Levy ARC Director Betty Walker was all smiles last week, standing with a group of people in LARC's cafeteria in front of dozens of men and women who receive services from the organization that, since the 1970s, has strived to make a difference in the lives of the intellectually and developmentally disabled in the Tri-County area.
"This is Keith Maynard," she told the LARC clients, moments before the room erupted in cheering. " And he's here to help keep us in business."
Maynard, heading up this year's Wild Hog Canoe and Kayak Race, a benefit for LARC, was there to present a check for $11,600, the most ever donated from the event.
"Everybody was so great," Walker said of the organizers of this year's race. "These people here worked so hard .... When you go out begging for money, it's not an easy job."
"It's our honor and our blessing," Maynard said, adding that next year he and the committee that puts the event on hope to raise even more money.
"This was out first year doing it," he said. "We didn't know what to expect," explaining that a portion of the money was used for promotion of the event and setting up a 501(c)3.
Maynard said a piggy bank drive set up in area churches and a charity golf tournament in the works are also hoped to contribute more money to the cause.
"From what I gather, that will bring in another $6,000 to $7,000."
Walker said the effort by the community has helped put her mind at ease.
"I tell you what, this is a blessing," she said. "If it weren't for the people ..."
Statewide, for the last decade or so, ARC groups and the intellectually and developmentally disabled have seen a year-to-year decrease in funding.
Deborah Linton, executive director for the ARC of Florida, said LARC, which currently serves 34 clients, has not seen a rate increase since 2002.
Tax records for LARC show funding from the state dropping by about 1/3 since 2008.
There was, however, a bit of good news this year, Linton said.
"This year in the legislature has been better for us than in many, many years."
The Florida legislature approved a Medicaid waiver that will allow about 800 people needing services to come off a waiting list, she said. Lynton said there about 20,000 people statewide still waiting to receive services.
Legislators also improved funding to increase adult day training programs and for dental services.
"We've still got a long ways to go, but we're really happy that happened," Linton said.
Florida, compared to other states, is at the lower end for funding of such programs, which is a concern, considering that so many retirees come to the state, according to Linton.
The parents of the intellectually and developmentally disabled come to Florida and say, "Oh, my gosh, there's nothing here for my child."
She said she's glad knowing that people in the community come together to try and make up for the shortfall in dollars.