Arc has its new home

Published 7:19 am Friday, January 15, 2010

Austin’s J.J. Johnson attends activities about twice a week at Arc Mower County.

He goes to dances even though he considers himself only a “so so” dancer. He plays darts, and he’s looking forward to the pool table, which should arrive in a couple of weeks.

Johnson was in a good mood Thursday because Arc now has a permanent home, something it hasn’t had since the flood ruined its last building in 2004.

“It’s great,” Johnson said.

The new facility, called the “Our Place Recreation Center,” is located adjacent to the Mower County Senior Center and was made possible thanks in large part to funds from The Hormel Foundation, roughly $661,000.

A ribbon cutting and open house was held Thursday on the 4,600 sq. ft. project that broke ground in July.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Kathy Huffman, chair of the Arc Mower County board. “We’re probably the only Arc recreation center in the state.”

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

The local chapter, a non-profit that has roughly 300 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.

“People join the Vets Club because they have a common interest,” Huffman said in July. “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.”

For the past five years, Arc has been working out of a roughly 10 X 15 office at the senior center, with no permanent place for events.

Those days are in the past, however, as Arc now has a place to host activities, everything from scrapbooking to movie nights.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Alice Qual, an Arc board member whose daughter Nancy is an Arc member. “All of us are speechless, and we have been since the groundbreaking.”

And the donations haven’t stopped yet.

On Thursday, a local paraprofessionals union donated $200 to the cause.

“The majority of us work with special ed students, so it’s nice to be a part of it,” said Heidi Kaercher, of the union and Ellis Middle School.

For more information about Arc Mower County, call 433-8994.

Membership is $25 a year.