Sunbeam's History

Established in 1907,Sunbeam is one of Oklahoma’s longest-serving nonprofits.The organization began as a home for children and has evolved over the years to meet the growing needs of the community. Sunbeam now helps over 4,000 Central Oklahoma children and families learn, grow, and thrive each year through early childcare and education, with specialized wraparound support for entire family systems, including parenting education classes, mental health services and programming for foster families.  


Through its nationally-recognized early childhood program, Sunbeam prepares babies and toddlers to enter kindergarten through full-day, year-round early care and education. Children and families in the Early Head Start program participate in research-based curricula, family engagement activities, and health and wellness opportunities. Its traditional foster care agency provides temporary care and supportive services in a home environment for children. Finally, to provide robust wraparound care, affordable mental health services are available to all of Sunbeam’s clients and the community at large. Through the mental health program, Sunbeam provides individual, family, group, and play therapy alongsidesupport groups and psycho-educational classes.  


Sunbeam is focused onprovidinghiqh-quality, evidence-based programs where the community needs them most – in their own backyard. Sunbeam uses a community-focused operational model to conduct this work. In this model, each distinct community has a Community Director that identifies needs and builds trust between community members and Sunbeam. This relationship-building, people-first model ensures that Sunbeam’s services are based on community needs and provided in a way that is beneficial and easily accessible by that community.  


Sunbeam also strongly values collaboration and continually seeks new partnerships with other organizations and businesses to better serve clients as needs evolve. The comprehensive approach to building community partnerships means that a Sunbeam client has access to various community services under one roof.  

  • 1907 – Lizzie Swisher and a group of women went door-to-door in their historic Oklahoma City Heritage Hills and Mesta Park neighborhoods, asking their peers for financial support. That passion to provide safe housing for homeless boys and girls spread, and their efforts raised enough funds to build a children’s home. 
  • Late 1930s — Sunbeam expanded its services to include a psychological services clinic, casework services, and foster care. 
  • World War II — Sunbeam operated a nursery for the children of women who worked in war-connected industries and licensed other providers of similar childcare operations. 
  • Post-War 1940s — This era marked a period of expansion into adult mental health services for Sunbeam, providing the only community-based mental health services in existence in Oklahoma at that time. 
  • Late 1940s — Sunbeam again broke new ground when it served as a resource for emergency detention of children under the age of 16 who had committed crimes. Sunbeam’s board of directors provided leadership for the creation of what is today’s Oklahoma County Juvenile Bureau. 
  • 1974 – Sunbeam was one of the first organizations in the nation to run the Caregiver Fundamental Program. 
  • 2003 – The Caregiver Fundamentals program was expanded from support for individuals who are caring for an aging family member to include services for grandparents raising grandchildren.  
  • 2004 – Sunbeam began providing Early Childhood Services after receiving the first federal grant to provide Early Head Start (EHS) to 120 children. Before applying for and being awarded this federal grant, Sunbeam operated a small child development center in Oklahoma City. 
  • 2009 – It all started with a dream and a belief that children deserve the best early childhood education possible. Driven by a desire to prepare infants and toddlers for school success, Sunbeam joined together with many community partners, including Inasmuch Foundation, to open the doors of Oklahoma’s first Educare, which was the 7th in the nation. Sunbeam’s flagship early education center, Educare OKC is part of the Educare Learning Network. This network of schools is widely respected as one of the nation’s most effective early childhood models and uses an approach that extends beyond the classroom to help children, families, and neighborhoods thrive. As its incubator of best practices from around the country, Sunbeam leverages the expertise at Educare OKC by sharing it with all of its early education centers across Oklahoma City. 
  • 2015 – Sunbeam moved into its home at 1100 NW 14th Street in Oklahoma City. Sunbeam received its first Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) grant and began partnering with several local childcare centers and nonprofit partners to provide EHS services across Oklahoma County.  
  • 2017 – Sunbeam received its second EHS-CCP grant and continued to expand partnerships with childcare owners and nonprofits, as well as Oklahoma City Public Schools, to reach children and enhance childcare services to families.  
  • 2019 – Sunbeam received its third EHS-CCP grant and partnered with nonprofits Positive Tomorrows and ReMerge. Sunbeam expanded the existing program at OKCPS’ US Grant Little Generals.  
  • 2020 – Sunbeam opened Pierce  Early Education Center, which was repurposed as part of OKCPS’ Pathway to Greatness Plan. 
  • 2021 – Sunbeam was awarded 24 additional Early Head slots. These facilities are located in the following zip codes: 73102, 73104, 73106, 73107, 73108, 73109, 73111, 73114, 73117, 73119, 73129, and 73149. 
  • 2023 – Sunbeam was granted the Parent Education Classes from DHS, formerly run by Family Builders, on July 1, 2023. Sunbeam acquired Early Birds, which began in 2010, also on July 1, 2023. Sunbeam also opened Metro Tech Early Education Center.