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Celebrating 70 Years


70 years is a long time. It is a great pleasure to share this anniversary with our community!

We would like to take this time to thank all of our volunteers, employees, donors, sponsors, affiliated families, board members and our community for being there with us every step of the way.

In order to honor our organization and those who support us, we have organized a gala at the stunning Blount Mansion gardens on September 22nd from 6-9pm. The night will encompass a secret garden feel equipped with a bluegrass string band, open bar, silent auction as well as a pasta dinner. We invite and hope to see all our supporters dressed up with us for a great evening filled with style, music and community. Tickets are all-inclusive. Use PROMO code: SUNSHINEFOREVER for a 10% discount on the first 10 tickets sold. Click here to purchase tickets!

Bluegrass String Band: Blind House

-A four-person string band that exists in an intersection of traditional Bluegrass, Old Time and Indie Rock. Historically they have been described as artists like Sufjan Stevens or Nickel Creek.

Rasta Pasta: Delicious & Nutritious

They provide top-quality organic Cajun / Italian / Jamaican pasta with lots of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options full of flavor.

They are passionate about loving each other and the planet we share, which is why they focus on producing no waste.

Silent Auction Items:

    • Gift card - GNJ Auto Graphics
    • 4 photo packages - David Clapp Photography
    • 10 person tour/theater book - Tennessee Theater
    • Gift card - Broadway Nail Bar
    • Potholder sets - Joanne's
    • 5 gallons of interior paint in any color - Farrell-Calhoun Paint
    • Alumni box and poster - University of Tennessee Knoxville
    • Gift basket - Altered State
    • Gift card - Nothing Too Fancy


Our History

The Arc Knox County was founded in 1952 by a group of parents of children with disabilities, professional people, and other interested persons. The organization was called the Knox County Council for Retarded Children and in 1953 it was chartered as a non-profit corporation. In 1964 the name was changed from Children to Citizens, reflecting the organization’s concern for adults as well as children.

For the first 20 years of its existence, the Agency devoted most of its efforts to providing educational programs for children who were refused admittance to the public schools on the grounds that they were thought to have too severe of a disability to attend.

The first program which the Agency organized was a small class formed in 1953, which met in a church basement. In 1961 the Arc, with financial support from the Downtown Sertoma Club, founded the Sertoma Preparatory School. A short time later, a daycare center for children with profound disabilities was added to the program.

In 1969 the Planning Committee of the Arc Knox County, members of the Sertoma Club, and other interested individuals became incorporated as the first Board of Directors of the Sunshine Learning Center. This program merged the Sertoma Preparatory School and the Arc Daycare Center and then expanded its services to include all children with disabilities that the public schools would not serve. It is now called the Sertoma Learning Center and is no longer affiliated with the Arc Knox County.

In 1973 legislation was passed in the State of Tennessee which required that the public schools provide appropriate educational programs for all handicapped children between the ages of 4 and 21, no matter how severe their disability might be. As a result, it became no longer necessary for the Arc to provide programs for school-aged children, as these were mandated by the Department of Education.

The Arc had become concerned about adults with intellectual disabilities as well. In 1962 the Arc and the Civitan Club established the Dempster Memorial Workshop to provide vocational training for adults with disabilities. This program is now Dempster Memorial Good Industries and is no longer affiliated with the Arc Knox County.

In 1967 the Northside Kiwanis Club made a special contribution to establish a crafts class for persons with disabilities. In 1969 this became the Sunshine Sheltered Craft Shop. Individuals at the Craft Shop made and sold such items as giftwrap bows, yardstick holders, and key chains. In 1970 the Craft Shop received a contract from Container Corporation of America to assemble cardboard boxes. During that same year the name was changed to the Sunshine Sheltered Workshop.

In 1977 the Arc loaned its Executive Director to Gateway House, Inc., to work on establishing a group home for children with intellectual disabilities and founding the Gateway House Corporation. That project was completed in December of 1977, and the group provided residential services for 15 children, some of whom were residents of Greene Valley Developmental Center prior to their admission to Gateway.

The Arc also established Parent-to-Parent in 1977; this was a volunteer counseling program for parents of newborns with a disability. This program was an attempt to reach out to new parents and put them in contact with another parent of a child with a disability, from whom they could receive moral support, friendship, and advice.

In 1980 the Arc obtained a grant from the Office of Developmental Disabilities with which to establish a Preschool Program. The program is home-based and emphasizes the role of parents in teaching their children in their natural environment. In the beginning years approximately 30 babies were served every year, with the teacher meeting with each family once a week.

The Arc obtained funds from Developmental Disabilities in 1981 with which to produce a movie about individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for use as an educational tool in local high schools. The film was shown in dozens of health and biology classes in Knoxville and Knox County schools, as well as to classes at Walters State Community College, TVA employee groups, church groups, PTA’s and others.

In the fall of 1982 the Arc received funds from the State with which to establish a residential program for severely behaviorally disordered/intellectually disabled adolescents. This program was the first of its kind in the State of Tennessee. The program provided a therapeutic environment and behavioral training for eight adolescent males for whom no other residential placement was appropriate. The program was funded by the State and supplemented by the Arc. This program closed in 2002, as the need for it decreased with the move toward supported living homes throughout the State who could serve this population.

In June of 1983 the Arc added the Independent Living Program to its array of services. This program provides apartment living for between 15-20 adults with an intellectual disability. Staff provide residents with training in independent living skills and offer other assistance as needed. The program is funded chiefly through Arc and the residents themselves, with some funding by United Way.

In 1984 Sunshine Workshop expanded its services to include a metal shop and training for workers in metal shop operations. The shop began production of a metal coffee supplies cabinet with wooden doors and top. Shortly after the metal shop opened, the Workshop received a contract from GSA to produce mental bookcases under the J.W.O.D. set-aside program. During 1985 the Workshop (which has changed its name to Sunshine Industries) produced over 14,000 bookcases without a single quality complaint even though over 85% of the direct labor on the bookcases is performed by persons with a disability.

In 1985 the Arc and Sunshine Industries moved into a new 36,000sf facility. The increased space greatly increased production capability and permitted the employment of nearly twice as many workers. Sunshine Industries now employs approximately 75 workers, some of whom work on labor-intensive jobs that are sub-contracted by local industries and others who are employed in the metal shop, where they learn to operate punch presses, welders, benders, and other tools in the manufacture of bookcases. The goal for all workers is to achieve competitive jobs in the community.

In 1986 the Arc opened the Adult Training Program, a residential program for behaviorally disordered and intellectually disabled adult males. This was a companion program to the Adolescent Training Program. It closed in 2007, as the State continued to utilize supported living homes in lieu of group homes.

Also in 1986 a Job Placement grant was received from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Several hundred referrals were place in competitive jobs over the course of this four-year grant.

In September of 1987 a cooperative agreement was entered into by the Arc, Knox County Schools, and the Tennessee School for the Deaf to transition students and other individuals from each of these agencies into the competitive work force through job skill training at the Hyatt Regency. This program operated until the fall of 1993. It too was very successful in placing graduates into competitive jobs.

In 1988 a leisure program began in order to assist individuals with developing their leisure skills. A monthly schedule of activities provides an array of choices of recreational activities. Staff provide transportation to activities and supervision. Activities range from weekly outings to sports events to annual week-long vacations.

In August of 1991 a job placement grant to transition graduating seniors from high school to work was received by KCARC from Vocational Rehabilitation. Comprehensive Community Support for Employment worked closely with Knox County Schools over the next four years, helping hundreds of young adults’ transition into competitive employment. Additional components of this grant addressed residential and leisure issues, recognizing the importance of a holistic view of an individual’s life, and the impact on employment that these areas have. This program operated through 1995.

In 2018 the Community Participation and Facility-Based day services programs were established. With an emphasis on community integration and competitive employment, the Community Participation Program provides activities for individuals interested in learning about the many options available to them, including job exploration, volunteering opportunities, and leisure activities during the week. The Facility-Based Day Program consists of facility-based sessions that provide educational and community integration services to persons supported. Sessions include a variety of topics, with an emphasis on employment issues, such as work attitude, teamwork, workplace ethics, interviewing skills, etc.