BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — Northeast Arc will celebrate 60 years of helping children and adults with disabilities with a gala at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem next month.
The gala, which will feature dinner, dancing and a silent auction, will raise money for the nonprofit and, organizers hope, also raise its profile.
“We are the best-kept secret on the North Shore,” said Gerard “Jerry” McCarthy, executive director of Northeast Arc. The organization has been working for several years to inform people that one of the largest human service agencies in the state is right here on the North Shore, he said. It’s based on Holten Street in Danvers.
With 600 employees, it’s one of the largest employers on the North Shore, said Darcy Immerman, who is chairing the gala with Jeffrey Musman of Nahant. It serves 150 communities and 7,000 people a year, with an annual budget of about $125 million, according to its website.
Part of the reason the organization changed its name from North Shore Arc to Northeast Arc a few years ago was to better reflect the agency’s reach, McCarthy said.
The event at the Peabody Essex Museum will also honor former state Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry for his work advocating for those with disabilities. Berry, who now works for Northeast Arc, rose to prominence on Beacon Hill while dealing with the effects of cerebral palsy.
Also being honored is New England Biolabs CEO Jim Ellard and his company for employing people with disabilities for the past 20 years.
Jerry McCarthy, a Topsfield resident, will be honored for his 35 years at the organization’s helm.
“I think it’s a long time, but it’s gone by in a blink of an eye,” McCarthy said.
Founded in 1954 by parents of children with disabilities who wanted more for their kids than a life in an institution, the nonprofit organization has grown to serve both kids and adults with a broad range of disabilities. It has also grown to be the largest such organization in Massachusetts and the fourth-largest in the country.
The agency provides a wide range of services, from autism services to early intervention for newborns and toddlers. The agency also provides employment training, job placement and residential services. The agency has an autism support center on Southside Road in Danvers and also runs the ArcWorks Community Art Center on Foster Street in Peabody.
“We are celebrating 60 years, but we are really looking forward,” Immerman said.
Immerman, who moved from Scituate to Salem when her husband became president of Montserrat College of Art in 2009, has family experience with someone with a disability, an uncle who never lived at home.
“There were not a lot of options at the time, and it was never discussed,” she said. She has come to appreciate the openness with which staffers at Northeast Arc discuss those with disabilities.
“I find it to be an astounding organization at every level,” said Immerman, who works for a global engineering company, AECOM.
However, the agency depends on state and federal funding, which can create a challenge in making ends meet.
“That just doesn’t cut it anymore,” Immerman said. She said the agency has to get better at raising money.
Northeast Arc does not hold such events every year, McCarthy said. The last gala was 10 years ago for its 50th anniversary.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.
If you go What: Celebrating 60 Shining Years anniversary gala To benefit: Northeast Arc When: Saturday, March 15, 7 to 11 p.m. Where: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Tickets: $200 per person, available by calling Susan Ring Brown 978-624-2487. Information: http://ne-arc.org