The Arizona Recreation Center for the Handicapped (ARCH) recently kicked off construction on a dedicated space for its ARCHKids program with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Jan. 22, shining a spotlight on the Phoenix-based nonprofit and the service it provides for children and adults with disabilities.
More than 50 community leaders and ARCH supporters were in attendance for a day that was years in the making.
ARCH first opened its doors in 1975 and has been a hub of activity in the special needs community for decades. The nonprofit provides therapeutic recreation, socialization opportunities, health and wellness programs, and life skills education. Programs for children, teens and adults are offered simultaneously at the 5-acre main campus, located at 1550 W. Colter St., and the stream of participants coming and going is constant; nearly 300 individuals pass through the doors each week.
In recent years, ARCH experienced a 30-percent increase in program attendance largely due to state budget cuts that affected other service providers. “As participation in our adult programs increased—particularly our Adult Drop In program—we were suddenly bursting at the seams,” says ARCH Program Director Vera Martinez. “It was clear that we needed a dedicated space for the kids program, ensuring that we would be able to accommodate the unique needs of the various age groups relying on ARCH for supervision.”
ARCHKids provides after school and respite care when school is not in session and is widely popular for working parents because of its extended hours.
“It’s difficult for families to coordinate care for special-needs kids, particularly high school students because there are few programs available,” says Cynthia Bennett, board president of ARCH and a longtime North Central resident. Her son, Brian, participated in ARCHKids for while in high school and Bennett explains that leaving a teenager with special needs home alone is simply not an option for families.
With the help of community leaders, the possibility of a dedicated space was realized. In 2014, ARCH was a recipient of the Arizona Diamondbacks $100,000 Grand Slam Award, which helped to fund the new space. Contributions from The BHHS Legacy Foundation and Del E. Webb Foundation also helped with early funding for the expansion, and the city of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department has been instrumental.
The new ARCHKids area represents 2,000 square feet dedicated to programs for children and teens and will include a computer lab, relaxation station and a large activity area, as well as restrooms and prep area. The new space will be able to accommodate the program’s existing needs and will allow for future growth.
“This is an exciting time for ARCH and we’re incredibly grateful for the community partners and funders who stepped forward to make this new building a reality,” Bennett said. “We’re thrilled about the new space the possibility of serving even more families.”
The ARCHKids Dedicated Space will be complete in early September and will be commemorated with a Grand Opening Celebration in the fall.