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  • Writer's pictureArc Public Relations

Organization helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Posted: Jun 27, 2023 / 07:32 AM CDT

Updated: Jun 27, 2023 / 07:32 AM CDT



MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Every Tuesday as part of our community changers series, we highlight organizations making Memphis better. This week, we caught up with a group that believes in respect, dignity, and inclusion.


Shirley Hayes started creating her support village years ago to help her daughter Shanita Harvey.


“It’s rough being a single parent and if you have a special needs child, you’ll always need some type of help from somebody if it ain’t nothing but calling you on the phone or reading a book,” Hayes said. “She’s autistic and has other disabilities that hinder her from doing things herself.”




Shirley discovered the Arc Mid-South when Shanita was three. A non-profit organization that empowers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Carlene Leaper is the executive director.


“We educate, advocate and protect the rights of citizens with disabilities,” Leaper said.

They have a job readiness and career development room where they learn the fundamentals of a computer as well as how to change light bulbs. They also provide family support, respite care, and help with literacy.


“One example, one guy wanted to read his light bill,” Leaper said. “You think that it’s so not important. But teaching literacy is teaching them how to live independently.”

Their respite care program was very helpful for Shirley. It offered relief for her to recharge.


“It gives you peace of mind. Everybody needs a break. Everybody needs a vacation,” Hayes said. “A lot of people think people with a disability need to be in a nursing home. That’s not true. They need to have their own safe place they can live and be able to do the things they can do. If they can’t do it, have a trainer help them do it or do it for them.”


That is why Brown Missionary Baptist Church wanted to give the Arc Mid-South $1,000. Because being a resource for a community that tends to be overlooked is life-changing.

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