The Arc-Solano is an organization that has been serving people with developmental disabilities and their families since April of 1953. The organization was granted legal status by the State of California on July 14, 1954 and was called the Solano Council for Retarded Children (SCRC). The SCRC was formed as a parent support group. The first president was Harry Rhodes. From 1953 to 1969, the organization served all of Solano County.
In April of 1969, the SCRC met and voted to change its name to the Vallejo-Benicia Council for Retarded Children, Inc. This change made it possible to serve Vallejo-Benicia residents and brought about the formation of another organization to serve upper Solano County residents. At the time of this change, the organization had one program, which was a sheltered workshop.
In October of 1972, the Board of Directors voted to separate the organization into two units. One was V-BAR (Vallejo-Benicia Association for the Retarded) and the other was V-BAR Enterprises (the workshop). This split paved the way for what was then known as ARC/Vallejo-Benicia Unit. On March 25, 1974, the name Vallejo-Benicia Council for the Retarded, Inc. was legally changed to Vallejo-Benicia Association for the Retarded, Inc.
The association’s programming began on March 7, 1974, when a house was purchased to serve as office and co-op group home for six (6) adults. The house was to be named Wendy’s House in memory of a benefactor’s daughter, Wendy Yeager. In November of 1974, six (6) adults with developmental disabilities moved into the co-op home, thus opening the first residential halfway house program in Vallejo. The staff consisted of one full-time and three part-time employees.
The halfway/co-op house served a total of ten (10) consumers during its short existence from November of 1974 through February of 1976. In 1976, the house was closed and consumers moved into the community due to poor funding sources. In the months preceding November 1974, board members worked on and wrote a grant to fund a respite service in Vallejo. The grant was approved by the State in December and the Napa-Solano Respite Service began serving families in July of 1976.
1976 was a very eventful year for The Arc-Solano. As well as beginning the Solano-Napa Respite Service, The Arc’s vendorization for infant stimulation was accepted by the State and Leapfrog was born. In early 1976, a board member and two staff people wrote an MR/PI grant to fund an independent living skills program, as well as an out-of-home respite program. Notification came in May that both proposals were approved. Thus was born Transitional Service and the Dillon Home. These grants were to run for a one-year period. During the first six months of operation, Dillon House served thirty (30) families and Transitional Service served twelve (12) adults.The total budget for both programs was $62,000. As the close of the fiscal year in April 1977 drew near, it was obvious that vendorization of the two programs was necessary fo r continued funding. All forms were to be submitted to North Bay Regional Center by May.
After receiving both Transitional Service and Dillon House vendorizations, it was apparent that the association could not continue to fund the respite program, Dillon Home, and Solano-Napa Respite Service because the rates were far short of actual operating expenses. In July of 1977, both the Napa-Solano Respite Program and Dillon Home were spun off to Phil Herskovic, who formed a corporation called Jody & His Friends, Inc. Phil was involved with the respite program prior to taking it over in July and, in order to continue the services, he was willing to take it over. The option to buy Dillon Home on Tennessee Street in Vallejo was transferred to Jody & His Friends, Inc., as were the assets connected with the two programs. On March 5, 1981, our name was changed to the Association for Retarded Citizens, Vallejo-Benicia Unit to conform to State and national identity.
In October of 1984, a proposal to serve adults with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and developmental disability was written. The ACT (Alternatives in Curriculum and Training) began serving consumers in January of 1986. ACT is the only program that The Arc-Solano sponsors that requires a license through the Department of Social Services.
As the agency has grown, so has the need for larger facilities. In October of 1985, our adult services component, as well as our administrative section, moved to a large office building on Tuolumne Street. Our infant services remained at the Ohio Street location until June of 1989, when the Ohio Street property was sold and a small house on Tuolumne Street was leased for Leapfrog. Fortunately for The Arc, the house was directly across the street from the adult services program site and all programs were better connected with support personnel nearby.
The Arc-Solano was approached in 1987 by a group of parents who were interested in some sort of parent support group. A proposal was written to United Way for funding and, in May of 1987, The Giving Parent Support Group was formed. Since that time, The Arc has agreed to sponsor additional groups: S.P.U.D.S. (Solano Parents United for Down Syndrome), a Rett Syndrome Support Group, and R.A.P. (Resources and Advocacy by Parents). SPUDS and RAP met on a monthly basis.
After serving infants and their families for fifteen years, Leapfrog ceased operation on December 31, 1990. This was a very hard decision for both board and staff. Qualified staff was difficult to find and specialists were nearly impossible to hire due to high wages. Rates being provided through the regional center systems simply did not meet the cost of operating the program. A transition for families took place with no break in services. Easter Seals took over operation of Leapfrog in January 1991.
In March of 1993, The Arc-Solano saw a need for more space for programming and administration. They took advantage of a wonderful opportunity and moved to larger facilities directly across the street at 640 Tuolumne Street. This move allowed the agency to design the floor plans, as both “spaces” were large, open rooms. The first floor housed the ACT Program and the second floor provided space for The Arc’s administration and Transitional Service staff. We also offered Matrix Family Resource Center some office space and clerical support.
Another name change for the agency came about in March of 1995, when the membership met and voted unanimously to change the name from Association for Retarded Citizens, Vallejo-Benicia Unit, to The Arc-Solano. This name change had been discussed and debated for a year before the membership took the vote. Many reasons came into play, but the most important factor was the fact that some of the people we served were unhappy with the word “retarded.” Since the national office had changed their name to “The Arc” in 1992 and the State office was considering a change at the annual convention, it was time for our local unit to follow suit. Our new tagline became “people helping people with developmental disabilities.” Solano was added to The Arc to more appropriately describe our service area.
Another move took place in June of 2000. As the long-term lease was expiring on the Tuolumne Street location, it was time to once again look for added space. The agency began meeting with representatives of Bay Area Family Services (a respite agency serving families and senior citizens) to weigh the possibilities of sharing a larger site with lower rent. In March 2000, a lease was signed for an 8,000 square foot location on Sonoma Boulevard. It took three months for the construction to be completed and all requirements for licensing to be met. Both BAFS and The Arc-Solano moved into the building on June 30, 2000. In 2002, an opportunity to lease an additional 1,000 square feet of space adjacent to our “staff lounge” became available. The agency agreed to lease the space for the art program, which until then was housed in one of the spare offices (200 square feet).
For a brief period in the early 2000’s The Arc-Solano expanded its services to include an Independent Child Advocate through a contract with the Solano County SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area), which includes all of the Solano County School Districts (except Vallejo) as well as the Solano County Office of Education. The program provides special education child advocacy services as a component of the SELPA’s Alternative/Assisted Dispute Resolution Services (ADR).
2012 and 2013 was another time frame filled with change. Our Transitional Service was switched from a contract to hourly services and Bay Respite Care moved out of our facility. This presented a temporary financial impact to our organization. In addition, several long term key employees retired. With new leadership, we were able to grow our current ACT and TS services as well as become vendorized for Tailored Day Services which is a 100 percent community based program to help adults with volunteer, work and higher learning opportunities. This service was vendorized in November of 2013 and services began in January of 2014. Tailored Day Service consumers are helping a variety of non-profit and other community organizations throughout Solano County as well as increasing their earning potential.
Because two of our three core programs are community based, we don’t need as much office space so we did not renew the lease on the 1,000 square feet of additional facility space in March of 2015. The Art@Arc program filled the space vacated by Bay Respite Care. We also used the vacated space to expand some of our value-added programs, like the jewelry-making Beaddazzlers group and our literacy program. The Arc-Solano currently serves around 100 adults with developmental disabilities throughout Solano County via our three core programs: Transitional Service (ILS program), Alternatives in Curriculum and Training (site-based, behavioral day program), and Tailored Day Service (community based day program).