Ridge Area Arc celebrates success 

Consumers, staff and community supporters honored 

AVON PARK – Ridge Area Arc celebrated its accomplishments and honored its consumers, staff and community supporters during its annual awards celebration. The event was held in the Grogan Center at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church. The celebration gives the agency an opportunity to not only celebrate and reflect on the success of 2018, but also to glimpse into 2019 with new initiatives and opportunities.

“I was not with Ridge Area Arc for the entire year in 2018 but as I reflected on the changes that Arc saw, the thing that resonated with me the most was the loyal nature of our staff and consumers,” said Kathleen Border, Arc Chief Executive Officer. “That loyalty and love of the agency is really at the backbone of everything we do now and into our future.”

Community awards were given at the celebration. Alternative Behavioral Concepts, Inc. was honored with the Community Partner Award. Candice Ciesla, Ridge Area Arc’s Director of Programs and Services, presented the award recognizing the agency as one that continuously nurtures a mutually beneficial relationship with the Arc and lobbies for disability rights in Tallahassee. 

Publix Supermarkets was honored with the People First! Advocate Award. Publix was honored for its advocacy at the local and corporate levels as they remain on of the leading employers of persons with disabilities in Highlands County and the state of Florida.

Judy Vekasy provided piano music at the event and was honored as Ridge Area Arc’s volunteer of the Year. Vekasy leads sing-alongs with Arc consumers and promotes Arc’s mission by providing opportunities for the individuals to be exposed to new and fun musical experiences. Cindy Marshall, Arc’s Director of Program Development presented Vekasy with her award and led the crowd in a “Hit it Judy!” cheer.

United Way of Central Florida was awarded Arc’s Hero of the Year award. United Way of Central Florida has a long history with Ridge Area Arc and has helped to increase Arc’s donor base. The connection between the organizations is a close one, sharing several past and present board members. United Way of Central Florida partners with The Arc and affords the agency with the opportunity to promote its mission.

Several Ridge Area Arc consumers were honored. Raymond Jackson, Residential Consumer of the Year; Angela Luft , Supported Living Consumer of the Year; Timothy Dowdy, Life Skills Training – ADT Consumer of the Year; Katra Hill, Life Skill Training – ADT Intensive Consumer of the Year; Sharon Carpenter, Community Employment Consumer of the Year.

Arc staff who were celebrating a service milestone were also honored:

Twenty-five year employment anniversary
Lisa Williams – Group Home Manager
Fannie Hoppes – Resale Manager

Twenty year employment anniversary
Maria Rivera – Director of Health & Safety & Quality Assurance

Fifteen year employment anniversary
Nicole Stephens – ADT Program Specialist
Ruby Harris – Case Manager
Tyeise Caldwell – Resale Store Associate

Ten year employment anniversary
Ruby Thomas – Residential Assistant

Five year employment anniversary
Grace Walton – Residential Assistant
Terrell Davis – Residential Assistant
Author Hilton – ADT Program Specialist
Karen Jones – Billing Coordinator


Ridge Area Arc is a private, not for profit 501(c)3 organization, which was founded in 1957 by Franklyn and Mary Ellen Ward. Ridge Area Arc provides an array of services and support for nearly 200 families and individuals and is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our vision is that every individual and family affected by intellectual disability in our service area has access to the information, advocacy, and skills they need to participate as active citizens of our democracy and active members of their community. We work to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families have the supports they need to live an ordinary American life.


FROM LEFT: Ridge Area Arc’s Volunteer of the Year Judy Vekasy and Fannie Goff. Goff is Vekasy’s official music page turner during Arc Sing-Alongs.

FROM LEFT: Christen Johnson, Arc Foundation Board of Trustees member, Publix Assistant customer service manager Andrea Welch, Ridge Area Arc CEO Kathleen Border, United Way of Central Florida’s Ansley Woods and Raymond “Mack” Smith at the annual awards celebration.