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Arc Benefit Auction Friday

The Arc of LaGrange County has, over the past 50 years, continue to grow to assist and serve those with special needs and their families in a variety of ways, from jobs, transportation, and group homes to the recent respite care facility. There are still things Arc wants to help with, large and small, and to do so is holding a benefit auction this Friday, Sept. 15, at the Shipshewana Auction Barn, with a program starting at 3:30 p.m.

The Arc held a similar auction four years ago, raising over $210,000 that has “made a tremendous difference,” Arc CEO Deb Seman said. The money is kept separate from Arc funds, and is allocated through a committee to help with unmet needs in the community.

Those unmet needs have allowed children to hear and families to travel together. “The fund helped provide the processor for cochlear implants for three children from one family,” Seman explained. The fund paid for most of the cost.

Another family was helped with a wheelchair-accessible buggy that allows the family to travel into town together.

Some of the needs may seem simple, but make all the difference in the world. One boy received software for a tablet that allowed him to communicate with his family, finally allowing him to tell his mother goodnight and that he loved her.

The respite care facility has also been a large part of meeting these needs, allowing family caregivers to have time together outside of their responsibilities at home.

The number and scope of items available at Friday’s auction is impressive, with a 30x40 ft. pole barn one of the larger items that will be sold. A Ford Model 1910 tractor will also be on the block. Other items include four buggies of various styles, bicycles, a variety of quilts, furniture, and tons of shop tools and lawn and garden equipment with items still being donated.

The current efforts of Arc all began with a simple idea in 1966 when Seman’s mother, Geraldine Prisock, saw that neighborhood children with special needs were not being served. “She saw they weren’t getting the same opportunities we were,” Seman recalled. “She said, ‘That’s not right.’”

When Prisock contacted the Department of Public Welfare, as it was known at the time, she was told that there weren’t any special needs children in the county. She quickly proved otherwise and the department provided a grant to help. The newly formed Lakeland Schools provided room at Clay School west of LaGrange, with administrator Dean B. Smith using his personal vehicle to help transport children to the school.

The class expanded to two rooms before a new law in 1972 required schools to provide education to special needs students, and the district took over taking care of student-age residents.

“When that happened, we had to ask, what was our role?” Seman said. But parents soon told them what the Arc’s role could be, as they still wanted to have opportunities for preschool-age children and for those who were out of school. “We started our adult programs,” Seman said.

What started in a trailer donated by the Northern Indiana Children’s Hospital soon expanded into a farmhouse, followed by a shop area, and has continued to grow ever since. And while there is a temporary waiting list for the group classroom (with a larger one to be ready in a few months), Arc is able to take in those who need assistance, from job to classroom work and more.

“Mom looked at the Arc as her mission,” Seman stated. “Others go to other nations to do their mission work. Hers was in her own backyard. One of the last things she said was that there is no place to stop.”

And, with the support from auctions like the one planned for Friday, Arc doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.