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Fort Smith nonprofit provides activities for disabled

Times Record - 12/21/2018

Dec. 21--If it weren't for Arc for the River Valley, Shebbie Joe Eubanks would most likely spend his days at home without much to do.

Eubanks, an Arc member and volunteer, came on more than 10 years ago as a member of the nonprofit that seeks to provide advocacy, education and recreation for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. He now works as a volunteer who helps clean the facility and makes sure there are enough snacks for members when he's not socializing with them.

"I'd (otherwise) be sitting at home and watching TV," Eubanks said.

Eubanks is one of around 470 members at Arc, which puts on dances, cooking classes, art classes and a bowling program in addition to creating a social space for its members, according to Executive Director Micayla Cole. And while the nonprofit has grown over the years, directors still want to see it expand.

"Week to week, we get more and more new members," said Volunteer Activity Director Rebecca Hansel.

Arc was founded in 1959. The nonprofit in recent years moved from a one-room suite off Rogers Avenue to a 6,000-square foot building on Texas Road in Fort Smith, Cole said.

Each member pays $15 a year to enjoy a social room with video games, puzzles and a foosball table among other things. Arc also hosts art, exercise and cooking classes, Cole said.

The members range from 6 to 79 years old, Cole said.

"You get to know the members, and you have some that you have to teach, but most of them are really sweet, and they teach you," said office director Paula Hinsch. "I've learned a lot from them."

Though Hinsch said they usually see about 25-30 people each week, their annual dances average between 250 and 280 members, Cole said. The nonprofit holds its dances on Mardi Gras, Halloween and Christmas, Cole said.

Cole and Hansel both said they would like to expand their facility to include an area for dancing. They currently rent the Fort Smith Senior Activity Center for the dances, Hansel said.

"I would love to see that, to where we wouldn't have to travel and load up everything to another building just to a one-night event," Hansel said.

Cole said she would like to see more people know about Arc as well. She said there are many who could benefit from the services they offer.

"We appreciate the support from the community that we've had, especially over the last 3-5 years," Cole said. "We've really started to scratch the surface of getting our name out in the community, and we're getting more and more positive support from Fort Smith and the surrounding areas."

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(c)2018 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)

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