Founded in 1961
Movement starts in 1940s
The Arc movement got its start in the late 1940s right here in New Jersey by Elizabeth Boggs. As a mother of a child with a developmental disability, Dr. Boggs understood that there were two basic options for families with a child with developmental disabilities. One option was that the child could be placed in an institution. The other was that the family could keep the child at home, often through adulthood.
1960s: Local action
After existing for some years as a unit of the state ARC, in 1961 a group of concerned parents and friends here in Atlantic County decided to follow in the path of Elizabeth Boggs and became incorporated under the name of the Atlantic County Unit of the New Jersey Association for Retarded Children. In the late 1960’s the board hired the agency’s first employees and initiated its first two programs: day care and preschool. The volunteer board supervised the staff. That’s grassroots!
Members of the 1961 Board of Directors:
- Camillo DeLuco
- Barbara Aron
- Alice D’Amico
- Jane DeLuca
- Charles Vitanza
- Henrietta Vitanza
1970s: Grassroots effort
In 1975 the federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act gave all children the right to free, public education. Prior to that important piece of legislation, a child could be kept out of school for any number of reasons, including not being toilet trained. While the debate continues in New Jersey over whether to include children with disabilities in regular classrooms or to establish separate schools to best serve their needs, the door is now open for all children to receive a free, public education.
Meanwhile, back at The Association for Retarded Children, the Board started a summer camp and several recreation programs including night school. By the end of the 1970’s the board hired its first Executive Director Adrienne (Dee) Landgraf and a social worker. The agency was gaining momentum.
Early 1980s: Rhonda Marie Schroeder Group Home
In 1980 the board hired its first full time executive director, Sharon Watters. For the first time in the organization’s history starting a residential program was on the agenda. In 1981 the agency opened its first group home called the Rhonda Marie Schroeder group home after Tony Orlando’s sister who had a developmental disability. RMS was the first of eight homes opened in Atlantic County by the ARC during the 80s and early 90s. In January of 1981 the agency changed its name from The Association for Retarded Children to The Association RMS Group Homefor Retarded Citizens.
For many people, living in an ARC home was the first time in their adult life that they were not living in an institution. In preparation for the huge commitment of running a residential program, the Board and Sharon (Watters) Posner hired six new full time employees. One was Pat Jones, who served as CEO from 2015 to 2017, and is now Chief Operating Officer. By this time the agency had a budget of nearly $200,000 and its major funding sources were the NJ Division of Mental Retardation (DDD of yesteryear) the United Way of Atlantic County and Atlantic County government.
Mid-1980s: Debbie Davies
In 1983 the board hired Deborah Davies as The ARCs third executive director. Debbie, who received a Ph.D. from the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in Nashville in cognitive psychology, had been teaching in the Psychology Program at the then Stockton State College. In the same year the agency hired its second case manager. Starshine, a fundraiser organized by ARC and performer Nelson Sardelli, was held for the first time on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Stars did in fact shine shoes to raise money for the agency. It was a tradition that would continue each summer for 12 years. By the end of 1984, the agency budget was $400,000.
Between 1985 and 1992 the agency opened nine residences including seven group homes and the first supervised apartments in the Concord Complex. In 1991 Pacific Apartments were built by the agency with money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The relationship with HUD in establishing accessible and suitable housing for individuals with developmental disabilities continues through this day.
In 1993, the agency changed its name again. As an affiliate with the national ARC and the state ARC, a discussion had been taking place across the country, state and county concerning the organization’s identity. Consumers did not like the prominence of the word “retarded” in the name. One of the aspects of the name debate centered on the stigma many people with developmental disabilities often face. Was the name promoting the very thing we were trying so hard to overcome? The national, state, and local ARCs changed their name to The Arc. The new Arc is not an acronym—it is a complete name. The Arc of Atlantic County takes flight.
The 2000 to Present
The Arc successfully planned and implemented its first “Building The Arc Together capital campaign. More than $1.2 million was raised to assist The Arc in new residential development. Dr. Deborah Davies retired in December 2012 after serving capably as CEO of The Arc of Atlantic County during its greatest stage of expansion yet. By then there were over 250 employees (171 full time) working at The Arc.
In 2015, Pat Jones was named Chief Executive Officer and Scott Hennis was promoted to Chief Operations Officer. Both individuals bring together a history and passion in developing game-changing programs and services for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families at The Arc.
Where Are We Headed?
The Arc is committed to continued development of residential settings to accommodate persons with IDD waiting to leave developmental centers and those on the waiting list for community residential placement. In 2013 Beck House, our newest group home in Hammonton was completed, staffed and occupied. Three new group homes in Egg Harbor Township are near completion. All three of these are expected to be staffed and occupied in early 2015.
Today, over 165 individuals receive residential services and nearly 700 people participate in one of the eight programs offered through Family Support or are assisted by one of the four case managers. Over the past year 266 persons participated in recreation program activities. This year, The Arc’s annual budget is nearly $12 million. Our employees have increased to 273 and our volunteers to 279. We have been preparing for the transition from predictable government contracts as a source of agency cash flow to a new, less predictable, Medicaid fee-for-service model. We are committed to providing excellent services and continuity of care that adapts to the changing needs of persons with I/DD.
The past four decades have been full of organizational and individual growth for the leaders, staff and consumers of The Arc of Atlantic County. We provide a broad range of support services and have made our Atlantic County communities more welcoming of our fellow residents with I/DD. Thank you for your support. Without it we would not have come this far.