Organizational History

Each and every year since its founding in 1958, The Arc has been in the forefront of working for independence and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities. Founded by a group of concerned parents and their colleagues, The Arc began as The Association for Retarded Children of Palm Beach County. As times and sensitivities developed over time, the name was changed to The Arc of Palm Beach County.

1958 1974-1975 1986-1987 1998-1999 2009
1959-1960 1976-1977 1988-1989 2000-2001  
1963-1964 1978-1979 1990-1991 2002-2003  
1965-1967 1980-1981 1992-1993 2004-2005  
1968-1969 1982-1983 1994-1995 2006-2007  
1970-1973 1984-1985 1996-1997 2008  


The Association for Retarded Children of Palm Beach County incorporated classes for 6 school-aged children began at Temple Beth-El...6 months later 12 children attended.

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ARC opened sheltered workshop attended by 4 adults at a building loaned by Lantana Lions Club...Palm Beach County School Board took responsibility for the education of children age 6 - 18 with mild developmental disabilities


ARC moved to new facility on Congress Avenue (the present Palm Beach Habilitation Center) which was built by the Lake Worth Civitans and other civic and union groups.                                                                                                     

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ARC opened classes for children with severe retardation between the ages of 4 - 10.


ARC hired its first Executive Director, Robert Benedict, to coordinate its programs.

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The Palm Beach County Commission deeded additional acreage for a residential facility at the ARC-operated Habilitation Center on Congress Avenue.


ARC opened its first preschools in Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens…Palm Beach County School Board began serving all school-aged children who were developmentally disabled.

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ARC’s Board of Directors agreed to separate the Habilitation Center from the ARC...ARC then directed efforts toward preschools, parent support groups, advocacy, public relations.


ARC joined the Boca United Fund ... membership dues raised from $1.00 to $2.00...ARC Youth Club formed.

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ARC purchased its first group home at 310 Tenth Street in West Palm Beach.



State Representative Tom Lewis visited group home to learn about program and future needs of mentally retarded citizens in Palm Beach County ...ARC merged with the Marian School operated by Catholic Diocese to form another preschool at St. Juliana’s Church in West Palm Beach...Opened preschool in Juno Beach ...Changed name to Association for Retarded Citizens of Palm Beach County, Inc.

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Severe financial difficulties forced ARC to cut back on its preschool programs and almost resulted in sale of group home ...Palm Beach County United Way loaned money to help alleviate crisis...Miami Dolphins played the Jupiter Jaycees in a benefit
basketball game to help preschool program...ARC’s offices moved to Comeau Building in West Palm Beach...Sandi Hardwicke held first golf tournament to benefit ARC.


Rose Kennedy toured ARCs preschools...ARC opened preschool in Belle Glade.

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Newly-formed Friends of Retarded, Inc. helped ARC with new summer camp program...Burt Reynolds named Honorary Chairman ...Preschool opened in Boynton Beach.


ARC organized the Glades Area Association for Retarded Citizens and one of its staff members, Tricia Blash, became Executive Director of the new agency.

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ARC started Infant Intervention program serving 10 babies. Silverliners held its first benefit luncheon for ARC.  



ARC developed Parent-to-Parent program and Parent Cope Groups ....Infant program expanded...ARC sponsored summer enrichment program for school-aged children ...Kids on the Block puppet show purchased ...Pratt & Whitney and Palm Beach County Board of Commissioners made large donations for proposed Center for Retarded Citizens.

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Groundbreaking ceremony held for Center for Retarded Citizens on land donated by Palm Beach County School Board on Australian Avenue...ARC began operation of second group home…The League for Palm Beach County Charities donated van.



The Medical Dental Wives donated van to ARC preschools.

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ARC opened branch office in Boca Raton ...ARC’s administrative offices moved to Phase I of preschool opened in Greenacres...Palm Beach Kennel Club made large donation for the Center.


Greenacres preschool moved to Lake Worth ...ARC opened ARCs Treasure Chest (thrift shop) in Lake Worth ...First special Girl Scout Troop started by ARC…First “Angel of the World” (Kathleen of Ireland) went on sale ...Tom and Rita Head
held first Charity Classic Golf Tournament for ARC’s benefit.

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ARC co-sponsored the National Open Forum on the Prevention of Mental Retardation at FAU…infant and preschool programs expanded…South County preschool moved to new classrooms at Presbyterian Church in Boca Raton.


The Eleanor Trachtenberg Residence, a group home in West Palm Beach, opened…Phase II of the Center for Retarded Citizens completed…Northern Palm Beaches preschools housed in new facility.

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ARC co-sponsored first Very Special Arts Festival…Newly-formed ARC South County Guild held its first fundraiser…ARC opened the Johanna LaBarbiera Sipporta Residence in Delray Beach…Lake Worth preschool moved to Wellington area.


Infant and preschool programs expanded…Adult prevocational program started…Supported employment program followed…Variety Club of the Palm Beaches held Founders Luncheon and donated van to preschools…Women of Bethesda-by-the-Sea made it possible to offer additional physical and speech therapy.

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ARC opened thrift shop in Boca Raton ...Parents sponsored a “night with Jay Leno,” raising $16,000 for ARC programs ...ARC named “ARC of the Year” by ARC/Florida.


ARC opened thrift shop in Lake Park…First Grand Prix Charities Auction held, raising $20,000 for ARC’s children’s programs…Preschools and Toddler Center open at First Presbyterian Church in Delray Beach ...In conjunction with Children’s Services Council and the Palm Beach County School Board, ARC opened six Learning Together Centers to provide quality child care for high risk infants of teenage parents…Project Child respite program began with assistance of Gold Coast Down Syndrome Society…ARC’s computer communication centers filmed by Florida’s Department of Education for use in training statewide.

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ARC opened toddler centers in Boynton Beach and Riviera Beach ...Project Child featured on NBC’s “Today” program… President Bush named Project Child his 149th “Point of Light”…ARC opened Palms West ARC Center in Loxahatchee to better serve the western communities...ARC’s Supported Employment program designated one of eight exemplary programs by the National Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (NARF).


Grand Prix Charities renamed Win for the Kids ...Rose and Sol Tenzer Residence, a supported living townhouse in West Palm Beach, opened ...Palms West ARC Center dedicated ...First Win for the Kids Gala held at the Ritz Carlton, raising $32,000 for ARC’s children’s programs ...Association for Retarded Citizens/U.S. officially changed name to The Arc and adopted new logo to reflect societal changes.

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Bickel Residence, a group home for profoundly handicapped men and women, opened in Boca Raton…ARC’s Early Intervention Program dedicated to Sonia Gregersen ...ARC’s Toddler Centers dedicated to Sandi Hardwicke ...Robert Eddins, who lives in Tenzer Residence and participates in Supported Employment Program, won Skeet Nodey Award from ARC/Florida ...ARC named “ARC of the Year” by ARC/Florida.



Opened James T. Howell Learning Center to serve eleven men and women who are profoundly handicapped ...adopted new logo to conform with national organization ...opened The Arc Gallery, a creative business providing opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

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Through a grant from the City of West Palm Beach, established a recreation and leisure services program…expanded Sandi Hardwicke Toddler Center Program and James T. Howell Learning Center.


Through support of the C. Kenneth and Laura Baxter Foundation, established the “Keys for the Future Fund”…Expanded Learning Together Centers to include children up to age five...received a grant from Developmental Disabilities Council to develop “inclusive” recreation programs ...named Freeport Road group home the “C. Kenneth and Laura Baxter Residence” ...through funding from Children’s Services Council and the A.D. Henderson Foundation, established only emergency respite care service in the county.

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Officially changed our name to “The Arc ...serving children and adults with special needs.”...established a web site highlighting The Arc’s programs and activities; opened the Delores Green Residence, for children who are deaf and blind...through donations from the Lost Tree Village Charitable Foundation and First United Bank, updated computer system…transplanted The Arc’s thrift store,  known as “Bloomin’ Bargains,” to West Palm Beach.


Rededicated Riviera Beach facility in honor of James and Mary Courim…through support from the A.D. Henderson Foundation and the Barker Welfare Foundation, reintroduced Kids on the Block puppet program…created The Arc’s Supported Living Program to assist adults with developmental disabilities find homes of their own.

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Potentials Charter School for children ages 3-10 opened using an integrated therapeutic educational model, developed by The Arc of Palm Beach County, first school of its kind in the Nation.

ACES program developed for adult community enrichment.

Recreation Program assisted five other counties in Florida to develop Inclusionary Recreation Program.

Eight adults placed in their own homes through The Arc’s Supported Living Program.

PAVE inaugurated. 

Over 10,000 hours of respite provided to Palm Beach County families . . . eleven adults with profound disabilities went to Disney World, the first trip out of Palm Beach County for many of these adults.



Preschool and after-school inclusion program open at the Sandi Hardwicke Toddler Center in Wellington…increased Parent- to-Parent training and advocacy programs to improve community awareness…implemented cutting-edge sensory program for Potentials students…Recreation Program provided winter break programming for more than 600 children in collaboration with municipalities…PAVE participants provided 1,218 of volunteer service to the greater community…73 adults with developmental disabilities obtained placement in community employment.

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Expanded teen programs in collaboration with City of West Palm Beach…celebrated as two group home residents moved into their own apartments through the DiVosta Community Living Program…quarterly Parent Training initiated in Boca Raton covering advocacy, nutrition, augmentative communication, behavior modification, sensory processing, sensory integration and overall child development…74 adults placed in community employment.


Potentials Schools students participate in Palm Beach County Science Fair…Parent-to-Parent membership increased 45% over previous year…The Arc’s Learning Together Center received a 3-year accreditation from The National Academy of Early Childhood Education Rededicated The Arc’s Courim Center campus with $2 million renovation and expansion!

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Potentials students place 2nd in the Palm Beach County Science Fair! A young mother of two in an Arc Learning Together Center made honor roll and received “Turn-Around Student” award from her high school…First Presbyterian Church in Delray Beach continues The Arc’s Toddler Center there in a lovely new location provided by the Church…Potentials School named as a “model charter school” by the State of Florida.


Ground-breaking for Potentials South on the FAU campus in Boca Raton…The Arc’s Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program named for the late Pat Cirkus, Board member and friend, who volunteered every day at Potentials School…The Arc’s Early Intervention staff became certified in infant massage through a grant from Holy Trinity Episcopal Church…School nurse Cindy Davis named Nurse of the Year by Palm Healthcare Foundation…Recreation’s inclusive winter break camp reaches new enrollment high…number of adults living independently through the DiVosta Supported Living Program increases from 16 to 23.

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The end of an era – Joyce Laird announced her retirement after 26 years of service to The Arc…Potentials South opened its doors to students in the Delray-Boca Raton region of the County…Jay Leno appeared on behalf of The Arc to a full house in the Palm Beach County Convention Center launched The Developmental Enhancement Project, a prevention collaborative with The Heath Care District to provide developmental intervention at subsidized child care centers throughout Palm Beach County.




Began the 1st Step to Success Program a prevention program that provides focused intervention and training in the homes of families who have children who are at-risk of an acquired disability due to being born premature, substance exposed, to a teen mother or a mother with a disability…Updated Sensory Room at Potentials North…The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) nominated The Arc to participate in a Quality Enhancement Consultation with the Council on Quality and Leadership, augmenting our ability to deliver person-centered programming and services for adults with disabilities…Jewels & Jeans annual hoedown generates best results ever!

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Placement for adults begins to skyrocket – The Arc now supports people with disabilities in occupations ranging from law offices and hospitals to assisted living facilities and restaurants, hotels and manufacturers...Potentials School funded for major update of Adapted Computer Software...Largest graduating class of 9 students from Potentials...Accessible playground added to Potentials South...accessible swings added to Potentials North Respite program begins to offer drop-off respite on alternative Saturdays at either Potentials South in Boca Raton or Potentials North in Riviera Beach...received grant from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office to support more recreation opportunities for children with disabilities as part of The Arc's recreation summer camps.


Adult residences reach capacity...staff in residences add focus on creating opportunities for residents to become more independent, with an emphasis on transition to supported living apartments when and if it is safe to do so...Updated Sensory Room at Potentials South... School wide Art Realization Technologies training and implementation of programs for students...Community Santas rallied around to launch the first annual holiday dance and gift exchange for adult resident's of The Arc's supported living and group homes...PAVE curriculum enhanced from basic job, life and computer skills to include specific industry trainging in such fields as general office, hospitality, food service and customer service...Potentials expands focus on literacy, including the curriculum of Meville Weville...Pave expands to offer Police and Fire Academy students begin training at PAVE so they know how to relate to persons with developmental disabilities when they go into the field.  Board of Directors conducts major long-range planning charette and identifies directions to pursue in immediate future.

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Micro-Enterprise Project for PAVE funds its first new business by a PAVE participant...Parent-to-Parent of Palm Beach County changes its name to The Arc's Family Support Services respecting the changes in the traditional family...Job Development Program selected as a "Best Practice" by the Delmarva Accrediting Agency...Installed a state of the art therapeutic swimming pool at the Courium Center, the first of its kind in a school setting... The Arc awarded lead agency status through the University of South Florida and the Developmental Disabilities Council...The Arc of Palm Beach County celebrates its 50th birthday on February 7 with Mayors of every community in which programs are headquartered presenting Executive Director Michael Papa with Proclamations of Support!

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The Arc’s Respite Program celebrates 20 years of service; The First Step to Success program is accepted by the Children’s Services Council to become part of the county-wide Healthy Beginnings System of Care; Next Chapter Book Clubs , a model program created by Ohio State University,  launched by The Arc in Lake Park, Wellington and Boca Raton through a grant from the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, adding a new social, learning and community inclusion option for adults in Palm Beach County who have developmental disabilities.