PUBLISHED: 1:38 PM on Wednesday, September 24, 2008
REACH celebrates 30th anniversary
Sept. 24 gathering will offer reflection of past, insight into REACH's future
Three decades ago, REACH, Inc. was born out of a dream of local families who wanted more for their children. Today, the organization invites Juneau to join in celebrating its 30th anniversary.

From REACH's beginning in the basement of the Resurrection Lutheran Church to its current Third Street location, the mission has remained the same: promoting choice and well-being for people with disabilities.

"There were five families who had children with developmental disabilities. They worked together to organize activities for their children and ended up forming REACH," said REACH Executive Director Richard Fagundes.

Since then REACH has grown so that it now employs over 200 people and serves 400 individuals throughout Southeast Alaska.

REACH provides a wide array of services beginning at birth. The infant learning program serves children from birth to age three, diagnosing developmental delays and providing therapy.

"(About) 70 percent of our infant clients exit the program with no further delays," Fagundes said.

For some, services continue into adulthood. Programs are aimed at helping individuals with disabilities to be active participants in the community. There are opportunities for employment, support for daily living, and recreational activities, to name a few of the services.

Fagundes speaks glowingly of the shared commitment of his staff.

"We provide these services utilizing over 200 employees who come to work each day with the desire to make a difference in the lives of our clients, the client's families and the community," he said.

"This is really an agency which benefits the entire community," he continued. "It brings people with disabilities into the general community. It allows people to see their attributes and what they can contribute to the wider community and to the world."

REACH has continued to develop programs so those involved with the program can also mingle in their communities.

"Last year we opened the Canvas Community Art Studio and Gallery, which is open to the general population," Fagundes said. "It offers all kinds of arts classes year round and allows people to work along side our clients and see them for the strengths that they have."

The community is invited to attend REACH's 30th anniversary celebration on Wednesday, Sept 24 from 4pm to 6pm at 213 Third Street. There will be refreshments, tours and a short program at 5pm, giving a glimpse of REACH's history and a snapshot of where the agency is headed.

"I would love for the public to attend," Fagundes said.

The celebration will be capped off by a one-woman performance of "Caterpillar Soup," by Lyena Strelkoff on Sept. 25.

"It's about a woman ... who became a paraplegic It's the story of her transition from disability to someone who's extremely independent," Fagundes said. "It's really about disabilities and what people accomplish. It's going to be wonderful."

The performance will take place at the Arts and Culture center at 7pm. Tickets are available at REACH for $15.