Since 1954, TARC Inc. has worked in Topeka to make life better for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as their families.

This week's "History Guy" video at CJOnline tells of how TARC was founded 65 years ago Friday.

TARC provides a wide variety of services to more than 1,300 people with intellectual, developmental and related disabilities, said Briana Holmes Daniels, its marketing and development coordinator.

Executive director Eileen Doran said Tuesday that throughout its existence, TARC has consistently pursued the same mission of providing service, support and advocacy to enhance the lives of people affected by intellectual, developmental and related disabilities.

Doran said TARC is in the process of holding a monthlong private celebration of its anniversary, in which it tries to "do something special" each day.

The organization now known as TARC was founded when parents of children with special needs met on Feb. 8, 1954, to organize what was then known as the Shawnee County Association for Retarded Children.

That group in 1955 opened a day treatment center, which served 24 children in a leased six-room house at 4600 S.W. 10th. The Junior League of Topeka paid the salary for the first instructor.

Topeka Unified School District 501 responded beginning in September 1956 by providing two classrooms for children the ARC had been serving. The day treatment center continued to serve preschoolers, students not accepted in the classrooms and those who fit into a sheltered workshop training program.

The ARC grew to the point where in 1961 it hired its first executive director, Ethel May Miller, who held that position until 1976. In 1962, it initiated its first young adult work activity program.

The ARC opened a community center in 1970 at 2701 S.W. Randolph Ave. Four years later, it changed its name to the Topeka Association for Retarded Citizens, which later became TARC Inc.

TARC opened a center in 1989 to meet the employment and training needs of the rising number of adults it was serving.

In 1998, TARC initiated its successful holiday season fundraiser, "Winter Wonderland," which offers the public a chance to drive through a lighting display at Lake Shawnee. This will be Winter Wonderland's 22nd year. TARC has also held an annual fundraising golf tournament since 1992.

TARC completed construction in 2000 of the building that houses its administrative offices at 2701 S.W. Randolph. It continues to maintain its headquarters there.

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