The STARC agency is a jewel of the community, and it was gleaming brightly during its recent Halloween festival. The center was decorated with pumpkins and fall greenery, and the clients had just finished handing out candy and treats to their young neighbors at Noah’s ARC Child Development Center. Everyone was wearing their favorite Halloween costume, and laughter echoed off the walls as everyone prepared to eat lunch.

Executive Director Dianne Baham shares, “At STARC, we’re all about helping people with developmental disabilities reach their potential as independent, contributing members of our community. We do that in lots of ways, from providing therapeutic treatment to day care to job training. We’ve helped thousands of people since we started in 1972. While STARC has grown over the years, our services involve reaching out to individuals to connect with the ability that lies behind the disability. You can say that we’re in the business of building independence, day by day and step by step.”

The center offers job training, community-based work opportunities, residential options and day-vocational opportunity. The group also participates in numerous community service projects. Activity is definitely in gear with their partnership with the Northshore/Mandeville Kiwanis Aktion Club. STARC and the Kiwanis group collect coats every year for annual distribution in December. STARC serves as a clearing house for the donations, and the clients sort the coats by size and help determine whether the coats should be cleaned — a service donated to the group by area cleaners. This is STARC’s fifth year participating in the project.

Beth Mitchell, the adult services coordinator, is especially proud of STARC’s Mardi Gras bead recycling program. The group accepts donations yearround at a drop box in front of the building. Residents sort the beads by color and size, and band them into groups of twelve. The beads are sold packaged in large crawfish bags, ready to load onto your float. Mitchell suggests purchasing the beads early, as they do sell out near Mardi Gras. Schools are encouraged to have contests to bring in the most beads for recycling at STARC; for information, contact coordinator C.J. Rogers at (985) 641-0197, ext. 410.

The facility is especially blessed to have the support of the community. Slidell Little Theater hosts a special Christmas production for STARC members and their families in December, and the Slidell Elks Club also hosts a holiday event. The Mandeville STARC is looking forward to its annual Christmas gala in mid-December and would be pleased to welcome volunteers to the event.

This month, STARC will host its annual awards ceremony to honor outstanding clients and staff members. Following the ceremony, a luncheon, sponsored every year by Paul and June Hardy, will celebrate all the milestones met during the year. The 2014 STARC Christmas cards are available for purchase at this time. This year’s artist is Jamie, who works in STARC’s Better Way Services program. The artwork features a delightful Cajun/Bayou theme, and may be purchased at www.heavensentart.org.

Mitchell adds, “One of my favorite quotes of all time inspires me every day to serve. So many of our wonderful volunteers also adhere to this same idea: ‘We can accomplish great things if we do not care who gets the credit.’”

To help STARC achieve great things this holiday season, contact the STARC offices about donating items or volunteering for the Christmas party. The event will feature snacks and live music, and is truly a highlight for the clients at the facility.

The STARC West facility center is at 1705 Viola St., right next to Marigny Elementary School off Highway 59 in Mandeville. Coats and beads can be dropped off at this location, and beads are available for purchase at this time. For information, call (985) 641-0197.

The STARC East offices are at 1541 St. Ann Street in Slidell. For information, call (985) 641-0197. The central phone number has directions to each facility.