60 Years of Movement
What starts a movement? Is it one person’s ability to impact those around them? Is it activating the power we all possess to make a positive difference in the world? For TARC, the movement began 60 years ago and was pioneered by a family who forever changed many lives and significantly propelled our community forward.
As parents of a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), Jeff and Nellie Guidry were no strangers to the fact that services for children and adults with I/DD were nonexistent. While out selling insurance, Jeff noticed a young man chained to a tree with food on a nearby table; that young man was a person with I/DD, who was left alone to fend for himself while his guardian was working and had no one to care for him.
After realizing that other people were experiencing similar challenges due to lack of resources available, Jeff took the first step in establishing the movement by raising awareness. He, his wife, and other parents attended council meetings and police jury meetings, informing the powers that be of the dire need for more services for this community of people. They formed their own school for people with I/DD, and in 1962, the Terrebonne Association for Retarded Citizens (TARC) Program was implemented.
Photo by https://www.terrebonnearc.org/about-us/history-of-tarc/
Over the past 60 years, TARC has provided opportunities for community inclusion, innovative services and the enjoyment of a meaningful life for people with I/DD in Terrebonne Parish. Employing over 175 people with I/DD across the span of their 13 local businesses, TARC is a leading partner in inclusionary employment while adding exponential economic development and growth within our community.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are people first, with any disability taking a back seat to the simple fact that we all want the opportunity to enjoy a meaningful life. Oftentimes those born with no disability struggle to land on proper footing with what language to use, unsure if they are saying the most sensitive collection of words to describe the remarkable, yet sometimes unfamiliar territory. Think of it this way; people first, disability second. Referring to someone as an “Autistic person” insinuates that the only characteristic that person has in life is their Autism. The “person with Autism” verbiage is less limiting on what defines that individual because they are so much more than just their disability. “I think that every one of us has gifts and talents that we give this world, so everyone is a part of this. We’re all humanitarians at heart,” stated Erica Pellegrin, director of division 3 and marketing at TARC.
Earning wages for an honest day’s work is a rewarding feeling for anyone. TARC provides opportunities for people with I/DD to be a productive, contributing member of society while earning their own money and experiencing a level of independence we sometimes take for granted. With various programs offered, people with I/DD are not pigeon-holed into working in one particular setting. “We try to learn that person. We learn what their abilities are, not what their disabilities are,” stated Tiffany Brunet, director of the Bayou Country Café. “We try to match their abilities with whatever programs we have.” In addition to employment, TARC offers other programs and services like transportation, residency, counseling, medical staff and support to people with I/DD, further supporting their mission.
“It has been amazing working for TARC,” stated Lindsay Ocker, waitress at The Bayou Country Café, client representative on the TARC Board of Directors and a person with I/DD. Attaining a following of loyal patrons is no easy feat, yet thanks to her radiating personality and can-do spirit, Lindsay shines bright in her role and serves the community that she adores, and that adores her, well. “I have never found a place that loves me like TARC does or a place that has been there for me. I love it!”
The Terrebonne Parish community has played a vital role in the success of TARC. Community support has been unmatched and having people from various backgrounds coexist for inclusion is a true model that society can benefit from.
This movement has been a journey six decades in the making. It has not been an easy or always comfortable road, but one worth taking for the betterment of all people who call Terrebonne Parish home. Congratulations to TARC for celebrating their 60-year anniversary this year and for continuously living out their mission to provide opportunities for inclusion, independence and choice for people with disabilities in our community and our society.
If you are a parent with a child with I/DD and are looking for more information on joining this program or have questions, please visit TARC | Creating Opportunities (terrebonnearc.org).
Bayou Country Café
Bayouland Yard Crew
Bon Appetite Cafeteria
Cedar Chest Boutiques
Cedar Chest Donation Center
Lagniappe Cleaning Company