Our History


Our History

The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties (The Arc) was started in 1967 by Parke and Helen Speary and a group of concerned local families who sought new opportunities for their children to lead fulfilling, engaged, inclusive lives as active members of our communities. At that time, little was known about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and there was virtually no support or programs to serve people with disabilities and their families in their communities.

Like every parent, our founding families wanted more for their children. Instead of shuttering their loved ones away in an institution as was the standard recommendation by doctors in the mid-1900’s, the Spearys and The Arc’s founding families were determined to advocate for their children and help them achieve their life’s goals as fully included members of their communities. What began as a handful of families coming together to support their children and others in our Lehigh Valley communities quickly evolved into something much bigger–a powerful movement.

These founding families were resolutely focused on helping their children continue to learn and grow, and soon began gathering in a church basement to provide services in support of their loved ones’ continued development and well-being. In time, more and more families and citizens joined hands with the Spearys and our chapter’s founders to act as a voice for change. It was in that spirit that The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties was born!



The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties champions a life of inclusion, opportunity, and equity for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through advocacy, education, and support.


The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties envisions that all people with IDD are valued, respected, and fully included members of their community with the right to choose where they live, learn, work, and play.

Over the next few decades, an era of growth, expansion, and improvements followed at The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties:

Advocacy, which from day one was a core pillar of our organization, grew throughout the years as The Arc expanded our team of Advocates to help us create more opportunities, equity, and inclusion in our communities.

    The ‘Life After School Program,’ which began with a few families in a church basement, continued to grow, was licensed, and evolved into what is now our SPARC program.

    In the late 1990s, Lehigh and Northampton Counties sought help implementing a pilot program for individuals with IDD and families that wanted the ability to self-direct their services. The Counties turned to The Arc for help, and what began as a small program known as the ‘Employer of Record’ program quickly took off and became our largest program, the Agency with Choice program.

    Today, we continue to operate with the same individual and family-focused values that formed our humble beginnings over fifty-five years ago. We know how important it is for people with IDD and their families to have the necessary supports, guidance, and resources to help them live their fullest life. That’s why we’re here… to help you and your family thrive!

    Want to learn more about the history of the disability movement and our affiliation with The Arc of the United States and The Arc of Pennsylvania?

    Community-Based Programs and Services

    We are proud to provide and/or administer four different community-based programs and services designed to facilitate full inclusion and meet the needs of children and adults with IDD in Lehigh and Northampton Counties:

    Advocacy Program

    The Arc’s Advocacy program is the core service offered by The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties since the organization was founded in 1967 and the cornerstone service upon which The Arc of the United States was founded over seventy years ago. The Arc’s Advocacy department provides advocacy resources and support for people with IDD of all ages via 1:1 Individual Advocacy, Resource Coordination, and Webinar Trainings to both educate and empower individuals and families as they navigate the early intervention, education, and/or adult systems. Our Advocacy services are offered to qualifying families at no cost to the public, the family, or our communities.

    SPARC Program 

    SPARC is a waiver-funded, state-licensed adult support program which serves people in Lehigh and Northampton Counties via both community and facility-based day services. The SPARC Program is a day program which is partnered with dozens of organizations and businesses throughout the Lehigh Valley in order to afford program participants the opportunity to be engaged in activities directed towards life skills development and various therapy outlets such as pet and/or music therapy.

    Agency with Choice Program

    Agency with Choice is a waiver-funded, self-directed personal care service supporting individuals based in Lehigh and Northampton Counties. The Agency with Choice model allows an individual or the surrogate of their choosing to select persons of their choice to be hired as their direct support when needed within the individuals’ home and communities.

    Family Driven
    Family Support Services 

    The Arc also supports Lehigh County by administering FD/FSS services and circulating The Bi-County Observer for eligible families that reside in Lehigh County. The Bi-County Observer provides thousands of individuals and families with important local news and information at bi-monthly intervals throughout the year.

    Follow Us on Our Social Networks

    Contact Us Form

    If you are in need of Advocacy resources or assistance, please complete the Advocacy Intake Form. 

    Become a Member of The Arc >

    Donate >

    Take Action in Pennsylvania >

    Take Action Nationally >


    2289 Avenue A
    Bethlehem, PA 18017-2107

    Call Us




    Join Our Mailing List

    © 2022 The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties | All Rights Reserved | Designed by Imagevolution