Our formation process began when the West St. Charles Women’s Club selected as its project for the year of 1970 the challenge to organize a local chapter of the "National Association of Retarded Children.”
My how far we have come. Even part of the original national name is now rightfully protested and not used by anyone in the mainstream as a complimentary term.
The Women’s Club provided Rita Carlson, an educator, to serve as the first president of the board. The St. Charles Parish School Board played a large role in the early formation of The Arc of St. Charles.
Mr. Richard Keller, supervisor in the school system, worked out a pilot program with the state department of special education.
A small number of families, maybe six, were brave enough to participate in the program. Their children at that time were not in the mainstream of the public education system. Those wonderful parents often were at The Arc on a daily basis to assist and some became employees.
The group met at the original and still main location at the Boutte School on Old Spanish Trail. It was designated as a work activity center. Activities included woodworking, ceramics, crafts, seasonal plants, and African Violets.
By 1973 the Arc served 12 individuals on the west bank and 10 on the east bank. By 1978, there were 2 teachers and 2 aides and were nearing our max at the time.
There were many other early supporters in the local civic groups including, the Knights of Columbus, the St. Charles Art Guild, the west St. Charles Jaycee’s, large industry, Union Presbyterian Church and Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
The Arc served the East bank of St. Charles Parish, also—remember a ferry ride was the connection at that time. Several sites housed the Arc on the east bank—such as churches and donated spaces. By 1982, the combined enrollment of east and west bank locations was at 25 students.
In 1983, after the opening 25 years ago of the Hale Boggs Bridge, both groups were transported to the original and still main location at the Boutte School on Old Spanish Trail with a total of 23 individuals that year. Just last year, the Arc has again grown to need a new site--Hope Enterprises--located in Hahnville in the old post office building. And the Cajun Village Thrift Store now fills the main room of the center.
For the first 16 years, the board provided the total management of The Arc. At first, parents who received services and educators were the ones interested in serving as members of the board. With growth of the company and looking for professionalism, the board hired the first Executive Director, Linda Brown, in 1987 who held the position until July 1995. Our current Executive Director, Victoria Bryant, since 2006, began her career at The Arc fifteen years ago in 1994 as a QMRP (Qualified Mental Retardation Professional) hired as the director of services. The programs offered by The Arc expanded under Victoria’s and the board’s guidance. Many of you see our individuals in the community on mobile work crews and supported employment. The Arc also provides support services in homes and at our centers.
There are now 175 individuals receiving services from a staff of full and part-time direct support workers numbering 120 men and women. The Arc serves a territory designated as Region 3 which encompasses seven parishes—namely, the river and bayou areas.
The United Way of St. Charles Parish has been a loyal supporter in many ways. A respite program they funded from 1994 exists to this day. The respite program provides a break for qualified families in St. Charles Parish who are caring for individuals with special needs or their elderly family members.
We also recognize the continuing part played in our history by the St. Charles Parish School Board, The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Department, the St. Charles Parish governmental agencies, local businesses and industries and many caring individuals.
Non-profits are by nature a reflection of the supporting community members. Those community members can take pride of our history, growth, and accomplishments. Thanks to all our supporters for their contributions throughout the 38 years. You have made a real difference in the lives of others.