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ARC Gateway Celebrates 60 Years

Bob Barrett

"You've never seen a bunch of people happier to come to work"...that's what Charles Brewer has to say about the clients who have jobs thanks to ARC Gateway. Brewer is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of ARC Gateway, an organization that offers advocacy and services to people in the region who are intellectually and developmentally disabled.  ARC Gateway is celebrating their 60th anniversary this year.

ARC gateway started out as a real grassroots organization. Pearl Nelson was a mothers of a child with Down's Syndrome in the 1950s who, finding no services to help her son, put an ad in the paper looking for parents of similar children to form a support group.  That group grew into the Peter Pan School, which later became affiliated with the nation ARC. They also drew the attention of Bill Pollak, who was the head of the local Community Chest, which later became the United Way. Pollak became a strong ally of the school and helped ARC Gateway evolve into the organization is has become today.

Today, ARC Gateway offers services to intellectually and developmentally disabled children and adults across the region.  Those services include early childhood developmental training in the Pearl Nelson Child Development  Center, named after the mother who started the first school. There is also on site activities for adults and seniors. And of course there are the jobs that ARC Gateway provides for their higher functioning clients. There is a fully functioning nursery on site, a certified shredding business and Pollak Industries, which manufactures items from concrete parking bumpers to survey stakes.

ARC Gateway has several events planned for the 60th anniversary of ARC Gateway. Last week there was an open house for parents and the public at the offices. This weekend there will be a Pearl Nelson Center reunion where all past clients and therapists will be invited back for a celebration with food and live music. There will be a movie night and dance exclusively for ARC clients at the Bay Center in June.  And then the anniversary caps off with a gala on June 27 at the Pensacola Yacht Club, which will feature and dinner, presentations and a performance by Rion Page, a 13 year old country singer with a disability from Jacksonville who finished fifth in the third season of the FOX show the X-Factor.

For more on the 60th anniversary celebrations and ticket information for the gala, go to arc-gateway.org.