RUMFORD – The Rumford Historical Society heard Joe Sirois speak on ARC, formerly called the Oxford County Retarded Children’s Organization, at the last meeting.

Until that organization was formed in 1956, retarded children and adults were kept away from public view or sent to Pownal or Pineland. A group of adults in Rumford, spearheaded by Margaret Belliveau, decided that such children should be treated with dignity and compassion.

Even before the Maine Department of Mental Retardation was formed, Hope School was founded and opened in one room of the Mechanic’s Institute in Rumford. Later the group purchased the home in Mexico that was the permanent site of Hope School.

In 1976, Horizons Unlimited was built as living quarters for young adults.

Today, children are mainstreamed into the public school. After graduation they may go to the Adult Activities Center in the former Armory to learn job training and living skills. There are 85 clients working there and living in Horizons, New Hope, 45th Street Group Home or on their own.

Shortly after Sirois became CEO in 2002, the group reorganized and became one of the 1,000 entities in the National ARC. The local group is funded by the state, by the What Not Shop, the Green House, the Snowmobile Ride In and Sunday bingo parties.

At the same meeting the book, “The History of Rumford, Maine,” was on display. It is by Jack Leane and Elliot Burns and is being sold by the society for $25 plus tax.

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