- Published on Thursday, 10 January 2013 20:36
- Written by Tori Board
The Arc of Grays Harbor is a non-profit organization which advocates for and supports a better quality of life for people with developmental disabilities and their families.
The Arc History:
The organization name change history:
In 1936, a group of parents whose children were in the institutions formed The Children’s Benevolent League of Washington (CBL). In 1960’s CBL changed its name to Washington Association for Retarded Children (WARC), later becoming the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC). Back in the day (which is, unfortunately, not so long ago) the word retarded was commonly used when referring to people with developmental disabilities. As the years passed, many professionals working in the field of mental retardation started to perceive the term “retarded” as degrading and started pushing for a change in the name of the organization. Thus, the current name for The Arc of Washington State evolved.
When the organization was first formed in 1936, there was only one specialized residential facility located near Spokane (now known as Lakeland Village). Because of this imposed isolation from family members, one of the organization’s first concerns was to establish a state facility on the west side of the mountains, which was accomplished in 1939 (now known as Rainier School). Other efforts that were focused on was improving the conditions and treatment of the people residing at the State facilities (at that time residents were referred to as “inmates”).
In the beginning, families had nothing, no mandated laws, schooling, or an employment protection. It was up to them to assist their love ones in belonging and having the right to a better life.
The seed was planted for The Arc movement in church basements as parents, professionals and other caring community members came together and began educating their communities, their schools, their state legislatures and the U.S. Congress about people with developmental disabilities. In many places, precious dollars were raised to start camps, schools, vocational opportunities, and a place for adults to be during the day.
In the early fifties, a shift in attitudes – away from institutional care – began to emerge. During this time, Washington experienced a growth in the number of parents who started looking at educating and raising their children in their homes and communities. The organization continued to be a major force in the expansion of institutions (backing a total of 6 institutions). While Washington parents probably pushed for institutions longer than leading parent advocates of other states who wanted their children in public schools, it was the pre-existing strength of the organization that helped gain the necessary authorization and funding from the state to assist those parents who wanted local education. As a result, Washington was a pacesetter in providing expanded local educational opportunities for children with disabilities.
In 1969, the organization recommended that The Arc support mandatory public schooling for all children. Support was tremendous, and the final passage of the bill in 1973 made it law. Attention was focused at the federal level by passing the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975--Public Law 94-142.
Meanwhile for the residents of Grays Harbor and Pacific County, The Arc (formally known as The Arc of Twin Harbors) was very active. Many members served as officers on The Arc of Washington State Board. Members/partners were determined to see positive changes in our area:
- Families entered the doors of Stevens’s school and for the first time their children with special needs were enrolling for public education. The beginning of what many of us are receiving today without a second thought.
- Adults with developmental disabilities had the opportunity to continue to develop skills and socializing outside of their family home at what was known as Timberland Opportunity. The birth of community training and employment. (Timberland Opportunity closed its doors in 2012 because of changing times and the success of moving people from sheltered work places into community jobs)
- Collaborating with county commissioners and securing the land and funding to build Kimberly Group Home in Aberdeen in 1979. This home provided community residential living opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. (Kimberly was purchased by Twin Harbor Group Home and at present time sits empty)
- Initiating and spun off of the community residential program known today as Harbor Alternate Living Association (HALA) in 1980. This program supports individuals with developmental disabilities (including those with significant needs of 24 hour support) who want to rent their own apartment, house, and live independent from their families. Individuals live by themselves or with one to three other people.
In January 1978, the long-standing conflict over institutional vs. community services came to a head when The Arc filed the “Community Services Suit” against the State of Washington. Ironically, the same organization that formed with the purpose of creating a new institution was now battling to close down all institutions. While appearing contradictory, the trend in goals remained consistent. The Arc assisting in the building and obtaining institutions on both sides of the mountain was what was thought to be the best for all at that time. In the beginning, parents worked to bring their children closer to home by establishing Rainier School in Buckley.
In the mid 80’s & 90’s chapters began having difficulties. The next generation of families with children with special needs was not aware that public education, services and programs for their children came about only because of the relentless efforts of the pioneering parents, professionals and caring citizens. This combined with the controversy between members views on institutions and community services resulted in the dwindling of members and chapters including The Arc of Twin Harbors.
In September of 1999 Grays Harbor County sponsored an “All in the Family” Conference, and through that conference The Arc of Grays Harbor was revitalized; obtaining Articles of Incorporation status in December 1999 and operating under The Arc of Washington State until July 1st, 2004 when it became its own 501C chapter with 84 members.
The ArcGH started out providing information and referral services, educational workshops and a program called Parent to Parent to the community.
Parent to Parent is a program that provides families with the opportunity to come together, network, and receive emotional support from each other and the program coordinator. Training is available to become a “Helping Parent” who is then matched with new parents of similar circumstances to provide mentoring, emotional support and the knowledge that you are not alone.
In the summer of 2002 the The ArcGH summer camp started. The camp included staff supported organized activities within the community in a variety of locations for individuals 13 and older. The camp ran for two weeks in July Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. In July 2005, the camp name was changed to Arcin’ Round the community.
In fall of 2002 the Board of Directors hired a part time Executive Director and in October of 2002 The ArcGH established office space at 2700 Simpson Ave Suite 202 in Aberdeen.
January 1, 2008 the office relocated to the South Shore Mall due to a winter storm that flooded the Simpson Ave office.
The ArcGH continually strives to discover and meet the needs of our community resulting in increasing the Executive Director’s position to a full time and adding a part time assistant in the office in 2003.
The ArcGH provided:
o Information & Referral Services
o The Parent to Parent Program (Informational & Network meetings, events)
o Arc’n Round the Community Program
o Sports & Fitness Program (Special Olympics participation)
o Clothing Donation Bins & Pick up Service
Arcin’ Round Program lost funding in 2010 and the program changed to a ‘Life Skills” program in 2012.
The Arc stopped the coordination of the Special Olympics teams in 2014, but the program is still going strong with local volunteers.
As advocates, The Arc of Washington State and Grays Harbor continue to strive to ensure that all people with developmental disabilities have choices about where they live, work and have fun.
Many advocates with developmental disabilities serve on The Arc of Grays Harbor, Washington State and U.S. boards as the organization recognizes the value in including advocates with developmental disabilities in the efforts to improve and expand services.
Today, The Arc of Grays Harbor continues to embody the passionate advocacy of its rich history as it strives to promote Self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion of people with developmental disabilities.