LARC is a private, non-profit (501 (c) 3) agency serving adults with disabilities. We strive to enhance the quality of life of each person we serve. Based on the individual’s choice, LARC provides support on the job or at various sites in the community. Support and training are designed to enable people to experience success and pleasure in life.
LARC will encourage self-growth and community participation by providing living and working opportunities in a variety of settings within the greater Lowndes County service area. LARC will work with community agencies to help individuals with disabilities move from school to adult life.
Our philosophy is to ensure individual and family choice in planning for and participating in activities of daily living. LARC will be a measurably valuable resource through successfully meeting the changing needs of our individuals.
This organization began from efforts of parents, professional educators, and other interested persons in the late 1960s seeking services for adults with Developmental Disabilities. It was a difficult enterprise because of the lack of government funding, the lack of existing programs to learn from, and the lack of experience in accomplishing it.
In 1975, Public Law 94-142 was implemented, guaranteeing free and appropriate public education to all school-age children through the age of 21. However, there were no laws, funding, or interest in anyone other than parents of school-age children since all agencies were attempting to serve them by mandate.
One parent, Paul Craig, Sr. had recently moved to Valdosta with his wife who was a new college professor. Their adult son with developmental disabilities needed to learn job skills, end his isolation and socialize with others outside his home. LARC, as we know it today, was the outcome of Mr. Craig’s dream and hard work. He, with many others, succeeded in beginning a Sheltered Workshop in an abandoned school building with 6 individuals.
Dr. Leo Kelly, the Callaway Professor of Special Education, was head of the Special Education Department at Valdosta State College. His mission was to help ignite services and guide the school systems in South Georgia in properly serving children who were considered “non-educable”, before 1975. Dr. Kelly supported Mr. Craig’s mission and assisted in many ways to establish services for adults.
The early 1970s was also the era when state institutions were closing and residents were returning to their original communities. Still, those with special needs over 21 years of age had no services and no federal law to protect them. Thus The Lowndes/Echols Association for Retarded Children was formed to secure services. There was much debate over the purpose, and there were two opposing sides: Those wanting an Adult Daycare and those wanting a Sheltered Workshop. Eventually, both services evolved. The Lowndes Service Center was formed to offer Daycare Services and the Sheltered Workshop for those wanting to learn job skills–LARC.
Several facilities were used as LARC’s home over the years including Magnolia Street School, a house on Toombs Street, 1016 West Gordon Street, 1104 West Gordon, among others. Eventually, the 1104 facility was named after LARC’s “founder”, Paul Craig. The Craig Center has remained a center for recreation for persons of all ages with developmental disabilities. This progress fulfilled Mr. Craig’s dream.
In late 1991, Lowndes County helped LARC secure a CDBG grant to build LARC’s new facility at 1646 East Park Avenue. Today this facility provides both an Activity Center for those choosing to learn job skills and a recreational component for those with no desire to work. Currently, there are 28 staff and over 100 consumers who attend our programs.
In 2016, LARC saw the need to expand its Recycling Program and moved that venture to another location at 901 West Hill Avenue. The newly acquired facility includes a 15,000 square foot warehouse that can store baled cardboard until the market price increases maximizing the revenue. Currently, there are 6 staff and 20 consumers working there and learning job skills.
In our Community Based Services, there are currently 3 staff and 26 consumers who participate in a variety of settings. These services offer group outings as well as Supported Employment, with LARC transporting those holding jobs to and from their residence.
LARC’s official name has changed over time to reflect the services. It began as Lowndes/Echols Association for Retarded Children, then Lowndes Association for Retarded Citizens, and currently, Lowndes Advocacy Resource Center.
LARC continues to change with new government regulations, new needs, and changes in funding. The primary focus of LARC services is the individuals served. Decisions are always made with their best interest at heart. Currently, LARC serves more than 140 developmentally disabled people at the Main Center, the Recycling Center, and in the Community.