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Arc celebrates 70 years of advocacy

Paul Beiderman and Shannon Ebentheuer dance at The Arc of Kitsap and Jefferson Counties’ 70th anniversary celebration earlier this month. - Courtesy photo
Paul Beiderman and Shannon Ebentheuer dance at The Arc of Kitsap and Jefferson Counties’ 70th anniversary celebration earlier this month.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

It’s been 70 years and The Arc of Kitsap and Jefferson Counties is still going strong.

The non-profit organization recently celebrated the anniversary — chosen to coincide with National Disability Awareness Month — with a party at the Olympic College Student Center.

150 guests enjoyed music and several speeches highlighting the history of the Arc, the importance of the Arc in the community and what it means to those personally.

That importance, conveyed by executive director Nina Dunning, is to go after their main mission: to provide advocacy for those with developmental disabilities and their families.

“Our mission has changed in various ways, but we always strive for advocacy,” she said. “We are speaking out for those who don’t have a voice. We want people to be treated like everyone else and with all rights afforded.”

The organization was originally called the Kitsap Children’s Benevolent League. It was founded in 1938 by a group of parents who had children with developmental disabilities and was one of the larger advocacy groups in the nation for people with developmental disabilities.

The organization was then changed to the The Kitsap County Chapter of Washington Association of Retarded Children in 1953 and affiliated itself with the national organization, which was founded three years prior.

Since then, the organization has provided help to more than 1,000 people each year. They provide advocacy, information, referrals and services to those with developmental disabilities.

The organization gets the majority of its funds from the bingo games it organizes and its clothing sales.

Dunning, who got involved with the organization four years ago, said The Arc has been beneficial to her as her brother was born with Down Syndrome.

“It moves me to know that there are organizations like this,” she said. “A lot of families benefit from our services.

“My dream is that one day our organization won’t be needed as equity and rights are an everyday occurrence, but it means a lot that we’re able to help people.”

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