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About Russell Nesbitt Services, Inc.

Russell G. NesbittOur Mission

Providing life opportunities for people with disabilities and enhancing career growth and potential for those who share their journeys.

History of Russell Nesbitt Services

Russell G. Nesbitt was a father, a lawyer, an advocate, and an activist. He had a son with disabilities who needed services, so he joined together with a small group of parents and supporters and with an initial investment of $200 each they started the Ohio County Council for Retarded Children in 1958. The first building was named after his son, Russell W. Nesbitt.

Facts and Figures

  • The program was a school for individuals with intellectual, developmental, and behavioral disabilities.
  • There were no laws requiring public schools to serve the needs of individuals with disabilities.
  • The original address was 519 Fulton Street, Wheeling, WV.  At this time, the building was a Civil Defense Building.
  • The “Communities Activities Center” opened its doors in April of 1960 with 6 students.  The number of students doubled by September 1960.


1963:  The program changed the name from Ohio County School for Retarded Children to The Russell Nesbitt School for Retarded Children.

1960-1965:  The Russell Nesbitt School was supported by members of the Ohio County Council for Retarded Children, Inc. and a small tuition fee from participating parents.

1965-1966: the school was on the verge of closing because of the financial burden to operate it. An application was made to the Upper Ohio Valley United Fund (now, the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley) and the school became a member. The financial support of the United Fund became essential to the continued existence of the school. 

1966:  The school received $13,682.00 from the United Fund. The United Way continues to provide support for the agency.

1969:  West Virginia Legislature passed a law requiring local public-school districts to be responsible for the availability of special education programs within their jurisdiction. July 1, 1974: the legislation became effective.

1972: The board of directors announced a planned expansion to create additional classroom space, remodel the kitchen area, and add office space to accommodate additional children and staff.  Estimated renovations were $20,000-$30,000. The school was providing services to 26 students.  

1975: the federal government passed Public Law 94-142 requiring free appropriate education for all students.

1978: Public Law 94-142 became fully effective. Required all school aged children with disabilities be provided the same public educational opportunities as non-disabled children. The law was entitled “Education for All Handicapped Children Act.”

1989: The agency took over the former Sandwich Shoppe located on 14th Street manned by clients. Entrance into vocational programs.

1990: Certified by WV Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). Certified to provide supported employment, assessments, and extended employment services.

1991: Became the first non-comprehensive behavioral health center to be licensed by the state of WV (Only the 13 original comprehensive behavioral health centers were licensed).

1992: Agency became a certified Medicaid services provider. 1st Case Manager was hired. Services expanded to include case management, day treatment, residential, and behavioral health services.

1994: Civitan’s Sheltered Workship, WATCH (Wheeling Area Training Center for the Handicapped, Inc.) was having financial and program difficulties.

1995: The Agency amended bylaws and changed the name to Russell Nesbitt Services, Inc. to eliminate the stigma attached to the term “Retarded Children” and to reflect its focus on Adults.

1996: RNS took over the WATCH operation and assisted with a capital improvement campaign that led to a location move to the current address of 2600 Main Street, Wheeling, WV.

2000: Board of Directors sought additional space from the Ohio County Board of Education and purchased the “Fulton School” in May for $82,500. Options for the building included:  Tear it down and construct new; renovate part or all of the existing structure

2003: Capital Campaign commenced for building renovations

2004: Construction contracts signed for building renovations. August 31st was the “Groundbreaking Ceremony”. September 2004, as renovations were starting at 431 Fulton Street, the agency suffered devastating losses from the flood

  • Damages totaled over $300,000
  • 7 Vehicles were lost
  • Every furnace in every Fulton Street property needed replaced
  • Dedicated Staff Saved the Agency; the Employees made the difference. They worked together to give the agency new life.
  • Watch reopened 1 week later

2005: January, yet another flood, but very little damage due to lessons learned. Agency was awarded the NIP credits (Neighborhood Investment Program) to aid in continued fundraising for the capital campaign (Valuable tax credits that rewarded donors and encouraged greater donations.) $1.5 Million dollar project. Began move to new building at 431 Fulton Street, Wheeling.

2006: Additional NIP Credits granted. Agency begins Transitional Living Program for individuals between the ages of 18-21 who remain in the custody of DHHR and have been in institutional placements. March 24, 2006, Open House and Dedication of renovated building.

2015: Merge of Russell Nesbitt Services, Inc. and WATCH, Inc.  (Watch is now a division of RNS.)

2016: Winner of the November 2016 Show of Hands

2017: May 6:  Grand Opening of G.R.O.W. (Greenhouse Retail Operations @ Watch.)

2018: 60 years of Service.

2019: December 3 - day of persons with disabilities in the city of Wheeling. December 5 - John Franklin Stephens spoke before the United Nations “ I am a man with down syndrome and my life is worth living. I don’t need to be eradicated. I don’t need to be cured. I need to be loved, valued, educated and sometimes helped.”

2020: Coronavirus protocols in place, masking up and social distancing became the norm around our facility.

2021: We opened our community Grow Greenhouse, a program through WATCH.