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Marsha Blanco chapter 4


Chapter 1: Background
Chapter 2: Early Career, Parent Reaction to Conditions at Polk State School and Hospital
Chapter 3: Creating Community Supports
Chapter 4: Marsha Becomes Executive Director of Allegheny County ARC (you are here)
Chapter 5: Advocating to Close Institutions, Pennhurst Lawsuit
Chapter 6: Closure of Western Center
Chapter 7: Federal Mandate for Early Intervention, ARC Becomes ACHIEVA
Chapter 8: Working to Continually Innovate
Chapter 9: Reflections on Career

transcript - entire interview

Marsha Blanco Interview (Word)

transcript - current chapter

Chapter 4: Marsha Becomes Executive Director of Allegheny County ARC

08:43:27:10 - 08:45:03:00

Lisa: Marsha how long did you work for the Department of Welfare?

Marsha: Only for about three and a half or four years.

Lisa: And where did you go after that?

Marsha: I went right to, what was then ARC Allegheny and now ACHIEVA. It was ... an opportunity actually came up in camping and recreation and then advocacy and within a short period of time, I suppose a year and a half of my being with the ARC Allegheny I was asked to step in as an acting Executive Director and they did a national search and came back to me, and it was like nine months later, and said would you please accept this job? So I guess I was about... goodness, 29 years of age. Little background in administration; it might have all been clinically really, oriented - but there I had wonderful mentors. One of our trustees who happened to be one of the top people, Arthur Anderson here in town at that time would have me over on Sunday afternoons and a football game might be on in the background but he instructed me and most of the financial knowledge I have today was through volunteers mentoring me.

08:45:03:20 - 08:46:03:05

Lisa: Why did that organization, why did the Allegheny ARC feel like a good match for you? Why did you want to be a part of it?

Marsha: I think I've always been a person who dreams. My glass is always half full and I just could relate, particularly to the family members and co-workers who were very driven by a sense of justice, driven by a sense of civil rights, driven by a sense of how would I say this... we didn't believe that we knew what we were doing but we believed that there would be ways that we could learn and things that we could do to innovate and move the ball forward and I just to this day, that's the heart and soul of the organization and so it was just a good match for me and sort of my characteristics and personal wishes of what I wanted to accomplish with my life.

08:46:10:20 - 08:47:16:00

Lisa: Marsha, the Allegheny ARC - actually, please correct me. Is it ARC Allegheny County or Allegheny County ARC?

Marsha: Ah, we've gone through a lot of name changes. Originally, believe it or not, we recently received an estate - the remainder of an estate. And that was from our first name so it must have been written in the 1950s to the mid-1960s which was the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children, Inc. Allegheny County chapter. We had big long names then.

Lisa: Has that changed in the disability field? I'm not sure. ACHIEVA's very pithy but I don't know. Look at our own organization.

Marsha: Long names and then we tend to use a lot of acronyms which I try to avoid because it can be really confusing for self-advocates and family members when we go into our jargon, yeah.

Lisa: So if I say Allegheny County ARC I'm not committing any great offense.

Marsha: You are not.

Lisa: Okay. Good!

08:47:16:01 - 08:48:11:06

Lisa: Allegheny ARC certainly had a very strong reputation for advocacy; maybe one of the strongest in the state. Was it the organization's goal to eventually close Polk or other centers?

Marsha: Yes. Simple answer again; we had a strong, strong... there was moms out there seeing what was going on. I mean they did. They visited statewide and that became a passion for our chapters - our particular chapter here in Pittsburgh. When, in fact, all of our information is archived at the University of Pittsburgh from about 1951 - our founding - minutes and everything, through probably the early 70s.

08:48:45:00 - 08:49:22:16

Lisa: And do those minutes reflect the desire of parents to close state centers? Is that something you would be able to find there?

Marsha: Most definitely. In fact if you were to go back to the records of the ARC of Pennsylvania you will find that it was the ARC of Allegheny pushing and pushing the ARC of Pennsylvania to get more involved in not only visiting, but deinstitutionalization and of course you also have the ARC of Philadelphia at that time. And we were working hand and glove toward that goal.

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