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Name change to LIFE Mower County reflects inclusion, empowerment

After 40 years of change and progress in advocating for people with disabilities, The Arc Mower County has officially changed its name to reflect its future.

Now officially deemed LIFE (Learning, Inclusion, Fun, Empowerment) Mower County, the decision to change the name from the Arc happened on Feb. 4. According to Dawn Helgeson, executive director of LIFE Mower County, the changing of moniker happened after several years of discussion with the state about the future of the Arc as Minnesota contemplated merging local chapters into one.

“There was a statewide discussion about the Arc in Minnesota,” Helgeson said. “Through a lot of discussion and meetings, some of the chapters in the state decided not to merge, including Mower County. Our board of directors voted not to affiliate with Arc Minnesota.”

Before 1950, there were only a couple local organizations for children with disabilities and no state or national Arc’s existed. There were nine local Arcs in Minnesota, including one in Austin. However, it’s only a name change and not a change from what LIFE Mower County continues to advocate and educate to the residents in the area.

“Our programming won’t change,” Helgeson said. “It’s just the name and it really stands for learning, inclusion, fun and empowerment. There are so many more opportunities for people now than back then. They have so many abilities to share with the community.”

LIFE Mower County continues to provide educational and recreational opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as helping improve their quality of life and improving the potential for greater independence.

Currently, LIFE Mower County is working on changing all branding and accounts to reflect their new identity to community as well as to its members, who voted “100 percent” to change the name, according to Helgeson, and believes that the change also meant a better reflection of the nonprofit’s mission.

“So many things have changed in the 66 years since the start of the Arc of Mower County,” she said. “We want to let people know how we work to empower people, teach them new things and all sorts of life skills. What we’re doing now with advocacy, recreation, education and youth programs, is something we want to keep pressing forward. We are still here to empower people with disabilities to have a great life.”