said, “We must and will make good things happen to the people we are here to serve. That is what it is all about. It’s a community coming together to take care of its own.”

Growth (1973-1983)

Morningside grew to serve more people and evolved from an agency that produced arts and crafts to an agency that produced sub-contract work for a variety of business and state agencies.


Our first microfilm contract at Airdustrial (New Market Industrial Campus) location.


First enclave at Charlie’s Bar and Grill prepping food. Morningside was the one of the first Community Rehabilitation programs to provide ongoing support services in an actual business.
Our first placement with wood products manufacturing was in a cut-stock operation for a local business.

In the Community (1983-1993)

Morningside grew phenomenally in the variety of its work. During this era, we started supported employment. Morningside began serving individuals with developmental disabilities at their job site rather than in sheltered workshops.


Morningside had over 104 placements in the community.


 We made our first supported employment placement.


We opened our call center answering phones for the Washington State Department of Tourism and fulfilling orders for Destination Washington, a catalog of things to do in Washington.


Morningside began a nationally recognized High School Transition Program. This highly successful program worked with students before graduation to find them a paid job in the community.

Geographic Expansion (1993-2003)

Morningside expanded beyond Olympia. We were invited by Thurston County disability coordinators to open an office that offered individuals with developmental disabilities a choice in provider for community employment. We also made a commitment this decade to close our Sheltered Workshop Program.


We opened our Lewis county office in response to requests to provide quality individual supported employment services.


We began our Community Jobs Initiative program in Thurston, Mason and Lewis counties. This program supported TANF recipients by providing valuable job experience in public sector training sites leading to employment.


We made a commitment to close our sheltered workshop (or large group segregated employment) based on participants feedback. We set a goal that by 2004, everyone we served would be working individually or in small groups in businesses and public organizations in the community.


We opened our Port Townsend office in Jefferson County.


We opened our Aberdeen office in Grays Harbor County.

A Shift (2003-2013)

Morningside made a dramatic paradigm shift in programs offered to individuals with disabilities, including closing our Sheltered Workshop and shifting our focus to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities working in the community.


We created Coastal Business Services Company, a for-profit spinoff of our commercial ventures. Morningside is the sole owner of this company.


We celebrated closing our Sheltered Workshop at our “Bridge to Community” event.


We sold our property on Ethel Street. The building served us well for many years, but the location was antithetical to our new focus of clients working in the community.


Morningside found a location for our new corporate center on Plum Street, an ideal spot on the main arterial into Olympia. This site exceeded all our criteria for integration, accessibility, visibility and proximity to the freeway. The Thurston County Chamber of Commerce was a great partner and joined in the building as a long-term tenant and later as a shared owner of The Business Center.


We launched Project SEARCH in partnership with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Olympia School District, and The Evergreen State College. We developed internships at the college campus.

We purchased a new office building in Port Angeles.

2004 morningside picnicthree women smile work together in officehappy staff at morningside holiday party
2019 Advocacy day team pic on rotunda stairs at state capitol
Project search team smiles and holds certificatesMarker drawing of "Project Search" poster with geoduckTwo men shake hands and hold award

Moving Toward a Better Tomorrow (2013-now)

The current decade promises significant changes for individuals with disabilities working in the community. Major national initiatives promise to dramatically change how individuals with disabilities transition from school to the world of work.


Morningside celebrated 50 years. At a special luncheon celebration Ralph Munro spoke of his and other leaders' involvement in Morningside’s early development.  The Board of Trustees participated in the Hands on Children’s Museum’s Sand in the City event and built a sand sculpture depicting the Disney-Pixar movie Cars to promote the Morningside Ride.


We were authorized to provide services in Pierce County in July 2014 and began by opening offices Eatonville and downtown Tacoma.


Morningside eliminated the use of a special federal provision that allowed for individuals to be paid less than the minimum wage. Morningside was the first program in the state to make such a dramatic move, but equal work means equal pay, regardless of the significance of a person’s disability.

We closed two offices in  Pierce County and opened a single office in South Tacoma. 


Morningside assisted 252 individuals with disabilities find jobs in our five county area – the highest single year number in our 53 year history.

We were awarded a two-year Summer Youth Internship contract through Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council. The program funded with Vocational Rehabilitation dollars is designed to have rural high school students who have never worked participate in a 40 hour UpLift soft skills training and 50 hours of paid internships.


Morningside served 1,063 clients and placed 214 individuals into jobs. 

Jim Larson, CEO, retired in July and Jonathan Pleger was hired as Chief Executive Officer, culminating a three year transition plan.

Morningside was the first recipient of the Practice Transformation Award from the Department of Social and Health Services.

We began servicing clients in a new Medicaid demonstration waiver program entitled Foundational Community Supports.


For the 4th year in a row, we exceeded placing over 200 people into new jobs

Advocacy In Action! - Our many self-advocates, families, and staff worked hard to get legislation passed to end the practice of paying people sub-minimum wage in the State of Washington.

Project SEARCH celebrated its 10 year anniversary.  Since the program’s launch in September 2009, it has been instrumental in preparing 75 young adults for competitive employment, most of whom became successfully employed in the community either during/after their Project SEARCH school year.


Because of the shutdown orders during COVID, we shifted our service delivery model to provide remote job coaching and training services to those clients that lost their jobs/were furloughed.  We researched, purchased, and implemented new technology devices to allow clients the ability to stay connected to their job coach, their employer, friends and family, and their community as a whole.  The Liberty Mutual Foundation and the Washington State developmental Disabilities Council provided funding to assist us in purchasing, training, and utilizing cell phones, tablets, and data plans for our clients to enable us to better support them during the pandemic.

We began two new initiatives centered on the health and well-being of our staff with the launch of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.


In January 2021, in partnership with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, we developed and launched a new curriculum and year-round program for Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS). Students receiving these services range in age from 16 – 21 years old and have either an IEP, a 504 plan, or is a student without a school plan but has a documented disability.   Activities revolve around WorkplaceReadiness, Self-Advocacy, and Work Based learning activities.

In 2021, Morningside began integrating Office 365, Microsoft Teams, and Accounting/HR software upgrades across the organization. These increased efficiencies and remote connectivity were important during the pandemic.

In February 2021, we purchased a new Pierce County office to meet the needs of our growing staff and client base.  We began an adaptive reuse remodel of a nearly 100-year-old building in the heart of Tacoma and near the soon to be completed Hilltop Light Rail extension. Due to many unforseen delays and challenges, construction continued for the next three years.


We experienced rapid growth of our Pre-ETS program in all of the counties we serve.


In September 2023, we served our first Supportive Housing clients through our Foundational Community Supports program service.

Morningside received a new contract from DVR for our Pre-ETS program with the goal of further expansion of services to additional counties in the coming years.  We served over 700 Pre-ETS students in 2023!


Moved into new Pierce County Office on March 25, 2024.

“Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone can do something. An employer can match a job that their business needs to fit the strength of the person with a disability.”

- Erica Nation, Pita Pit

“Looking past the disability and seeing the person that they really are is the biggest thing.”

- Thomas Black, Warehouse Demo Services

“Felix is awesome. He is a huge help to us. He does everything that is asked of him and he is a good guy.”

Hany Mosad, Manager of the Federal Way Jack in the Box