BY JACLYN ROSE –
Polk County Developmental Center, Inc., (PCDC) was organized in 1972 by a group of concerned parents and citizens. With a focus on teaching and training individuals with disabilities, PCDC began inside Mena First Baptist Church and opened the doors on their first facility on Amsterdam Street in late 1976. At the time there were seventeen adult clients, five preschool children and seven employees. Over forty years later, PCDC currently serves forty-three adult clients, thirty-three preschoolers and has sixty-five employees and five volunteers and serves individuals in Polk, Scott and Mongomery counties.
Executive Director Mary Curtis started with PCDC twenty-five years ago as the Director of Avants Group Living Center, Inc., a residential facility for developmentally disabled women. “Avants is an area we hope to expand in the future. It is a learning center where women are taught to do everything we do in our home. We have to clean and buy groceries, we have to pay bills and go to the beauty shop. This helps women transition into assisted living apartments and some into independent living,” explained Curtis.
After her time at Avants, Curtis moved to manage the Resale Store, located on Morrow Avenue. The Resale Store was added in 1985 to provide work-training skills for the adult clients. “Our adult clients do all the pricing, tagging and hanging of the clothes in the Resale Store. They are paid twice a month and are tax paying members of society. This is about self-worth and confidence and being a productive member of society,” Curtis said. With space an issue within the PCDC Resale Shop, the business recently opened a new space, Just for Kids Resale Store at 811 Eagle Gap, in a building previously used for storage.
The Resale Store brought with it a new project and the recycling center was developed to work in conjunction to the store. “We go out and pick up recycling in 125 businesses, the college and the schools. There is no charge to the businesses and this provides more paying jobs for our adult clients,” explained Curtis. PCDC also offers paper shredding for thirty cents per pound.
At the beginning of PCDC, Jumpstart Preschool was formed. It specializes in the educational needs of developmentally delayed children. These children are referred in many different ways: medical doctors, state childrens’ workers and even parents who are concerned about the development of their children. In August of 2014, PCDC purchased the former Education Station facilities and moved their preschool services to the new location at 1314 Amsterdam Street in Mena. This addition has allowed Jumpstart to accept any child and has promoted early integration for the developmentally delayed with typically developing children.
In December of 2014, PCDC opened the Adult Education and Wellness Center at 1410R Amsterdam Street, in their former Jumpstart location. The updated facility now has three separate classrooms where there was formerly one, and allows for a lot more one-on-one learning.
PCDC is a private, non-profit organization and is funded largely through the Arkansas Medicaid program, as well as the local recycling and resale store sales. Fundraising and the generosity of local individuals, businesses and clubs, and some grants, also help fund PCDC.
“This organization is about ‘we,’ it takes all of us from the preschoolers and their parents, the clients, the volunteers, the bus drivers to get up early to pick up preschoolers, everyone plays a part. Without our community, we wouldn’t exist. Last year we were awarded the Business of the Year from the Chamber of Commerce and we are very proud of that. I think I have learned more than anyone in my time with PCDC, the clients have taught me so much,” explained Curtis.