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A few of The Arc’s thousands of success stories.

Andy’s high school years were marked by isolation in a local public school.

“He had no friends whatsoever,” says Wilfred Romero, executive director of The Arc Pikes Peak Region. “He spent the majority of his lunch hours eating alone.”

But with the help and support of The Arc, he produced a film, Lonely Highway, shown at the agency’s film festival depicting his journey through loneliness. He’s also engaged in public speaking and worked at the film festival.

That’s just one of thousands of success stories resulting from The Arc’s work in protecting the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

“We’re making sure they have opportunities to live, play and work. To be part of the community with their rights protected,” says Romero, who’s served as executive director for 10 years. “We are the largest civil rights organization for IDD.”

The local nonprofit is one of 14 Colorado chapters and 700 nationwide affiliated with The Arc of the United States.

ARC thrift stores — Colorado Springs has four of the state’s 24 stores — exist for the sole purpose of funding the nonprofit’s work, but the stores are run with a separate board of directors and leadership team.

The Arc Pikes Peak Region reaches 1,500 people throughout a year with advocacy and other services. There is no charge for the services provided, which also include lobbying for state and federal legislation and policies that enable people with IDD.

“At a service level,” Romero says, “we provide advocacy for individuals with IDD. We will do that in the public school system, advocating on behalf of students with disabilities and families, making sure they get the free education that is promised to them.”

He adds, “Unfortunately, we spend a lot of time advocating in the criminal justice system, advocating to keep individuals who don’t belong in jail out of jail, and find resources to help them have a life that’s more successful.”

The Arc helps IDD clients with utility costs, preventing eviction and even making repairs on their homes.

The agency, which also provides guardian services, offers education and other types of support for parents of people with IDD, as well as for caregivers, criminal justice professionals and educators.

Those services are delivered by a staff of 10 full-time and five part-time employees with an annual budget of roughly $1.3 million.

The Arc’s GIVE! Campaign goal is $24,000, which will be used to help retire the remaining $700,000 debt on a $2.5 million campus at 10 N. Meade Ave. The campus contains two facilities — a building with a conference room and administrative offices, and a personal development center that contains a learning kitchen, laundromat, computer lab, multipurpose room and library providing materials for families and professionals who interact with the ICC community.

Romero notes that The Arc welcomes any business that would like to help close out the campaign, which would earn them an opportunity to get naming rights to one of the rooms.

“Our biggest victory is that we are seeing our communities being more acceptable of individuals with varying abilities, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Romero says.

As for Andy, he’ll soon finish his bachelor’s degree.

“If it had not been for the connection with ARC he would not be as outgoing as he is today,” Romero says. “These are the doors The Arc opens.”

Take a virtual tour of The Arc’s Inclusive Personal Development Center, Building for Change at thearcppr.org/buildingforchange.

Senior Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.