Almost 50 years ago, Arc started as an informal organization for family and friends of the mentally and physically disabled.
“It was all families and friends then, all volunteers,” said Pat Brooks, regional coordinator of Arc Southwest, based in Mankato.
In recent years, Arc has become something of a victim of its own success.
As the public has become more aware of the problems the disabled face, other groups have stepped up to help with lobbying government and other efforts to help the disabled.
As a result, ironically, Arc Southwest’s original mission has been hurt by one of the most powerful efforts to help the disabled: privacy laws.
“With all the privacy regulations, families aren’t able to connect like they used to in the past. Families can feel much more cut-off than before,” said Brooks.
To get past well-meaning but intrusive privacy laws, Arc Southwest is reorganizing, said Brooks, and trying to get back to its original purpose — bringing family and friends together for mutual support.
“Fairmont started a Family and Friends group about six months ago, and got good results,” said Brooks. Mankato recently held its first Family and Friends group meeting, with others scheduled soon for Fairmont and Jackson.
Arc Southwest hopes to host meetings in Redwood Falls the second Monday of every month. The first scheduled meeting is set Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Pizza Ranch.
The meetings will highlight four areas:
• State and federal policy changes that could impact loved ones with disabilities.
• Services and programming offered in the Redwood area for people with disabilities.
• Guest speakers to inform groups about various issues.
• Projects that will impact the community.
According to Brooks, typical issues discussed at a Family and Friends group might include everything from transportation, housing, and employment for the mentally or physically disabled.
For more information, contact Arc Southwest at 507-345-5600, or at www.arcmnsw.org.