During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, there were not many community-based services for children and adults with developmental disabilities, and they were mostly isolated in large institutions away from their families and their communities.
A group of parents lead by Doug and Royce Nichols organized themselves in July 1960 to advocate for their sons and daughters, and what we now know as Leon Advocacy and Resource Center (LARC) was born. For these parents, placing their children in a state-run institution was not an option. They worked with all interested parties, and they found friends and advocates throughout Leon County to make sure their children could live, play, and be a part of their community.
East Hill Baptist Church opened their doors to provide space for training and education. Then Capital City Lions Club stepped in and provided additional support, followed by support from the City of Tallahassee, which helped them obtain a site for their initial program named Candle of Hope School.
As the years went by, these parents and many others throughout Leon County and the State of Florida continued their aggressive advocacy, and through legislation and compassionate officials, a new philosophy of care and treatment was born. This philosophy held that people with developmental and other disabilities can and should live and enjoy the normal flow of life in their community.
LARC was fully involved in these systemic changes. In March 1970, it opened a group home for twelve men who were former residents of Sunland Tallahassee. When the Tallahassee Sunland institution closed in 1983, LARC provided supports to a number of the former residents in small residential settings. LARC also operated an on-site day treatment program.
In 1988, LARC first provided Supported Employment services to assist individuals with interviewing skills, job development, and on-the-job training. In 1991, individuals with developmental disabilities were given the opportunity to own or rent their own homes or apartments through the initiation of Supported Living services. In 1995, LARC closed its day treatment facility, focusing its services on those provided in integrated community settings.
Today LARC provides services in Leon, Gadsden, Jackson, Liberty, Taylor, and Calhoun counties.
Before the concepts of inclusion and community-based services became commonplace, many parents like those who gathered that weekend in July 1960 knew that staying at home in your own community was the right thing to do. It is LARC’s mission to see their dream continue.