Just over 60 years ago, during a time when parents were encouraged to place their children with disabilities in institutions, a group of Evansville-area parents were frustrated with the lack of services available for their children with disabilities in the community. This same group of parents dreamed of an accessible, educational environment for their children with developmental delays to learn and grow regardless of their ability levels. Together, they decided to create The Arc of Evansville, formerly known as Evansville ARC.
On September 24, 1954, during a time when there was no place in Evansville, Indiana prepared to accommodate the specific needs of individuals with disabilities, a small group of passionate parents explored the possibility of changing these circumstances for their children. Encouraged by the positive results of an experimental play group, the parents formed the Evansville Association for Retarded Children (EARC). The facility officially opened on November 29, 1954, in donated space at the East Side Christian Church and served 14 children aged three to eight.
As word spread about this innovative program, the waiting list of children quickly grew, and classrooms were added as funding and space became available. By 1965, EARC was providing services to nearly 150 children and adults, with many more on long waiting lists.
In 1966, EARC opened the McDonald Hopeland Training Center for individuals, a sheltered workshop for individuals with disabilities to obtain vocational training and employment, now known as ARC Industries.
As public schools accepted responsibility for the education of all school-age children in the early 1970s, EARC shifted its focus to early childhood education and development.
In 1974, EARC moved to its present location at the Vanderburgh Development Training Center at 615 W. Virginia Street.
The McDonald Hopeland initiative blossomed and expanded into a 25,000 square foot plant operation at the corner of Virginia and Baker Streets in Evansville.
During the 1980s, state institutions for adults with disabilities began closing. Residents were moved to smaller group homes in Vanderburgh County, and EARC became the preferred provider of day service for adults. By 1989, the organization was serving 325 children and adults, with a staff of 88 and a budget reaching $2 million. The agency changed its name to Evansville Association for Retarded Citizens.
The innovative Child Life Center was established in 1993 and offered child care and therapeutic preschool to children with and without disabilities.
ARC Industries plant was constructed in 1994.
Since 1994, Evansville ARC’s organizational Employment Services and Personal and Social Services programs have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
In July 2004, the Child Life Center received the prestigious NAEYC accreditation. This accreditation serves as a seal of approval that the Child Life Center is a high-quality childcare center.
ARC Industries expanded in 2005 to become the thriving assembly, manufacturing, recycling, and distribution facility it is today, employing approximately 200 persons with disabilities.
Evansville ARC changes its brand and name to The Arc of Evansville on September 24, 2014.
Services of The Arc of Evansville expanded, and in 2015 the agency began offering Residential Services to provide support for those who live in their own homes or apartments with roommates.
Respite Services were added to the programming of The Arc of Evansville to offer temporary relief to family members who provide care for a loved one with a disability.
In July 2018, The Arc of Evansville’s Music Therapy program was established to provide individuals with disabilities access to and success with Music Therapy, which is one of the most requested services by individuals of all ages.
Now, almost 65 years later, the agency has grown from serving 14 children in 1954 with a budget of under $2,000 and one staff member to serving and advocating for 750 children and adults with a budget of over $8 million annually and a staff of just under 200.