In 1970, the West St. Charles Women’s Club selected as its project for the year to organize a local chapter of the “National Association of Retarded Children.” Even part of the original national name is now rightfully protested and not used by anyone in the mainstream as a complimentary term. All national member agencies are known as “The Arc” today.
The Women’s Club provided Rita Carlson, an educator, to serve as the first president of the board of The Arc. Mr. Richard Keller, a supervisor in the school system, worked out a pilot program with the state department of special education.
A small number of families, maybe six, choose to participate in the program. Their children at that time were not in the mainstream of the public education system and, in fact, rarely even out in the community. Those wonderful parents often were at The Arc daily to assist and some became employees.
The group met at the original and still main location at the St. Charles Parish School Board property on Old Spanish Trail. It was designated as a work activity center. Activities included woodworking, ceramics, crafts, seasonal plants, and African Violets. The activities provided group participation and a place to go for the individuals and respite for their families.
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. In 1981, we had $17,400 in the bank. A year later, with a budget of $71,176, a greenhouse and buses were purchased.
There were many 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 needed to serve both sides of the river in St. Charles Parish, which was complicated since a ferry ride over the river was the only local connection. 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 of the Hale Boggs Bridge, both sites were combined at main location at the St. Charles Parish School Board property on Old Spanish Trail. In 2009¬¬ the Arc needed a new site—Hope Enterprises located in Hahnville in the old post office building. The Cajun Village Thrift Store filled the main room at 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 the growth of the company and looking for professionalism, the board hired the first Executive Director, Linda Brown, in 1980. She served in that position until July, 1995. Our current Executive Director, Victoria Bryant, began her career at The Arc in 1994 as the director of services and has served in her current position since 2006.
The programs offered by The Arc have expanded under Victoria’s and the board’s guidance. Some of our individuals work in groups in the community on mobile work crews or in supported employment placements. The Arc also provides support services in homes and at our center.
Hope Enterprises focuses on shredding paper, sorting and wrapping Mardi Gras beads, and other craft items. Our Healthy Cleaning Krewe, janitorial services and the grass maintenance crew are seen throughout the parish and in the evenings at the public schools. The Cajun Village Thrift Store now operates in its own building on Lakewood Drive in Luling.
The United Way of St. Charles Parish has been a loyal supporter throughout the years. 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. The St. Charles Council on Aging partners with The Arc to provide housekeeping/respite services to the elderly and disabled.
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.
There are now over 179 individuals receiving services from our staff of full and part-time direct support workers numbering 115 men and women. The Arc serves a territory designated as Region 3 which encompasses seven parishes—namely, the river and bayou areas.
Non-profits are by nature a reflection of the supporting community members. Those community members can take pride in our history, growth, and accomplishments. Thanks to all our supporters for their contributions throughout the 48 years. They have made a real difference in the lives of others.
That is our history, but our dreams are more important. The Arc intends to grow offering many opportunities to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and special needs to attain full potential.
We are changing the conversation around disabilities by defying definitions, inspiring possibilities and improving the lives of the people we serve, their families and our community.
The primary goal of the agency is to provide services needed to improve the quality of life for all of our participants.
The Arc of St. Charles strives to promote and maintain a high level of professionalism in all areas and to maximize all resources, human and financial, in the interest of helping all the persons we serve.
We are dedicated to deliver to our customers the best-trained staff possible to provide the services required.
The Arc of St. Charles, a non-profit organization, is committed to providing services and supports that enable people of all ages with developmental and intellectual disabilities and special needs to attain their full potential.
All individuals with disabilities and special needs will come to The Arc of St. Charles to enhance the supports and services needed to assist them in belonging in the community.