History of The Arc Gateway

Arc Gateway has been opening doors for people with developmental disabilities since 1954, but the parents who made Arc what it is today actually began their work back in 1947. A small, dedicated group of local parents wanted their children to have every opportunity to learn and grow, so they opened a one-room school house.


In 1954, these parents drafted a constitution, appointed Mrs. Pearl Nelson their first president, and became members of the state and national Associations for Retarded Children. In the years that followed, these visionary founders were joined by others who shared their dreams.


Over time, the parents who began Arc saw their children’s needs change. They responded by developing new programs, including the Pollak Activity Center and the Pollak Rehabilitation Workshop. These day programs gave adults with developmental disabilities an opportunity to continue to learn and grow – and even opportunities to work.


Meanwhile, programs for children continued to expand as experts realized that early intervention was critical to development in children with or at risk of developmental delays. In 1974, Arc Gateway began the Infant Stimulation Program; and in 1977, the Pearl Nelson Center became the Pearl Nelson Preschool, serving children ages two to five.


While the day programs provided venues for children and adults to learn and work, aging parents began to see a need for residential support programs. As a result, Arc’s first group home, the Women’s Residential Training Center, opened in 1978.


Arc continued to expand and provide opportunities for greater independence. From enclaves at Armstrong World Industries, to supported employment and supported living programs, Arc’s services reflected the changing needs and interests of the people they served.


Today, The Arc Gateway serves more than 800 children and adults. Programs range from early intervention services, pediatric therapy and child care to retirement programs for senior citizens. Day programs include self-help training, basic academic classes and work opportunities at Arc and throughout the community. Residential programs include six group homes in the community and support for individuals living in their own homes.


From its humble beginnings in a one-room school house, The Arc Gateway has continued the commitment of those first parents and members. We still strive to offer children and adults with developmental disabilities opportunities to contribute to our community and choose where they will live, learn, work and play.

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The Arc Gateway is a proud partner agency of the United Way of Escambia County

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© The Arc Gateway, Inc.
3932 N. 10th Ave., Pensacola FL 32503
P: 850-434-2638, F: 850-438-2180