What We Do

Ridge Area Arc in Avon Park, Florida is a private, not for profit 501(c)3 organization, which was founded in 1957 by Franklyn and Mary Ellen Ward. At the time their son, Rob, was born there were very few places to work with disabled children. Many families sent their child away to a distant institution. The Wards did not want to send their son away and sought a way to provide the needed educational resources and training. They also realized other families in the area needed these services. Thus, the Ridge Area Arc Day School began in 1957, and served 17 children ages seven and older from Highlands, Hardee and DeSoto counties.

Arc now provides 10 services to approximately 190 individuals with developmental and other disabilities from Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties.

Ridge Area Arc is a member of The Arc of the United States and The Arc of Florida. Arc is supported through private contributions, Ridge Area Arc Foundation, as well as the following community partnerships:


The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) wanted to acknowledge providers and staff annually who have gone above and beyond in helping people reach their dreams, so they piloted an “Annual Area Quality Service Awards” program in collaboration with the Area 14 Family Care Council. Each award is decided by commitment and dedication in helping people with disabilities realize their outcomes.

The APD presented a new award, the “Community Life Award”. Community involvement is so very important to have because it can enhance the quality of lives for so many individuals. Being connected with your community plays an important role when developing social ties and trust in others. The community has many resources for personal support, enjoyment and development. It builds a foundation and helps one realize their true sense of fulfillment.

This award was presented to the Ridge Area Arc. Although Arc provides numerous services that have connected individuals with developmental and other disabilities to the community, the focus of this award was on their dedication and commitment in providing employment services. Their Community Employment Director and Employment Services Specialists have dedicated their careers to assisting individuals in becoming more independent by training and educating them to reach their capabilities and by providing them with the opportunity to choose and realize their goals through job placement, work experience opportunities, job coaching, employability skills training and follow-along services.

Another program that APD pointed out was the Special STARS program. Arc staff members volunteer their own time to make the program a success, not only for the individuals served by Ridge Area Arc, but other agencies in the area. STAR events and activities combine individuals with disabilities and members of the community.

The APD thanked Arc for their continued commitment in assisting individuals in reaching their goal of employment and for their support and leadership within the community.