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$2 million ARC center will help developmentally disabled

Architect Craig C. Hebert spent a day with a developmentally disabled adult and learned a lot in the process while drafting a design for a 9,000 square foot expansion to the St. John A.R.C. Day Development Center in LaPlace.

Hebert ended up with a whimsical design, marked by bold colors and shapes representative of the lively personalities of A.R.C. clients.

The building is expected to become a reality in the next 12 months, according to Day Program Director Linda Lambert, who said a highly visible facility would attract new clients and provide much needed space and accessibility.

Located at 101 Bamboo Road in LaPlace, St. John A.R.C. instills a sense of purpose in developmentally disabled adults through educational and job training opportunities. Depending on their capabilities, clients may take on janitorial, yard work, customer service or office jobs around the community.

The expansion introduces additional classrooms for vocational training, a new dining hall and multipurpose space for special events. Lambert said the facility would also include 4-feet-wide doorways, ramps and hallways optimized for wheelchairs to address accessibility challenges in the current building.

Natalie Robottom poses at the recent celebration.

The current facility will also receive renovations, notably reallocations allowing for larger classroom sizes.

Board of Directors president Joel Ocmand said the $2 million expansion has been in the works for at least five years, and the need for a larger facility has been around much longer. The project officially went to bid this week, and Ocmand expects a construction contract will be signed within a month.

Ocmand said staff members and nearly 70 clients are over the moon with excitement over the new addition’s design.

“You will see us from far away,” Ocmand said. “We want to be seen. We want the community to know the funds we get keep us going. When the public supports the parish, it allows us to make a better environment for the clients.”

When combined with donations from local Knights of Columbus councils, the LaPlace Lions Club, St. John United Way and income from a Parish millage, nearly 20 years of A.R.C. savings cover the majority of construction costs.

Architect Craig Hebert unveils plans for the new building, which went to bid on Wednesday. A signed contract is expected within a month.

The shortfall would be covered through an agreement with the Parish Council to borrow against the millage, Ocmand said.

Ocmand has been involved with the A.R.C. since his daughter joined the program nearly 15 years ago. It’s always been important to him to him that his daughter and others like her have opportunities to be successful in life. Lambert said clients who cannot work still benefit from small classroom settings, where instructors introduce routines to develop life skills

As part of a multi-million dollar upgrade, the St. John A.R.C. Day Development Center in LaPlace, 101 Bamboo Road, will be renovated and new construction will be added next to it.

Volunteers expose clients to cooking classes and crafts, among other activities.

“It gives them a safe place so they’re not at home all day or walking the streets,” Lambert said. “It’s important to help them fit in and be useful, because they just want to be like everybody else.”

Adults must be 20 or older to qualify for services. For more information, call 985-652-8003.

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