Arc of Shelby County Marks Its 50th Year of Helping Individuals Live Their Fullest Lives

Photo Credit: The Arc of Shelby County

March is National Developmental Disability Month and, throughout all of 2024, the Arc of Shelby County (ASC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To acknowledge both occasions, United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) is highlighting ASC along with the Arc of Central Alabama and the Arc of Walker County – all partner agencies — for the work they do to ensure wellness and quality of life for people in our community with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The work of these organizations means almost as much to the people employed there as it does to those they help on a daily basis. ASC Executive Director Jeannine Lyons, for example, said she has been personally impacted by countless individuals and families who participate in the organization’s programs ever since joining ASC in 2002.

She often thinks of one particular boy she visited within days of his birth when she was working as Director of Children’s Services.

“I had the honor of going in and meeting a family in the neonatal intensive care unit,” Lyons said. The parents had been given some gripping news about their son. “We were the first call they made,” she said.

The new baby boy had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that can affect a person’s body movement, muscle control and coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. But within weeks of discharge from the hospital, ASC was providing the infant with life-changing physical therapy.

“That was 18 years ago,” Lyons said, “and we are still following the journey of that individual, as he’s progressed through early intervention services all the way through the school system services and is now about to graduate high school.”

“We become part of a client’s family,” Lyons added.

Having been with ASC for nearly half of the organization’s 50 years, Lyons said her work with the organization has been deeply meaningful.

“It’s an honor to be able to serve the individuals that we provide support to,” Lyons said. “A lot of times over the years, families and individuals have thanked us for providing the services…but they have really touched my life.”

Each of the Arcs pursues the mission of enabling people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live their fullest lives. Today, ASC, the Arc of Central Alabama and the Arc of Walker County all provide services to children and adults specifically designed to achieve that goal.

For children, the principal program offered by each of the organizations is Early Intervention, which provides tailored therapy plans from birth through the toddler phase.

For adults, each organization offers an array of services, including help with navigating public programs, employment training and matching, day programs that provide behavioral support and life-skills coaching and referrals to community resources for further assistance – just to name a few.

More opportunities are available now than ever before for people living with disabilities in Central Alabama. The Arcs are tasked with helping in whatever way they can. Through their work, they are actually creating opportunities, and helping people capitalize on them as they become available.

“There are opportunities everywhere now for children and adults with disabilities to have meaningful lives in Shelby County,” Lyons said, “and our job is to just support whatever those goals might look like for those specific individuals.” To learn more about the impact of UWCA’s massive network of programs and services across our six-county region, visit