The PACER Center is a parent information and training center for families of children and young people with disabilities whose young ones are between the ages of birth and twenty-one years of age. The center is located in Minneapolis and serves people from across America to include families in Minnesota.
Through the center, parents can access workshops, publications and additional resources that can assist them in making decisions regarding vocational training, education, employment and other forms of services for their children with disabilities.
The PACER Center's mission is to expand opportunities while enhancing the quality of life for both children and young adults with disabilities as well as their families, based upon the concepts of parents helping parents. The center is a nonprofit organization that reports to the Minnesota Charities Review Council. One of the things that makes the PACER center unique is its service to children with all disabilities, whether the disabilities they experience are emotional, physical, health or mental disabilities.
There is not another organization in Minnesota that offers the range services to families that the PACER center does. The center works in coalition with eighteen disability organizations. In fact - a number of PACER's board members are parent representatives from coalition organizations. PACER's vision is to build a healthy, integrated community where people respect one another for the things they have in common, celebrating their differences.
The PACER Center presents support, information, workshops, as well as referrals to families and professionals. The center has a puppetry program that educates people about disability awareness and abuse prevention. They have a, 'Simon Technology Center,' that provides adaptive devices, software, as well as training to assist both children and young adults with disabilities to learn about communication through technology.
The center has programs for people from a wide-variety of ethnic backgrounds, and presents information through a number of languages. Their Health Information and Advocacy Center provides people with a single source of information that includes support and resources for families with children who experience disabilities that may have complex health care needs. In conjunction with the Technical Assistance ALLIANCE for Parent Centers, PACER gives people the opportunity to receive consultation and technical assistance at more than one-hundred parent centers in America that are funded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The work done through this program affects seven-million children with disabilities across the country. The PACER Center also has additional programs that focus on grandparents, housing, employment, and the prevention of bullying.
In the fiscal year of 2005-2006, as an example, the PACER Center responded to greater than thirty-seven thousand requests for information and assistance from parents and educators. The number of requests the center receives increases every year. The center responded to more than six-thousand seven-hundred requests for information and assistance from the Simon Technology Center and Software Lending Library, and more than one-million seven-hundred thousand people visited the PACER website from America and eighty other nations around the world.
PACER presented almost two-hundred COUNT ME IN and LET'S PREVENT ABUSE puppet shows to greater than eleven-thousand preschool and elementary students, as well as teachers and parents during this same fiscal year. They also gave more than five-hundred workshops, training sessions, and presentations to teachers, students, and parents. The center provided technical assistance to other parent centers on both regional and national levels as well. The PACER Center's mailing list also continues to grow, with more than one-hundred and ten thousand people receiving their mailings several times each year.
The PACER Center was established in 1977, starting as a single project called, 'Parents Helping Parents. It was staffed mostly by parents of children with disabilities who were dedicated to the education of other parents, as well as improvement of the lives of children with disabilities in Minnesota. A small grant from the Minnesota Department of Education found PACER conducting a five-month pilot project and demonstrating the effectiveness of the parents helping parents model.
The center has maintained their philosophy of, 'parents helping parents,' even though this same center today has more than thirty programs for parents, professionals, students, and other parent organizations. The center continues to address the issues of early childhood, assisting youth in making the transition from high school to work, and helping parents through experience, knowledge and shared information so that children with disabilities can have a better future.
Over the past thirty years, the PACER Center has demonstrated immense commitment and accomplishments on the parts of friends, boards, volunteers and staff members who have worked to make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities and their family members. What follows is a time line of the PACER Center's accomplishments.
1976: The PACER Coalition was formed.
1977: PACER incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Bill Messinger wrote bylaws and articles of incorporation.
1978: PACER opened its doors in a South Minneapolis storefront location with card tables, used office furniture from 3M, and five eager employees, most of them part-time.
1979: Established the COUNT ME IN Puppet program that teaches elementary and preschool children about inclusion.
1982: Sponsored the first PACER Benefit at Children's Theatre for 75 people. Now, the PACER Benefit features world-famous performers and is the "Hottest Ticket in Town."
1983: PACER helped to write national legislation for parent training and information centers and technical assistance.
1984: Became a Technical Assistance for Parents Project (TAPP) Regional Office. The program helped establish PACER as a national presence in assisting parents of children with disabilities.
1985: Helped establish transition (from high school to post-secondary education or training, employment, and the community) services within the Minnesota Department of Education. Today, Minnesota is considered a national leader in transition.
1987: Opened the Simon Technology Center assistive technology program. State-of-the art equipment and nationally respected staff provide communication and learning breakthroughs for children with disabilities every day.
1994: Burned the mortgage on 4826 Chicago Ave. So. building.
1997: Became National Center of the Technical Assistance ALLIANCE for Parent Centers, coordinating technical assistance among the over 100 Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers across the nation.
2000: With strong financial support from individuals, corporations, and foundations, PACER moved to a family-friendly, accessible, newly renovated building at Interstate 494 and Highway 100.
2004: PACER's first HOT event received a warm reception from party-goers.
2005: PACER went international through a collaborative assistive technology project in India. Sets of COUNT ME IN puppets take up residence with organizations in England and Japan. PACESETTER newsletter circulation hit 100,000.
2006: PACER launched PACERKidsAgainstBullying.org, an interactive Web site to help children deal with and prevent bullying. PACER had two national "firsts": the first National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week and the first National Ted and Dr. Roberta Mann Foundation Symposium about Children & Young Adults with Mental Health and Learning Disabilities. PACER received a five-year, almost $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to be the Minnesota Parent Information and Resource Center (PIRC) for parent-school partnerships.
2007: PACER met the strict eligibility of the Combined Federal Campaign, the largest workplace charity campaign in the country, and was added to its charity list. PACER relaunched PACER.org with a new look, new navigation, and additional high-quality content for parents and professionals.
2008: PACER spearheaded collaborative effort with IBM, others to open first technology center for children and adults with disabilities in Bangalore, India. IBM Foundation gave PACER a national grant to distribute 600 Young Explorer computers and provide training to early childhood classrooms across the country.
2009: Disney teen star Demi Lovato helped PACER launch its new PACERTeensAgainstBullying.org, an innovative Web site to help teens deal with and prevent bullying - www.pacer.org
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