Arc to get new home

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It won’t be long now. For the first time in nearly five years, Arc of Mower County will soon have a place to call home, a place to hold smaller events such as dances, a place to house a computer lab and where members can do activities such as put together a puzzle.

On Monday, officials from The Hormel Foundation, the City of Austin and Arc joined together to break ground on Arc’s new “Our Place Recreation Center,” which will be built next to the Mower County Senior Center, with access to both facilities.

The new rec center has been made possible largely through funds from The Hormel Foundation, which foundation treasurer Jerry Anfinson said was roughly $661,000, with a portion also going to remodel certain parts of the senior center for the project.

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“This is an absolute necessary thing to take care of this group of citizens,” Anfinson said. “The foundation has a responsibility to Austin.”

Arc is both a state and national organization that works as an advocate for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

It is funded through contributions and the United Way.

Construction on the rec center is expected to begin in about a week and a half and should be completed later this year. It is scheduled to measure 4,600 sq. ft.

Kathy Huffman, chairwoman for the Arc of Mower County board, said the local Arc chapter, which rents senior center facilities on occasion and will continue to do so for larger events, was in desperate need of having a place to call its own.

“People join the Vets Club because they have a common interest,” she said. “People join the nature center because they have a common interest. Our consumers are no different. They like to have a place to hang out.”

The local chapter, a non-profit that has roughly 300 recreation members, was founded in the 1950s and from 1991 to 2005, leased a facility owned by the YMCA that was destroyed in the flood of 2004.

For the past five years, Arc has been working out of a roughly 10 X15 office at the senior center, with no permanent place for events.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” said Dawn Helgeson, Arc’s executive director, of the groundbreaking.

More than a year ago, Helgeson and Cathy Qual Stypula, a Colorado resident whose father was instrumental in starting the recreational program at the local Arc chapter, whose sister is a member and whose mother is still on the board, made a presentation to the foundation.

It worked.

“Oh my gosh, it’s unbelievable,” Qual Stypula said of the donation. “It’s beyond our expectations.”

The fundraising efforts aren’t over yet, however.

Both Arc and the senior center have kicked off separate efforts to raise money for furnishings for the new project, Arc for its building and the senior center for its renovation.

For more information or to donate, call Arc at 433-8994 or the Mower County Senior Center at 433-2370.

Arc membership is $25 a year.