Desert ARC . . . 60 Years of Championing The Rights of People with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities in Our Community

By Madeline Zuckerman

 It all began some 60 years ago, when Desert Arc was established to provide social services including vocational training to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in our community.  Since that time, Desert Arc’s mission has always been to enhance the quality of life and create opportunities for people with disabilities.  A core belief of the organization is that anyone who wants to work and has the ability to work, should have the opportunity to work.

“Desert Arc has championed the rights of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities since 1959, and it is the only nonprofit within the desert communities serving the growing needs of these adults,” stated Richard Balocco, President/CEO of Desert Arc.  “Currently, there are 698 people, ages 18 and older, who are enrolled in Desert Arc’s life-changing programs. These programs are designed to help people secure employment, have a safe place to come to every day, and to have interaction with others.  And, most importantly, to reach their highest potential to live, work, and socialize within the community.  Desert Arc is dedicated to social innovation, and to this end we have also created a variety of enterprises providing Business Services to area companies including our Shredding, Recycling, Landscape Maintenance, Janitorial, and Fulfillment Divisions. These are growing micro-businesses developed to provide a steady stream of earned income revenue to ensure the sustainability and future of Desert Arc. Pathways To Employment is the umbrella for our vocational, on-the-job training and supportive job placement service programs, working directly for Desert Arc or within our fellow employer network.  We are making a difference in the lives of many people with disabilities, and our 60th Anniversary marks an important milestone for our human and social service organization. There is much to celebrate, each and every day at Desert Arc, and our 60th Anniversary is icing on the cake!” Balocco continued.

An example of an inspiring Desert Arc success story can be found in a young man by the name of Alan.  He came to Desert Arc in 2013 and joined its Vocational Services Program when he was 27 years of age from Mecca.  He began his successful and fulfilling journey at Desert Arc first working in the Contracts Department.  When an opening occurred in Desert Arc’s Janitorial Services Program, Alan quickly jumped on the opportunity to work in that department, proving to be a reliable and dependable janitorial team member.  Alan is always smiling, and he constantly encourages his co-workers, and consistently works hard.  A little over year ago, Alan decided he wanted to expand his skill base and experience, and transferred to the Desert Arc Cafeteria Services Department, quickly becoming a Lead Server.  Alan provides outstanding customer service, always with a positive attitude and a great sense of humor.  He has worked hard and has now obtained his Food Worker’s Certificate, achieving a score of 94%!

When Desert Arc announced it would be offering an Independent Living Skills & Training Program (ILS), Alan was one of the first to start asking questions about it.  He was very proactive in pursuing this program for himself, and when he began receiving the services, his excitement for ILS was contagious.  Alan immediately began to broaden his horizons, joining Desert Arc’s Sports and Recreation Programs, developing new skills at home, and working to improve his health.  In his first six months with ILS, Alan joined a community Zumba class, and also learned to prepare healthy meals, resulting in a 32 pound weight loss.

“Desert Arc is very proud of Alan and the positive steps he has taken in augmenting his independence!” stated Ruth Goodsell, Desert Arc’s Director of Client Services.

Desert Arc offers a broad array of programs and services tailored to the unique needs of each and every person it serves.   The three main divisions within Desert Arc consist of Vocational Programs, Licensed Programs, and Community Programs.

 Desert Arc’s main headquarters are located on Country Club Drive in Palm Desert, consisting of three buildings totaling 50,000 square feet of space.  In addition, Desert Arc has a Recycling Center and Bus Yard in Indio, as well as, a satellite facility in Yucca Valley.

Goodsell notes, “Currently we have a fleet of 29 buses that provide 300 of our clients with free, daily, door-to-door bus service in the Coachella Valley and Morongo Basin.  This vital transportation assistance program provided by Desert Arc affords people the opportunity to be picked up directly from their residence, versus curbside service, every morning Monday through Friday.  Our buses take our clients to their respective Desert Arc program location in Palm Desert or Yucca Valley, or to their work employment site, and brings them back home at the end of the day, providing them with the means to get to and from home to work sites and volunteer opportunities each day.”  Desert Arc’s robust transportation system logs over 54,000 miles and averages over 10,000 gallons of gas monthly!

Some, but not all, of Desert Arc’s community Business Partners employing their clients include Eisenhower Health, Mario’s Italian Cafes, the City of Indio, Stutz Packaging, Palm Springs Disposal, Desert Springs Marriott, Palm Springs Hilton, Renaissance Indian Wells, JFK Hospital, Hi-Desert Medical Center, CV Link, Children’s Discovery Museum, and The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands.

If you would like to help and/or lend financial support please call 760- 346-1611 or visit


November 14, 2018  – Open House 60th Anniversary Party

January 22, 2019–  Desert Arc’s Second Annual Recognition Awards Luncheon at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.

April 11, 2019Desert Arc’s 10th Annual Golf Classic at Eagle Falls Golf Course at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.

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