UPARC: The Early Years
The history of UPARC began in 1958 with the banding together of a small Advocacy group organization known as Parents and Friends of the Retarded. Six families seeking services for their retarded children met first in an old Clearwater City building on the bluffs at the present site of the new City Hall. A small, rented office on Ponce de Leon Street near Missouri Avenue then became headquarters for several years. Pioneer programs such as Camp We Can Do sprang from this location due to the spark of Janna Capwell.
Membership and organizational efforts to serve the upper half of Pinellas County (north of Ulmerton Road) led to an application for affiliation with the Florida and National ARC’s. This was accepted in a FARC board meeting in Orlando, where the UPARC petition was presented by Marion Smith. Thus the group was chartered May 11, 1962 as a unit of the Florida and National ARC, with formal incorporation occurring in 1963. This instrumental group included Mr. and Mrs. Lea Ball, Carol LeBeau, Gene Purdy, Pat and Marion Smith, Louise Tench and Mr. and Mrs. Clarke Whittenmore.
In 1968, UPARC hired its’ first Executive Director, Bob Vellekamp, and moved its’ office to a small wooden building on the west grounds of Old Clearwater High School (Laura and N. Greenwood Street.) Workshop programs were started using an old Quonset Hut building on Betty Lane, north of the Clearwater Country Club. Some 24 persons were served.
A Formative Decade
During UPARC’s formative decade, a significant community program of the Junior Service League was in continuous operation in a small residential type building on Prospect Street in South Clearwater: the Play Parc School. This provided a unique preschool service for severely handicapped youths. The program was merged with UPARC in that same time period, facilitating expansion of the range of service activity of UPARC.
With program growth and fundraising efforts, the need for larger quarters was met by the acquisition of the Calumet Street site and construction of UPARC’s first real home. This major goal became a reality in 1972.
Merger With Resident Home Association
Unmet needs for housing choices led to the organization of a spin-off group in the spring of 1975, which was dedicated to the “impossible” job of meeting these needs. The Resident Home Association opened its’ first residence on Ridgelane Road in 1976, showing that it could be done. After creating four homes, The RHA merged with UPARC in October, 1983, expanding UPARC’s continuum of service. By 1991, this effort to meet residential needs had grown to 16 homes, a twenty-five-unit apartment complex, and six supported living arrangements.
The Years of Growth
The growth of UPARC accelerated during the 70’s and 80’s, and continued. This growth presented constant demands for associated fiscal growth. Accordingly, the UPARC leadership conceived the plan in February 1979 for the establishment of a second body dedicated to the generation of the necessary resources for UPARC’s financial health.
The UPARC Foundation was thus created by UPARC, providing in the incorporation UPARC approval of the Foundation’s Board with the stipulation that all funds raised be dedicated to UPARC, INC. The Foundation, under able leadership of Dr. William Hale and the late Nell Lokey, has shown commendable growth leading to assurance of UPARC’s long-term fiscal health.
The 90’s were years of explosive growth for UPARC. The programs grew exponentially. UPARC’s financial expenditures have grown dramatically in the past ten years. Due to this dramatic growth and the aging of the facility on Calumet Street, a decision was made to build a new facility.
In conjunction with other community leaders, a coalition was formed to explore the possibility of a joint facility for several agencies, each benefiting from a common administration for the facility.
In the summer of 1990, this long held dream became a reality. UPARC moved into the expansive Long Center, which integrated specially challenged and non-disabled individuals in educational and recreational venues.
This facility, unique in nation, provides UPARC with close to 75,000 square feet of office and program space. Additionally, UPARC has access to an Olympic sized swimming pool, indoor basketball courts and other recreational and educational opportunities.
In 1997 the Tarpon Springs center was added due to a need for adult and children’s services in the Tarpon Springs community. This center was made possible through community donations.
UPARC: The 21st Century
For many families waiting for residential services in the state of Florida, the wait could be up to twenty years. Advocates and families from across the state filed a federal lawsuit to receive the necessary funding for residential services. The judge ruled in favor of the families and the legislation appropriated the necessary funds for services.
UPARC conducted a detailed analysis of the persons’ on the waiting list. As a result, many persons would require highly specialized services and supports. UPARC designed specialized residential homes to serve persons with Aging and Medical issues, Autism, Prader-Willi Syndrome and many differing disabilities.
Today, approaching the year 2010, UPARC is very excited to be on the brink of opening a home dedicated to disabled and troubled children from the foster system. This is the dawning of a new era and direction for the agency. This home is hopefully just the first of perhaps several we will be able to open down the road to help more children in need – just as we continue to help adults with developmentally disabilities in need – as UPARC has been doing with pride and dignity for over 50 years.