ARC of Shelby County Executive Director Karen Stokes retiring

By ROBYN JAMES | Special to the Reporter

Karen Stokes, the Executive Director with the ARC of Shelby County, recently announced her plans to retire at the end of March 2021.

Founded in 1974, the Arc of Shelby County it was started as an advocacy organization by a concerned group of parents with the initial purpose to serve as a support for parents of children with intellectual disabilities.

When Karen became employed at the ARC of Shelby back in 2002, there were only three employees, and today, there are 63 employees who serve individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families.

“The ARC of Shelby County’s success has been realized by the combination of individuals and families, a dedicated staff, the board of directors and community support we have received over the years,” Stokes said. “The level of dedication has been the platform we needed to provide many opportunities for growth of our programs and services. For example, when we first launched our Early Intervention program to help children from birth through the age of 3, we were serving 40 children each month, and today, ARC is able to serve over 200 children each month.”

This incredible growth and organizational expansion has been unprecedented and serves as a model for other nonprofit organizations to remain diligent, have a careful business growth plan and bring the right individuals and groups together to make a difference in the lives of those they serve.

The Arc’s Employment Program has also been extremely successful to assist individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve their career goals by connecting them as employees with community employers across the county.

ARC has received extensive support from community partners over the years including the Shelby County Commission, United Way of Central Alabama, South West Water, Shelby Baptist Medical Center and countless others.

With their help, the organization has grown and now offers a variety of community-based programs to serve different areas across Shelby County.

“I fell in love with the work, families and individuals we serve, our dedicated staff and all the people I had the opportunity to work alongside through the ARC journey,” Stokes said of her time with the organization.

Stokes’ spirit of service will continue in retirement. After 38 years of serving others throughout her career, she is determined to seek new opportunities to volunteer her time, passion and energy toward.

That is, of course, after she takes some much needed time to relax and spend more quality time with family.

The ARC of Shelby County is already beginning their search to hire a new Executive Director to oversee their work and mission. More information can be found on their website at Thearcofshelby.org.