The Arc is an advocacy organization founded in 1947 by a group of parents who had a vision of building a better quality of life for people with intellectual, and other related developmental disabilities, and their families. In New Jersey, we consist of a state office and twenty local county chapters, Through The Arc of New Jersey we are affiliated with The Arc of the US, a national organization for people with I/DD, and their families, with over 700 chapters nationwide.
The Arc of Camden County began its 70th year of providing services to people with disabilities and their families, in 2016. Originally Chartered as the Tri-County Arc with parents from Gloucester and Burlington Counties in the early 1950’s, our organization incorporated into its own entity as the New Jersey Association for Retarded Children, Camden County Unit in the Fall of 1956. As did many agencies serving people with disabilities, we began a program in a church basement funded by cake sales, jewelry sales, handbag sales, etc. conducted by parents who wanted a better life for their children. While we were providing services, The Arc of the US and of New Jersey was gathering strength, taking direction from families, who learned to lobby legislators, teach educators, and nudge public funding agents to find better ways to support people with disabilities in their communities, enabling chapters of The Arc to grow strong as a voice of advocacy locally, and nationwide.
In 1974 The Arc of Camden County opened the Occupational Training on the White Horse Pike as a vocational rehabilitation facility with funding from the Department of Labor’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. This program offers Vocational Evaluation, Work Adjustment Training, as well as extended, competitive and supported employment to individuals with any kind of disability. Over the years The Arc of Camden County’s O T C has substantially expanded services that are aimed at supporting individuals to find and keep competitive jobs. The agency provides Preplacement, Intensive Job Coaching, LTFA as well as school transition services for graduating students. Most recently, The Arc of Camden County was awarded a partnership in a Project SEARCH program that provides intensive employment services to students with disabilities who are in their last year of high school. It is a great sources of pride for the agency to have been selected to be a part of this internationally renowned program
In the late 1970’s the Department of Human Services’ Division of Developmental Disabilities needed to find placements for people with more severe and profound disabilities who lived in the community, as well as from the residential institutions in the state of New Jersey. In answer to that need, The Arc opened the doors to the Adult Training Services Department in 1979 with the Berlin Adult Training Center. Followed quickly by the Pennsauken, Atco, Mortka, (formerly Stratford), Hammonton, and Lihn (formerly Camden) Centers, The Arc was soon serving more than 200 people in programs throughout Camden County, including the Garvin Center, opened to serve individuals with special needs.
With day and employment services established for nearly 300 people in their communities, The Arc turned, in 1986, to Residential Services in the form of the Supported Living Program. Sixteen individuals in their own apartments, located close to transportation and their jobs, with beeper access to staff who visited weekly formed the base of our residential offerings. This department evolved slowly over the course of the next 10 years, adding a group home, and two Supervised Apartment programs, until the late 1990’s when The Arc opened 6 more group homes, and began to specialize in working with people who are medically fragile. By 2003 The Arc was serving 59 people in homes located throughout Camden County.
The staff at The Arc of Camden County are proud of the work they have done in support of people with disabilities, and we are proud of our staff. Over the past 70 years our staff have worked hard to help people to develop their independence and potential to the highest level possible. Thanks to a Board of Directors with a vision, creative dedication, and the deep commitment of our staff many, many people with disabilities have grown to lead fuller, richer lives.
Our challenge, as we continue to grow, is to keep our focus on the reason for our existence, that is, the provision of mission driven, individually tailored programs to people with disabilities in Camden County.