The Opportunity Center School was the initial program designed by Owensboro parents in the 1950’s.
At that time public schools did not provide education for children with special needs so it became the responsibility of parents in Owensboro and around the nation to educate their own children. The National Association for Retarded Children (NARC) was founded around this time to help educate parents and to share ideas and information. The local parents established the Owensboro Council for Retarded Children (OCRC), a member of the national and state associations.
In the late 1960’s and early seventies public laws were passed requiring public schools to provide education for children with special needs.
At that time many of the children receiving education at The Opportunity Center School were growing into adulthood. Vocational programs were started. For a period of time, as a Sheltered Workshop was being developed, OCRC provided both a school and a Sheltered Workshop with a vocational training program. By the mid-seventies however, public schools had assumed complete responsibility for education and Opportunity Center workshop (OCW) served primarily adults. It was during this time that in keeping with the National and State associations that the C in OCRC came to refer to “citizens” instead of “children”.
During the 1970’s and eighties ideas such as “Normalization”and later “Social Role Valorizationctions” began floating around.
The idea was to prepare individuals with disabilities to live and work in the mainstream of society to the fullest extent possible. In addition to the sheltered workshop, Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Training programs were provided to help people prepare to enter the regular work place. Innovative programs such as Work Stations in Industry (mowing, weed eating, parking lot maintenance, etc. ), Janitorial Services (various community locations) and Pinocchio’s Deli were brought into existence. Job Placement was provided for many individuals after receiving training in these programs.
Pinocchio’s was perhaps the most innovative project at this time.
Established in the summer of 1979, it served the Owensboro community as a full service deli. It was fully staffed by people with developmental disabilities, supervised by a couple of trained managers. As it received accolades through the media, visitors from around the nation flocked to Owensboro to see what it was all about. Local and national television and radio programs provided news clips about Pinocchio’s. Newspapers around the world presented stories. Even a health textbook included a chapter about Pinocchio’s. Many people were trained for competitive employment there. Some remain employed today.
The 1980s and 90’s brought many changes to the organization. De-institutionalization efforts for adults with Developmental Disabilities across the state brought new citizens in need of employment services and Day Training to Owensboro. OCRC worked closely with state and local agencies in providing these services for our New Neighbors, as the program was called. It was at this time that the national organization changed its name to The ARC (association for retarded citizens). Shortly afterward the name was changed again. The acronym was removed in order to get rid of stigmatizing language and the organization became known simply as The Arc.
In the 2000’s the Arc continued providing great service to its clients and community. In 2017, the Arc expanded its services by providing case management. The Arc moved to its current location at 3560 New Hartford Road in January 2020. A strategic board decision was made in early 2021 to change the Arc name to the Opportunity Center of Owensboro effective June 1, 2021. This change comes with a new logo and a continued mission to provide training, advocacy and support to people with disabilities that empower them to achieve their life goals.