History of ABC

In 1956, at the recommendation of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on the Handicapped and a small group of citizens from Rochester, a committee was formed to identify the needs of people with disabilities in the area. They found the need for employment in a safe supportive environment to be a top priority.

In those days, many people with disabilities typically didn’t work or had not worked for a considerable amount of time. After several months of planning, Ability Building Center (ABC) Incorporated, a nonprofit organization, opened its doors in the basement of the Samaritan Bethany Nursing Home. On January 4, 1957, with three employees, ABC began assembling 50,000 souvenir tom-tom drums for LeRoy Shane Company.

Within the next 10 years, ABC made several moves and expansions as it continued to add employees, jobs and services. ABC finally settled into its current location, 1911 14th Street NW, in 1979 and again found the need for additional space by the late 80’s.

In 1980, Woodland Industries (a satellite of ABC) opened in Houston County. Woodland Industries continues to provide vocational services to people with disabilities in several rural SE Minnesota communities.

The 1990s marked a time for program additions and transitions. Ability Enterprises (AE) opened its doors in the 1500 building in NW Rochester in 1991, serving people interested in working but with a higher level of need for support. In 1995 ABC adopted PACTT (People Achieving Change Through Technology).

Abilities Unlimited (AU) opened their Adult Day Program for people with brain injuries to three participants in the fall of 1996. AU utilized local businesses, public transportation and peer supports to offer participants natural learning experiences. Currently, AU serves 70 participants in their Day Program and Independent Living Skills Program combined.

In the summer of 2001, ABC added ABC Works to the list of programs and services available throughout SE Minnesota. ABC Works has two locations, La Crescent and Caledonia, and offers employment opportunities as well as social, recreational, communication and therapy supports.

In the late 2010’s, the work done at ABC started to transition from center based jobs to community based jobs. This made the decision to change our name to Ability Building Community an easy one to better reflect where our future is headed.


ABC in 1950s