History2019-04-30T03:52:43+00:00

PA CONNECTING COMMUNITIES – A HISTORY OF SERVICE AND DEDICATION WITH DEEP ROOTS IN THE COMMUNITIES WE SERVE

It is hard to believe but only a few decades ago, many individuals with disabilities lived in institutions or hidden away in their homes. Socialization was minimal and an education or earning a pay check was an unheard activity. People with disabilities were destined to live isolated and dependent. 

It was into this environment, three people, Peggy & Tony Manella and Arlene Bair, who had hearts to challenge the status quo and they possessed a firm belief that life could look so much brighter for those people society considered unfortunate.  

Tony Manella was born into a family where his brother was intellectually disabled. He grew up knowing firsthand how little society accepted those that were different from everyone else.  Even in his large family, his brother Richard was isolated from society. Tony’s passion to help others like his brother grew and he went to school and received a degree in Special Education. Peggy also graduated with a degree in Special Education. Peggy began her career working within the State institutions. It was in these forgotten places that she wanted to provide a level of care that would restore dignity to her clients and give them as much independence as possible.  She was met with much stiff resistance. Her approach required additional work from the staff and a paradigm shift of how individuals with disabilities are valued.

As the landscaped changed from institutionalization to smaller community group homes, Community College of Allegheny County, under the direction of Tom Forester, began a Community Services department. The task of this department was to train group home staff how to provide care and service  the people within the homes.  It’s here where Peggy met Arlene. Together, they began the pioneering work of community inclusion and changing the way a person with intellectual disabilities could and should live.

We listen to the unique voices of our participants, families and caregivers and then provide programs that meet their needs and choices. Our guiding principles are integrity, inclusion, dignity and self determination

—Peggy Mannella

Together, they began holding classes in churches and other community buildings. Not only did group home participants come but individuals who were home-bound began attending. 

Peggy and Arlene began to dream for even more for the persons they served and loved so much. They saw the need to provide higher quality programs and events and diversify settings, allowing for those with disabilities to participant in the community just like everyone else. 

With no start-up funding, 2 desks in the spare bedroom that served as an office,  and a few other brave individuals who were willing to work without pay, the vision of PA Connecting Communities (PACC) began to take shape. The organization launched in 2004 as a 501(c)3 grassroots, non-profit organization. Within 30 days, Peggy and Arlene were able to pay their staff. By the end of the year, they had a budget of $250,000.

As we head into the 15th year of operation, PACC has grown to reach over 3,000 individuals  with 1000 programs, events, classes and services throughout the year, operating on a diverse funding budget of over $4,000,000. Currently, we provide services to the intellectually disabled, those with autism, and those with a variety of development disabilities within the five county region of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

PA CONNECTING COMMUNITIES, HELPING THE ONES YOU LOVE

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