Special needs business closed

A downtown Seymour business offering music and art therapy to children with special needs has closed its doors.

But owner Jill McIntosh-King of Jennings County hopes it’s not permanent.

Thursday was the final night for lessons and programming at IMPROV, which King started three years ago in a rented storefront at 212 W. Second St.

IMPROV, which stands for Individualized Music Program Reaching Obtainable Visions, also served as a venue for local musicians and artists to perform and display their talents.

As a special education teacher, McIntosh-King said the business was not about making money but about providing opportunities and activities for those with physical, mental and emotional disabilities to shine and feel good about themselves.

And she feels like that has been accomplished.

“I believe we have done exactly what our mission was intended to do — make a difference,” she said.

But operating IMPROV has become a financial burden she isn’t able to handle at this time.

“It is the only reason the doors are closing,” she said. “We cannot continue to stay open given our current financial needs.”

Expenses, including rent and utilities and needed materials, were not being covered by enrollment, fundraisers and donations, she said.

The decision to close was not an easy one to make, McIntosh-King said, and she regrets having to do it.

“This breaks my heart. I have cried so much over this,” she said. “If we could add new clients or find a large contribution, we could stay open, but we just can’t without clients.”

McIntosh-King said she is very appreciative of those who have supported IMPROV’s efforts over the past three years.

“We can’t thank our supporters enough,” she said. “They have blessed our lives tremendously.”

Nikki Gerth of Seymour said she was saddened to learn the business would be closing. Her husband, Mike Gerth, was a volunteer guitar instructor and often performed with McIntosh-King.

Their young son, Connor, would often tag along, she said.

“He loved to go there, and he loved Jill,” Nikki Gerth said. “My heart broke when Jill told me that she was going to close. She has an amazing heart, especially when it comes to our kids.”

Mary Carlson also said she was heartbroken over the news. Her daughter, Claire, has Down syndrome and was an IMPROV student.

“It was a great place for her, and she loved it,” Mary Carlson said. “It was a place where she could go and be herself. A lot of kids with special needs can’t just join a basketball team or just join a baseball team. It’s not that simple. Our kids just want to have fun and belong, too. IMPROV was that place.”

McIntosh-King said IMPROV has impacted her and her staff as much as it did her clients.

“Each child has made us a better person and teacher and changed our lives for the better,” she said. “IMPROV will truly be missed by many, but most of all, we will miss each and every child and adult involved.”

To continue offering services, McIntosh-King said she plans to operate IMPROV Outreach as a mobile program for now.

“I plan to regroup and reopen in the future,” she said.