By Melissa Shepard, associate editor

“BOYS NEXT DOOR” with Mike Windnagle, Artis White, Jerry Ciarlino and Jessica Hickey hosting a farewell party with puppets for Quentin Brainerd. (Courtesy Photo/David Lorne Photographic)

The Arc Shiawassee, which advocates and assists people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is getting ready to celebrate their 60th Anniversary as a non-profit in Shiawassee County in 2016.

Helping them to celebrate, the Owosso Community Players is presenting, “The Boys Next Door.” This very funny yet very touching story focuses on the lives of four mentally disabled men who live in a communal residence under the watchful eye of a sincere, despairing, social worker. Audiences will be filled with laughter and compassion as characters experience every triumph and tear life throws at them. Presentations at the Lebowsky Center will be 8 p.m. Jan. 15, 16, 22 and 23 plus 3 p.m. on Jan. 17 and 24. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors (65 plus) and students; $7.50 for children (13 and younger).

Kathy Brooks, Executive Director of the Owosso Community Players, with encouragement from The Cook Family Foundation, contacted Lynn Grubb, Executive Director of the Arc Shiawassee, to present the idea of a collaboration between these two community nonprofits. The timing was perfect says Brooks: “We discovered how other theater groups performing ‘The Boys Next Door’ had partnered with Arc organizations and felt we too could bring awareness and support The Arc in our own community.”

Grubb was in agreement, “I realized this could be a great way to celebrate our 60th anniversary in January and also a way to showcase The Arc Shiawassee to more people.” Welcome Home Assisted Living is the sponsor of the show with The Cook Family Foundation underwriting the OCP/Arc collaboration.

The Arc Shiawassee County was founded in 1956 by parents of 16 children with the creation of Lemon School (Garrison and Scribner roads, about four miles southeast of Corunna), which was the first school for people with developmental disabilities in Shiawassee County. Over the years many changes have occurred with the organization that operates as a nonprofit entity relying solely on grant funding, donations, fundraisers and fee-for-service programs to continue operations. A historical timeline display will also be showcased in the Lebowsky Theater Lobby during the run of the show.

Grubb, Executive Director of the Arc Shiawassee County, hopes that people who attend the performances of the show will gain awareness of individuals with developmental disabilities in our community. Very few individuals with disabilities work in the public sector, and many are often isolated because they cannot afford to participate in the same activities as the general population. “I am hoping that the play will bring more awareness about individuals with disabilities in our community, and create a greater degree of acceptance. The individuals I work with every day are the most accepting, generous individuals I know, and I would love for the performances to raise awareness, and foster acceptance for everyone in our county with a developmental disability or mental illness.”

Brooks, executive director of Owosso Community Players, added, “We are thrilled to raise awareness for The Arc Shiawassee and help them celebrate their 60th Anniversary. ‘The Boys Next Door’ is a comedy that has the perfect blend of humor and poignancy. Portraying developmentally disabled adults with the dignity they deserve can be tricky, but I am confident that directors Linda Keenan and Anna Owens will guide the cast to wonderful characterizations.”

To better prepare for the upcoming play, Director Anna Owens, and the cast spent time with members of The Arc during the annual Christmas party held at the Arc Shiawassee facility on Dec. 14 to get a better idea how to act in their upcoming roles. “Audiences will find themselves rooting for all of the characters to reach their full potential,” concludes Brooks.

The Arc Shiawassee will hold its 60th Anniversary celebration in the Owosso Community Players Studio Theater immediately following the matinee on Jan. 24. The Arc Shiawassee is inviting members and sponsors to come to the show and attend the reception.

The Arc Shiawassee Celebrates 60 Years was last modified: January 4th, 2016 by Karen Elford