Introducing the Center for Linking Lives


To embrace inclusion and accelerate innovation


What’s life like today, in this country—the most privileged society in the history of the world—for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities?

For all too many of those individuals, the answers to that question can be painful:

More than 80% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not included in the workforce.

A majority of individuals with disabilities will live at home for the rest of their lives.

Individuals with disabilities are at high risk of significant health problems: the result of sedentary lifestyles and poor nutritional awareness.

More than 50% of individuals with disabilities suffer from chronic loneliness, compared to a rate of 22.5% among their larger peers groups.

Some see these challenges as impossible to solve. At Northeast Arc, we don’t. We are a 66-year-old nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities become full participants in their communities. We discover abilities and change lives. We embrace challenges and invent new solutions. We’ve been at it for decades, and we’re good at it.

Our latest initiative embodies this spirit of bold invention. We are creating a new resource—the Center for Linking Lives—in 26,000 square feet of highly visible retail space in the heart of the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, Mass. The Center is a vibrant gathering place, where individuals with disabilities can reach their full potential, and learn to lead fulfilling lives alongside their peers.

This is an exciting turning point for the communities we serve. And we believe the Center represents a scalable idea—with powerful implications far beyond Danvers and Boston’s North Shore.

We hope you will join us.

If you’d like to learn more about supporting the Center for Linking Lives, please contact Craig Welton, Chief Development Officer, at [email protected] or 978-624-2487.

Two men exchanging a high five
Linking Lives In The News

Assistive Technology Update: Center for Linking Lives
Easterseals Crossroads
, January 1, 2021

Local nonprofits giving individuals the ability to succeed in their futures
Chronicle, December 21, 2020

Makeover at the mall
The Boston Globe, December 4, 2020

Linking Lives
North Shore Magazine
, December 2020

The ultimate tikkun olam: Local Jews lead effort to open center for individuals with disabilities at Liberty Tree Mall
The Jewish Journal
, November 27, 2020

In the Spotlight: Jo Ann Simons
The Story Behind Her Success, November 12, 2020

Northeast Arc opens Center for Linking Lives
Danvers Herald-Citizen, November 12, 2020

Photo gallery: Center for Linking Lives at the Liberty Tree Mall
Danvers Herald-Citizen
, November 3, 2020

Northeast Arc opens new Center at Liberty Tree Mall
Salem News, November 2, 2020

Jo Ann Simons discusses Center for Linking Lives on Bloomberg Baystate Business (Listen beginning at 27-minute mark)
Bloomberg Radio, October 29, 2020

Northeast Arc to open new shop at Liberty Tree Mall
Lynn Daily Item, July 29, 2020

Finding Solutions to Growing Challenges

The demand for the kinds of essential services and programs that Northeast Arc provides is growing steadily. In recent decades, advances in medicine have enabled people with intellectual disabilities to live longer, necessitating the kind of ongoing support that the Northeast Arc provides to live healthy and productive lives. Meanwhile, the detection and reporting of certain disabilities, such as autism, have increased significantly. The incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased 300 percent since 2004. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control, one in six children today has a developmental disability.

As a society, therefore, we face growing challenges. We need to offer more and better services, and find the right places to offer those services. We need more and better answers.

Accelerating and Scaling Innovation

We believe that answer may come from the commerical real estate sector. Vacancy rates in malls across the country have been increasing over the past half-decade, especially in regional malls anchored by department stores, and the coronavirus pandemic will only accelerate that.

The societal need for disability services and the unfolding retail revolution come together at the Center for Linking Lives.

What works at the Liberty Tree Mall should work elsewhere in America. We will bring hundreds of people into the mall every day. Retail outlets and restaurants will benefit accordingly. Already, we’re receiving calls from real estate entrepreneurs—as well as nonprofits—from across the country, asking for more information.


Inventing the New Face of Inclusion

Today, many facilities that seek to support individuals with disabilities instead foster physical and social isolation.

Perhaps they’re at the far end of an industrial park, in a building with few windows, where rents are lower. Maybe they’re not on public transportation routes. Most likely, there are few retail outlets nearby, and therefore few opportunities for creating connections, exploring job possibilities, and—ultimately—landing a job.

All of this is exactly backward. Resources aimed at supporting individuals with disabilities should be all about opportunity, and inclusion. That’s why the Center for Linking Lives will be the home for Northeast Arc’s community-facing programs. It’s a setting that will provide significant opportunities for people in those programs to acquire new skills, become more active, gain confidence, and emerge as more active participants in their communities.



The Center for Linking Lives is:

A centralized convening space, which—thanks to its location on public transportation routes and ample free parking—makes in-house programming and training more accessible than ever before to the communities we serve, and increase the number of those communities

An amenity-rich location, including recreation facilities, restaurants, banking, community and retail spaces, and even a house of worship—all resources to which our client population deserves access, and from which they benefit greatly

The home to a 1,000-square-foot retail storefront, which exclusively offer products developed by people with disabilities

A place where our client population can learn and practice skills that will make them valuable in the workplace, and move them many steps closer to real independence and inclusion

A family support center, where families can gather, attend groups, and get the information and other resources and assistance they need

A place where the public can meet, interact with, and get to know people with disabilities—and welcome them into the broader community

Take a Virtual Tour of the Center for Linking Lives

Three Ways The Center for Linking Lives Will Make a Difference for Individuals with Disabilities


The Center overcomes isolation. One of the most powerful lessons to emerge from the recent global pandemic is that isolation hurts. Many of the people who use our services have been isolated their entire lives. Many of the people who use our services have been isolated their entire lives. This hurts—let’s see what we can do to fix this.

The Center fosters inclusion. People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to live and work with the rest of us, as part of our communities. In traditional support systems, people with disabilities only see people who are paid to see them. That also hurts—but it can also be fixed.

The Center points toward larger solutions. Yes, our society has come a long way. As recently as the 1970s, many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were institutionalized—and thereby made invisible. Fortunately, those days are far behind us. We no longer believe that people who are “different” need “different” places. But there is still much more work, and much more inventing, to be done. We want to do our part.

A Legacy of Discovering Abilities, Changing Lives

At Northeast Arc, we know where we’ve come from and, more important, we know where we’re going.

The “Arc” was founded in 1954 by families of children with developmental disabilities—families who wanted to raise their sons and daughters as full members of their communities, mostly in cities and towns north of Boston.

Those families were truly pioneers. They, and their successors over the decades, challenged the conventional wisdom that said that their children could not be educated, would not live to become adults, could not lead satisfying lives. Working together, these families created support systems—from nursery schools to employment programs—that enabled their children to attend public schools, develop friendships, live where they wanted to live, and earn a paycheck.

Gradually, those support systems expanded to include a broader range of disabilities. Today, with an operating budget of $290 million—and through the joint efforts of a skilled professional staff and a large volunteer corps—we serve individuals in almost 200 Massachusetts communities. We offer a wide variety of programs, including autism services, deaf services, early intervention, day and employment services, family support, personal care assistance, and recreation, residential, and transition services. For example:

We support 15,000 individuals annually, providing more than 300,000 hours of direct nursing support so that people can live independently in their homes.

We support 8,000 people living independently or in a house supported with staff.

We sponsor both an Autism Support Center and a Family Resource Center, aimed at supporting families in need of these kinds of help.

We sponsor thousands of hours of recreational opportunities annually, and provide specialized adaptive technologies—including tools that have enabled scores of children to communicate with their families for the first time.

What does it add up to? A far-ranging and effective system for discovering abilities and changing lives. We don’t simply deliver solutions. We help the people we serve choose for themselves how to live, learn, work, socialize, and play.

And by so doing, we help them become full participants in their communities.

An affiliated chapter of the Arc logo
An affiliated chapter of the Arc logo