Several hundred people showed up at the Castine Center on Oct. 16 to pledge their unwavering support to STARC, a 42-year-old St. Tammany-based group that provides services, training, advocacy, resources and community connections to people with disabilities.

The STARC for Life Breakfast turned out to be a grand affair in Pelican Park’s Castine Center, with civic and business leaders showing up to mingle with STARC staff and clients. The idea of the breakfast is to show thanks to those who help the group each year, as well as to raise further awareness of the work STARC does.

“It serves a dual purpose,” STARC Executive Director Dianne Baham said. “We want the community at large to know what we’re about and who we are. Wherever they are, we want them to think of us and refer people to us for services. This is a way to give back to the community, too.”

STARC serves more than 1,300 north shore residents and their families through 14 different programs for the very young to the elderly. Though the group does receive some state and federal funding, it’s not enough to cover the growing needs of the north shore, which has seen exponential population growth since STARC was founded in 1972.

“We have unfunded mandates that we have to face year after year,” Baham said, while adding that St. Tammany Parish has a higher rate of individuals with disabilities than the national average. “We have to up the ante.”

The STARC for Life Breakfast was a step in that direction. Guests dined on traditional breakfast fare at the event and enjoyed music by internationally renowned musician Ronnie Kole, a longtime ambassador for STARC. Guest speakers included WWL-TV’s Doug Mouton and WWL-Radio’s Mike Detillier. STARC for Life co-chairmen were Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith and Mandeville City Councilman Rick Danielson.

Testimonials by STARC parents and clients were offered, and other special guests were honored. Baham and others presented remarks, and a video of STARC’s programs in action was played for the crowd.

“The real emphasis is that STARC is indeed for life,” Baham said. “We begin at birth and want to enhance a person’s life from that point all the way to adulthood and beyond. The wonderful and generous people of St. Tammany have allowed us to do that — to help make that dream come true.

“They say courtesy is contagious. And, really, the cycle never stops. It’s as simple as that.”

For information on STARC and its programs for people with special needs, visit www.starcla.org or call (985) 641-0197.