One of the more inspiring stories in Harford County’s modern era is the history of the organization known today as the The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region.
The group, marking its 65th anniversary, started when Harford County Public Schools were still racially segregated and people with disabilities were not always treated with the dignity and humanity they deserved.
That’s what The Arc is all about – helping people with disabilities be successful members of society. The Arc NCR is a local chapter of The Arc Maryland and The Arc of the United States.
Arc comes from the group’s mission to provide support over “the arc of a lifetime.”
In its past, The Arc was The ARC as in the Association of Retarded Citizens, which is telling in its own way, before morphing into the more non-judgmental Arc, the word, not an acronym.
In 1953, according to a story on the front of Wednesday’s pp&t section, the organization started when members of 10 families met in a basement looking for ways to get meaningful education and life experiences for their children with developmental disabilities.
Back then, people with what the nonprofit group now calls “differing abilities,” were commonly referred to by what was then acceptable, but now obviously was the insensitive “retarded.”
Those were far from enlightened times. Harford County Public Schools would be segregated for another decade. African-Americans, as a matter of course, were referred to in the pages of this newspaper by demeaning and derogatory terms.
Simply put, people who were different were neither always welcomed with dignity, nor treated with respect.
Out of those more Neanderthal days, grew an organization that created a welcoming and supportive place for those young people whose abilities were not fully developed.
It’s amazing what grew out of the passion of those 10 families and how many lives they greatly impacted in positive ways since those early days.
“We are all unique human beings with strengths and weaknesses,” Shawn Kros, CEO of The Arc NCR, said on the occasion of the group’s 65th anniversary. “It is our hope that within another 65 years, as a society, we can leave off labels altogether. We are all simply people.”
Continuing to move forward services and create more opportunities for what has been an under-served group of people is the most fitting legacy for the effort started years ago by those 10 families and carried through by countless volunteers through the ensuing decades.