Celebrating 50 Years at the Arc

Mar 10, 2011
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Later this month, the Arc of Gaston County in North Carolina will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary of helping people with disabilities – specifically with intellectual disabilities. The Arc was established in 1961 when a group of individuals in Gaston County found the need to help their fellow citizens with disabilities. Local families, medical professionals and community members created the Arc of Gaston County to provide awareness, advocacy and support for individuals to be successful.

Back in the 1960’s little information was known about mental retardation, known now as developmental disability and intellectual disability. Fifty years ago, many people with disabilities were institutionalized and basically  forgotten. The Arc of Gaston County sought out to give people with disabilities a voice and help advocate for them. Also, it wasn’t just people in Gaston County that were beginning to see people with disabilities as individuals who could live full lives, but others across the nation. And this movement allowed chapters of Arc to be established on other areas. The Arc grew nationwide during John F. Kennedy’s time of presidency. President Kennedy’s oldest sister Rosemary Kennedy was developmentally disabled and he supported establishing new resources to address the needs of people with disabilities. Also, as a result the Special Olympics was created by Eunice Kennedy, the sister of both John and Rosemary Kennedy.

Now after 50 years, the Arc has grown to over 140,000 members with chapters throughout the United States. Additionally, just in Gaston County area the Arc has Arc has been instrumental in starting organizations like Holy Angels, Gaston Skills, Camp Sertoma, Gaston Residential Services and Webb Street School.

Part of the mission of Arc is to help the community understand the abilities of someone with a disability.

“They have much more opportunities for education now. They are graduating from high school. They’re going to college. They are holding down jobs and being successful,” says the Arc director. “Every single one of these folks, they are a son or a daughter or a cousin, a grandchild, a friend, a student, an athlete, an employee, a church member. They just happen to have a developmental disability. It’s not who they are, but a part of what makes them such a valuable asset to our community. How people view those with disabilities have changed drastically in the 21 years since I have served as the Arc executive director.”

To learn more about the ARC of Gaston County, go to:

Other Resources:

Author: Jenny Carlton