A Look at the History of The Arc of Dearborn County

For over fifty years The Arc has had both an Indiana and a Dearborn County presence. People have been drawn to the organization for its legislative influence in the state and nationwide; and for its commitment to empowering people with developmental disabilities.

These ideals were attractive to the established membership of The Arc of Dearborn County and, in 2007, to a newly formed unaffiliated group from the northern part of the county who were seeking ways to improve opportunities for local people with special needs in the 21st century.

The groups merged in early 2008 and the combination of experience harnessed from the original members and fresh energy from the new group bring The Arc of Dearborn County to where it is today.

In 2014 the organization is gelling into a group further committed to its purpose. The Arc now provides:

  • An internet presence designed as a handbook for area people who have intellectual and developmental disabilitiesófrom birth through adulthood, and which broadens communication among local families, self-advocates and educators.
  • A week-long day camp, first offered in 2008, conducted by area educators and therapists and focused on retention of academic and social skills in a fun, activity filled environment. The Arc's camp program is made possible primarily through funding from The United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
  • In 2010, the addition of a Life Skills camp that introduces campers to experience community involvement, meal planning and preparation, and the use of public transportation. High school-age students and young adults will learn about contributing to their livelihood and volunteering.
  • Life skills classroom activities and field trip per-student sponsorships to Dearborn County schools moderate / severe classroom teachers, offered to surrounding regional Indiana schools at a flat rate.
  • Group music therapy sessions made possible in part by funds through the Indiana Arts Commission's Regional Initiative Grant program.
  • A wider perspective via members who are actively engaged at the state and national level.
  • Dances, held seasonally at St. Martin's hall in Yorkville, are open admission with donations of canned goods accepted for area food pantries.
  • Guest speakers on various pertinent topics.

Early History ~ The Arc of Dearborn County

On June 10, 1958 Stella Berner, a Dearborn County nurse, began speaking to the public about the need for special education classes with the shared experience of a group from Connersville, Indiana where special education classes had been put into place.

The Dearborn County Council for Exceptional Children, Inc. was formed with the primary purpose to ensure public education for all children. Three classes were eventually formed: Educable (6-12), Educable (12 and up), and Trainable (all ages, I.Q. between 35 and 55).

In 1974, the organization changed its name to Dearborn and Ohio Counties (ARC) Association for Retarded Citizens, Inc. to affiliate with the state and national organization; and to begin receiving funds from the United Fund.

More than 300 area people with special needs were served by the local ARC chapter in the early 1990s. A 1992 article from the Dearborn County Register included interviews of members and then secretary, Frances Egner, said, "We supply for the teachers' rooms what the school can't provide." New Horizons and the Ripley-Ohio-Dearborn Center were recipients of recreational equipment and other supplies.

At the same time, another member valued the group's support of Special Olympics and noted that if a participant's family was unable to, the ARC covered the cost of physicals.

In 1979, then ARC president, Tish Stiegler saw a void in summertime activities and helped start Camp New Day, a two-week day camp held at Aurora City Park that drew 30 campers annually. Planned themes incorporated typical camp experiences with painting, fishing, swimming, bowling, etc. and were made possible by parent and student volunteers, along with a director.

Around 1990, ARC members noticed the lack of activities for people with special needs and so the dances began. Three to four dances were held annually at St. Martin's hall in Yorkville and the dances; including the spring 'prom,' continue today.

Over the years, The Arc has helped tackle the tough issues. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a young Hoosier geneticist, Dr. Sam Rhine, came to speak to local junior and senior high school students about teenage pregnancy, and the factors that can contribute to birth defects or complications for babies born under circumstances involving drugs and alcohol usage. Today, The Arc continues to educate and advocate on behalf of all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In 1992 the local group joined with the national organization in a shift from the name 'Association for Retarded Citizens' under the acronym ARC to, simply, 'The Arc.' The position statement of The Arc of the United States reads: People with intellectual and / or developmental disabilities must be able to live the lives they choose and have a good quality of life. These are the standards this local organization will follow likewise. This position statement and more can be accessed at www.thearc.org.