Over the past 50 years, EL ARCA has established itself as an organization the developmentally disabled community has come to regard as its support, hope, strength and home away from home.Its grassroots origins grew from a modest group whose mission was to improve the quality of their children’s lives. This spirit, fueled by the support of community and funding, has taken EL ARCA through crucial stages of growth. Positive progress continues today but will only be realized with community support and funding now more than ever before.
A small group of Mexican-American mothers with developmentally disabled children banded together in the hopes of bringing about change. At the time there were no services available for children with special needs like their own, and the local and state governments took very little interest in helping. The original group included about a dozen parents and children. At first the goal was simply to provide activities, such as recreational outings and dances. Soon a summer day camp with parent volunteers was organized.
Local politicians, social workers and community leaders interested in the cause got together with the founding members and EL ARCA became incorporated as a private, non-profit organization. This allowed for federal and state funding to be sought in order to develop day programs, residential facilities and, most important of all, a transportation department. The advent of the transportation fleet allowed families, many of whom did not own their own cars, to entrust EL ARCA with their children on a daily basis, thus allowing regular attendance to programs that are proven to improve one’s abilities if attendance is regular.
With the help of federal and city grants the Multipurpose Center was built in the Lincoln Heights section of East Los Angeles. The building was designed specifically for the purpose of providing services for the children of EL ARCA.
The Adult Day Health Care Center (referred to as the Community-Based Adult Services Center since 2012) was a game changer for EL ARCA. Many in our community require medical treatment and monitoring. With our on-site staff of registered nurses and social workers, CBAS is able to provide therapeutic, educational and recreational services, including medical monitoring to treat and prevent seizures, hypo/hyperglycemia, strokes, choking, unsteady gait, etc., along with physical and occupational therapies that are vital to gaining independence or maintaining current function.
A shift in focus came when two key programs were implemented: the Adult Development Center and the Adult Day Support Center. With these programs in place EL ARCA was able to bring daily instruction, recreation and socialization to adults with developmental disabilities, resulting in increased independent living for many.
With the economic downturn, or “Great Recession,” of 2007-2009 government support for programs like EL ARCA fell victim to the budget axe. For forty years EL ARCA could count on taxpayer subsidies to keep their doors open to any and all developmentally disabled people in the Greater L.A. area, enabling their families more time and freedom to support themselves and in turn bring in more taxes to local and state coffers.
As part of its recognition of the struggles that parents and caretakers of our community undergo, EL ARCA launched the Parent Leadership Council. Responding to the needs of the parents of the developmentally disabled is critical. The support group is a way for parents and caretakers to meet, share, laugh and be empowered.
EL ARCA launched an aggressive development and marketing effort in order to secure alternative funding sources that will provide a diversified, sustainable and growing portfolio of revenue to support its mission. As part of this effort a new website was created that included more visible donation and volunteer opportunities, as well as a stronger focus on community outreach. As part of EL ARCA’s efforts to spread its reach and continue its mission a facility in the city of Bell was opened, serving up to 250 adults in the Southern Metropolitan Los Angeles area. This was a huge step for the organization’s growth, and hopefully will be one of many new initiatives in the coming years.
In the hopes of honoring the parents that founded the organization, EL ARCA strives to once again serve the youngest of the developmentally disabled population with a facility for children five years and younger.