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Our Story

Seventy years ago, a small group of Aquidneck Island families came together to advance what was, at the time, a revolutionary idea. They imagined a new kind of place into being. A place where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities could learn and dream and enjoy life - not in an institutional setting, which was the norm at the time, but in a vibrant community center with strong ties to the community at large.

In 1953, The James L. Maher Center was born.

Among those founding families were Jim and Mary Maher and their five children, one of whom - the youngest, Mary Ann - had Down syndrome. In business, in politics (serving as Mayor of Newport from 1959 to 1961) and in all of his pursuits, James L. Maher promoted the societal imperative to support people with developmental disabilities in living life to its fullest - and to create a more inclusive world.


Today’s Maher Center continues to advance those principles.

Over the years, The Maher Center has operated a school, a summer camp, a day program, and other offerings designed to meet the needs of the time. As more and more people shared our dream - for instance, public schools became more inclusive - our programming has shifted to reflect contemporary life. Today, we offer a comprehensive array of community-based social and recreational programs, employment and volunteer programs, and much more - as well supportive residential services in 10 houses on Aquidneck Island and throughout the East Bay. We also offer personalized, self-paced vocational instruction in horticulture and culinary arts on our Middletown campus, based in the professional settings of the Maher Garden Center and in our fully licensed kitchen facility.

Our programming is fluid and agile. But our mission is constant.

At every level of the organization - on our Board of Directors, on our interdisciplinary professional team, among our volunteers, and of course among our participants and their families - The Maher Center is guided and shaped every day by people who know first-hand how hard it is, how fulfilling it is, and how necessary it is - to help people with developmental disabilities create full, rewarding lives.

Together, we’re living life to the fullest. And building a more inclusive world.

Life to its fullest. 

Our Mission

Our Mission

The James L. Maher Center is a non-profit agency that fosters independence and opportunity, promotes dignity, and advances integration in housing, employment and social engagement for people with developmental and other disabilities through customized programs designed to meet their individual needs.

Special Olympics!
Sailing in Newport!

Our Vision

Together, we live life to its fullest. And build a more inclusive world.

We Need Your Support Today!

Contact Us


906 Aquidneck Ave

Middletown, RI 02842


Phone - 401-846-4600

Opening Hours

Mon - Fri

8:00 am – 4:00 pm





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