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About us

The Arc of Northern Rhode Island's roots began in 1954, when a meeting of parents of children with mental retardation was held in response to an ad placed in the Woonsocket Call by Mr. and Mrs. Nate Miller. The primary focus in the fifties by these parents was to provide, day care, education and recreation for their children.

In 1960, the chapter became incorporated as The Woonsocket Chapter, Rhode Island Association of Retarded Children and began to receive support directly from the United Fund.

During this decade we started an adult workshop with four individuals and hired Paul Marchand as our first full time executive director. In 1968 our volunteers took to the polls and the voters overwhelmingly approved the first of many multi-million dollar bond issues to construct community based facilities.

It was in the early 70s when we opened our first residential home at 492 South Main Street, Woonsocket, Rhode Island. During this decade, House Bill S-344, mandating the education of all children with mental retardation became state law. The decade of the 70's also included the hiring of Gerald P. Ventre as executive director, a position he still holds today.

In 1974, construction of our facility at 80 Fabien Street, Woonsocket, began and was completed in 1975. During the mid-seventies we joined with all chapters statewide in filing a class action suit against the State of Rhode Island to close Ladd School, a state institution for persons with mental retardation where living conditions were described as being "atrocious".

The 80s saw many changes as we continued to open additional residential homes and purchased 320 Main Street, site of our administrative offices; this site also features the Monument Square Cafe, where people with developmental disabilities enjoy inclusive employment opportunities. We also established the Citizen Advocacy Program, a friendship project for people with and without developmental disabilities. In addition, we began our apartment and community employment programs. We conducted a successful capital campaign to both renovate our 320 Main Street facility and to retire its mortgage.

Progress continued in the 90s with the establishment of a youth activity program, respite services, and the dedication of the Arc Angel Memorial in the lobby of the Gerald P. Ventre Center, 80 Fabien Street, Woonsocket. During this decade, three women were assisted in purchasing a home of their own.

The close of the century also saw the establishment of The Arc Artisan program, an innovative venture project that encourages individuals to make good use of their creative talents. Arts and crafts projects are created by persons receiving services and sold in a variety of locations.

We have traveled far since opening our first residential home in 1973. We presently oversee 16 such homes throughout the Northern Rhode Island area and provide supports to more than 350 people with developmental disabilities.

Our journey into a new and exciting century is filled with the promise of change, yet we understand the importance of embracing our past.

The Arc of Northern Rhode Island's history is rooted in the commitment and dedication of the many families who then, as now, continue to generate supports and services that provide people with developmental disabilities the happiness they so truly deserve.

Our quest continues.