PARC has been serving individuals with developmental disabilities and their families for over 60 years. PARC was founded by a group of parents of disabled children who wanted to provide their children with services to meet their special needs and give them every opportunity for a full life. This parent group founded a special school for their children and eventually became known as Peoria Association of Retarded Children or PARC.
PARC was officially incorporated in 1957; and in 1959, Barbara Smiley was appointed as PARC’s first Executive Director. In 1970, ground was broken for PARC’s first residential facility that was later named the Barbara P. Smiley Living Center in honor of the first director. In 1967, the first early intervention program in the state of Illinois for children birth to three years old was founded at PARC. In the late 1960’s, PARC began to provide additional services at the Allied Agencies Center.
In the early 70’s, the name of the organization was changed to the Peoria Association of Retarded Citizens. In 1977, residential services were expanded by purchasing a 114 bed facility in West Peoria. The early 1980’s saw the continued expansion of residential opportunities and the transition from large residential facilities to community living in group homes. In 1995, PARC consolidated many services in one location with the purchase and renovation of the Townline Road facility. The Respite Care Center opened in 2001. In 2008, the organization adopted the use of the name PARC.
Originally organized to serve ten children with mental retardation, PARC now serves over 600 individuals and their families annually – people of all ages with many kinds of developmental disabilities including, but not limited to cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, autism, and epilepsy. Programs and services offered to assist those with developmental disabilities and their families include: adult day programs, employment and vocational programs, respite care, recreational opportunities, ongoing education and family support programs, early intervention services and residential options.