Our History

Established in 1907, Sunbeam Family Services is Oklahoma’s longest-serving social service agency. Founded as a children’s home for dependent and neglected children, we have evolved to meet the growing needs of the community, today serving vulnerable children, families and seniors throughout central Oklahoma. Sunbeam has been a proud United Way Partner Agency since 1924.

Sunbeam’s Historical Timeline

1907 – In 1907, Lizzie Swisher saw a need to for a children’s home in her community. With basket in hand, Lizzie 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, foster care, and adoptive home placement.

World War II — Sunbeam operated a nursery for the children of women who worked in war-connected industries and licensed other providers of similar child care 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.

photo 2-1Late 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.

Early 1970s
Sunbeam began to provide services to the elderly and their families, now known as the Senior Companion Program.

Late 1970s-Early 1980s
Sunbeam became one of Oklahoma’s first operators of community group home care and therapeutic foster care.

1974
Sunbeam was one of the first organizations in the nation to run the Caregiver Fundamental Program.

2001
Sunbeam opened a 10-bed emergency shelter for senior citizens that are victims of elder abuse and persons made homeless by catastrophic medical problems.

2002
Sunbeam was selected by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to become the sole provider of emergency foster care in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. A Tulsa office was opened but closed in 2004 to better focus Sunbeam’s mission and resources in the Oklahoma City greater metropolitan area.

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. Today the program also provides respite care for individuals caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

2004_MG_1475
Sunbeam was awarded a grant to administer the Early Head Start Program in Oklahoma County.

2009
Sunbeam begins operating Oklahoma City’s Educare, a research based program focused on school-readiness for poor children and their families.

2015
Sunbeam moved into its new home at 1100 NW 14th Street in Oklahoma City.

2017
Sunbeam begins the innovative Infant Early Childhood Mental Health initiative, funded partially by the Arnall Family Foundation.  Sunbeam also expanded the geographic scope CareTrak program, from the Oklahoma City Police to include the Norman Police Department. Sunbeam was also awarded the second Child Care Partnership grant to expand Early Head Start locations.

2019
In March, Sunbeam received notification of an additional award as a grantee for expansion of Early Head Start services through funding provided by the third round of Early Head Start Expansion and Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership (EHSCCP3).  Sunbeam will deepen its engagement in the highest risk neighborhoods within Oklahoma City and will reach 160 infants and toddlers through a combination approach that includes 88 expansion slots and 72 partnership slots.

 

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 CHANGED LIVES – SINCE 1907

Read about the dynamic history and people behind one of Oklahoma’s oldest nonprofits in the new book Changed Lives: A History of Sunbeam Family Services.

Written by noted Oklahoma history author Bob Burke and former Sunbeam Chief Executive Officer Jim Priest, with former long-time Chief Executive Officer Ray Bitsche, the 143-page book is a must-read for anyone interested in learning about the individuals and families whose lives have been changed by Sunbeam.

Opening its doors just before Oklahoma’s statehood, Sunbeam Family Services has served Oklahomans since 1907. Changed Lives is an inspiration book highlighting our 109 year history, telling the stories of notable Oklahomans who generously contributed to Sunbeam’s legacy and stories of the vulnerable Oklahomans whose lives has been impacted. Today, Sunbeam continues to provide help, hope and opportunity to those in need.

For more information call adoss@sunbeamfamilyservices.org or call (405) 609-2311.