The Arc of Camden 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 mental retardation and other related developmental disabilities and their families. Consisting of a state office and twenty-one local county chapters, The Arc of New Jersey is affiliated with The Arc, a national organization on mental retardation with 1200 chapters nationwide.
The Arc of Camden County begins it’s 69th 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. And all the while, The Arc of New Jersey was gathering strength and 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.
In 1974 The Arc of Camden County opened the Occupational Training on the White Horse Pike as a vocational rehabilitation facility with solid funding from the Department of Labor’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. This program offered Vocational Evaluation, Work Adjustment Training, as well as competitive and supported employment to individuals with any kind of disability. Soon the Department of Human Services Division of Developmental Disabilities (formerly the Division of Mental Retardation) needed to find placements for people with more severe and profound disabilities from the community, as well as from the residential institutions in the state of New Jersey, and 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, Stratford, Hammonton, and Camden Centers, The Arc was soon serving more than 200 people in programs throughout Camden County.
With day and employment services to nearly 300 people in their communities in place, 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.
Our most recent additions are the Garvin Special Needs Center and the Voucher Stipend Program. Recreation programs help to round out the services provided by The Arc, along with active information and referral, educational forums, and speakers available for community functions.
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 50 years our staff have advanced the theory of individualized programming to allow people to develop their independence and potential to the highest level possible to a reality. Thanks to a Board of Directors with a vision and creative dedication, and deep commitment of our staff many, many people 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.