In 1961, acting on the recommendations of the interim commission on the Problems of the Mentally Retarded, Handicapped and Gifted Children, the Minnesota Legislature provided the funding to develop nine DACs as pilot projects. Demand for services grew, and in 1963, the Legislature increased the appropriated funds to allow for the creation of 14 additional centers. The bill was called the Daytime Activity Center Act, and placed Minnesota squarely at the center of a national movement. By the end of 1963, ninety-four DACs had been established across the country. The DAC was established in Winona County in 1963 and became incorporated as a non-profit corporation. The first “class” went into operation onSeptember 3, 1963 occupying a room at the Central Elementary School. In succeeding years, it moved to many locations including Washington-Kosciusko School, Phelps-Howell Building at WSU campus, Central Lutheran Church and the Bay State Milling Building. In August 1985, the DAC moved to its permanent location at 1721 West Service Drive in Winona. The building was leased from Winona County for 10 years and then purchased from the County in August 1995.
The DAC started with 10 people in the program and is now licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services to serve 75. Staff members provide support, guidance, and mentoring to individuals working in-center and at community sites.
The program has changed from a “Day Activity Center” to a “place of employment” where people do constructive meaningful work, earn paychecks, and participate in their community. The vocational program has grown significantly throughout the years. DAC workers are employed at sites throughout the Winona area. They also complete a variety of work contracts in-center. Individuals also have the opportunity to participate in many community activities. Other areas of programming available are physical therapy and recreational activities, communication and social skills, community awareness and volunteer opportunities.
The DAC Board of Directors oversees the program, monitors the financial operations of the agency, and helps set policy. The local colleges and high schools are an excellent resource for volunteers. In return, the DAC provides these students with a valuable learning experience.