The organization had about 20 clients when it started but serves more than 500 today.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Mercer County Association for the Retarded has come a long way since a group of parents got together 50 years ago to provide some services for their children who suffered from mental retardation.
"It's like a dream come true," said Ann Jarocki, 83, of Farrell, one of those founding members.
She served as the first president of the agency she and her husband, Peter, now deceased, helped form, and she remains actively involved today.
MCAR marks its 50th anniversary this year and kicked off events with a luncheon Friday at its offices and workshop at 850 N. Hermitage Road.
Recognized for service: Jarocki was one of those recognized for her service and said she is impressed with how it has developed and expanded over the years.
The parents founded the Mercer County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children on April 15, 1952.
They had no training nor any programming to offer, Jarocki recalled, noting that they first started getting together in Buhl Park just as a way to provide some socialization for their children.
Jarocki has a 54-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome and was only a small child when the effort began.
"It was just to let the kids get together," she said, adding that part of the focus was on teaching their children such large motor skills as riding a bike and playing ball.
There were no altruistic goals when they started.
"We did it for selfish reasons," Jarocki said, explaining there were no programs for retarded children at that time and families with retarded children most often kept them out of the public eye.
The organization today: Today, Mercer County Association for the Retarded runs an extensive sheltered workshop employing about 225 people on a daily basis, maintains its own group homes and other living arrangements for retarded citizens, and serves more than 500 mentally retarded citizens in some capacity each year on a budget of about $8 million, said Robert R. Beach, chief executive officer.
Beach said he has nothing but admiration for that group of parents who banded together 50 years ago to find assistance for their children.
The organization opened its first sheltered workshop in Sharon in 1956, moved to its current site in 1968 and launched a residential services program in 1971. A community employment program began in 1989 and an organized recreation program was started in 1992.
Today, MCAR is a subsidiary of The ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens) of Mercer County, which serves as MCAR's advocacy arm and parent company. MCAR runs the programs and The Arc Foundation handles fund raising.