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PA Connecting Communities



Organization type:





Our Guiding Principles Are Integrity, Inclusion & Self Determination

What we do

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 education or earning a paycheck was an unheard activity. People with disabilities were destined to live isolated and dependent. It was into this environment, three people, Peggy & Tony Mannella and Arlene Bair, who had hearts to challenge the status quo, and 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. He went to school and received a degree in Special Education and later a career in Business and Information Technology. Peggy and Arlene also graduated with a degree in Special Education. Peggy began her career working as a Special Education teacher within the State of Pennsylvania’s institutions. It was in these forgotten places that she learned the need 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 stiff resistance. Her approach required additional work from the staff and a paradigm shift in how individuals with disabilities were valued. As the landscape changed from institutionalization to smaller community group homes, Community College of Allegheny County’s Community Services Department, under the direction of Tom Forester, allowed for Peggy and Arlene’s innovative programs. It was here that Arlene and Peggy met. The task of these programs that the two developed was to train group home staff how to provide care and service to the people within the homes. 


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