Frequently Asked Questions

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The Arc Gateway works to ensure children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities enjoy productive lives and have the support that they need to reach their goals. Through programs that promote choice and independence, a wide array of community based services are offered across the life span from infancy to the retirement years.

Children’s services include early intervention developmental therapy and pediatric physical, occupational and speech therapy where parents learn strategies to use in their children’s daily routines.

For our adult population, in addition to community residential homes, Arc Gateway offers work activities, job training, independent living supports, life skills development courses, a transition educational program, and a ‘retirement’ program.

Children are referred for early intervention services through the Early Steps program at the Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart. Parents can self-refer by calling 850-416-7656. The goal of Early Steps is to connect families and caregivers with services to enhance their child’s development so that children will be ready to succeed when they enter school. These services are provided at no cost to the family. Families are assigned a Service Coordinator to help them navigate the process of evaluation to actually obtaining services like those provided by Pearl Nelson Center.

A child can be referred directly to Pearl Nelson Center for speech, physical or occupational therapy services through a prescription from their primary care physician. An evaluation and recommendations for treatment will be provided to the family and physician. Pearl Nelson Center’s pediatric therapy services include a specialty feeding program for problem feeders and vision rehabilitation for school age children to help with vision problems not correctable with glasses. Vision rehab addresses vision problems affecting academic performance as well as the visual complaints following concussion. We accept most insurance plans and Medicaid as well as a private payment plan.

Most adults served by The Arc Gateway are referred through the Agency for Person with Disabilities (APD). APD works in partnership with local communities and private providers to assist people who have developmental disabilities and their families. APD also provides assistance in identifying the needs of people with developmental disabilities for supports and services. Please visit for more information or to apply for services.

The Arc Gateway also accepts private pay for services. Please contact The Arc Gateway for more information.

Adults seeking competitive employment should register with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Florida Department of Education. More information can be obtained at

We provide transportation to and from our programs. To arrange for transportation, first contact your support coordinator. You can call Transportation Services at The Arc Gateway at 850-346-6466. Transportation to other locations is available on a very limited basis.

For mass transit information or support using the bus system, call Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) at 595-3228.

To receive services from The Arc Gateway, you must have a referral from a state agency that sponsors and funds the service. If your family member is not eligible for services through a state agency, private pay and/or private insurance arrangements may be available. If your loved one has a disability and needs assistance in seeking or maintaining employment, contact Vocational Rehabilitation at 850-494-7200 in Pensacola. If he or she has a developmental disability (i.e. autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, an intellectual disability, Prader Willi syndrome, spina bifida) and need services to assist in daily living, employment, day training, respite, residential or other services, contact the Agency for Persons with Disabilities at 800-452-3895 and ask to apply for services. Locally, you may contact APD at 850-595-8351.

If your child is a student in Escambia County, transition services may be available through the school district. Contact Kim Norris at 850-469-5542 about services funded through the Escambia County School District.

There is a waiting list for services and it could take many years to receive support. For more information, you may want to speak to one of our directors about private pay for services.

The Arc Gateway does not have summer programs for school-aged children. However, we do serve our clients year round.

We want to make sure every participant we serve is happy in whatever environment he or she chooses. Clients certainly have the choice as to which program they want to join. They can also be in more than one program. A client may choose an option such as spending two days a week at Pollak Industries, a day at the LIFE program, as well as time spent in a computer skills class. If the participant wishes to make any changes, contact The Arc Gateway staff to begin the transition process.

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Dawn VonStein

Pollak Training Center Program Manager

A native of Pensacola, Dawn VonStein graduated from the University of West Florida with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education.  She began working at The Arc Gateway in 1993 as a support specialist for the Women’s Training Center where she felt she could use her teaching background to help teach daily living skills to the women at the group home. When asked why she has made her career at The Arc Gateway she says it is, “because there are few other places I could work where every day is different, I feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s life, and I am truly loved by those I serve.”

Dondie Roper

PALS Program Director

Dondie is an innovator with more than 15 years’ experience driving results in program management, marketing, and media production. In addition to her studies in Journalism and Communication Arts at the University of West Florida, Dondie has received certification in Nonprofit Management. Dondie is very active in the community serving on board of directors for area nonprofit organizations, secretary/treasurer for UWADA, Loaned Executive with United Way, and volunteer with Special Olympics.

Jennah White

Special Projects Manager

Jennah began her journey with The Arc Gateway in the fall of 2016 as an assistant to Human Resources. During her time with the agency, Jennah has acquired her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology along with a Certificate in Human Resources both from The University of West Florida.  Jennah can be considered a “jack-of-all-trades” thus securing her role as the Special Projects Manager (Office Manager). She also takes an active role in her community as a member of Pensacola Young Professionals.

Níta J Hooks

Senior Adult Program Manager

Níta started working at the Arc Gateway in January 2019 as the Senior Adult Program Manager. She began working in the Developmental Disabilities field in 2015 as a Support Coordinator and has worked as Supportive Living Coach and a QMRP. Níta earned an Associate Degree in Pre-Nursing, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and a Master of Education in Mental Health Counseling. She also worked as a Licensed Clinical Mental Therapist in Mississippi with all populations. “It is a joy to get up each morning, come into the program and work with such a wonderful group of people who keep me on my toes. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything in the world.”

Amanda Holtzhower

Human Resources Manager


Rebecca Baron

Residential & Community Service Director

Rebecca is a Pensacola native who graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She has been a part of The Arc Gateway team for over 2 decades, starting her career with us in 1997. Rebecca’s first position with The Arc Gateway was a Support Specialist in the Pal/Ace program. From that role she became a Group Home Manager with one of our female group homes, then moved into her current position as Director of Residential and Community services. “I love making a difference in the lives of people we serve and assisting them to achieve their goals and gain skills toward independence.”

MaryAnn Bickerstaff

Children’s Services Director

MaryAnn Bickerstaff began her career at The Arc Gateway in 1986 as an Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist soon after completing an internship with the Pearl Nelson Center’s Early Intervention and Preschool programs at the completion of her Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education at the University of West Florida. After working in this role for four years, MaryAnn became the Early Intervention Coordinator and in 1990 assumed the position as Children’s Services Director. During this time, she is proud of the program’s growth and diversity in funding, including grants and fundraising activities, but she is most proud of the impact her team is making in the lives of children every day. MaryAnn is very engaged with community partners and serves on the Board of the Early Learning Coalition and the Operational Support Team of Achieve Escambia among others. MaryAnn is a proud to be a native of Pensacola.

Chip Henderson

Chief Advancement Officer

Chip graduated from the University of West Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts in 1989 and has spent his career in marketing communications, fundraising and special events. He’s worked in a variety of industries and nonprofits, including The Arc Gateway in the mid-1990s. He founded and managed his own brand intelligence firm, Emagination Unlimited, for 18 years before deciding to follow his passion and “return home” to the nonprofit world. Mission-focused work is in his DNA.

Lea Farrington

Chief Financial Officer

Lea joined The Arc Gateway in 2021, bringing with her over 18 years of experience in finance and accounting.  Lea earned her Bachelor’s degrees in accounting, finance and management at the University of Mobile in Alabama and a Master’s in Business Administration at the University of West Florida. Lea is also a Certified Public Accountant in the state of Florida. For several years, she has worked in the nonprofit industry, both domestically and internationally. As a Pensacola native, Lea is passionate about meeting the needs of the Northwest Florida community. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her family and living up to her “boymom” title.

Cathy Lauterbach

Chief Operating Officer

Cathy Lauterbach has shared her talent with The Arc Gateway for over two decades. A California native, Cathy obtained a bachelor’s degree in management from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. She began her employment with the agency in 1995 as an employment specialist. From that role, she became the program manager at the Pollak Training Center before moving into the position as director of Residential and Community Services, and now her position as COO overseeing adult programs at The Arc Gateway.

Melissa Rogers

Chief Executive Officer

Missy has been working in the field of developmental disabilities since 1997.  Throughout her career she has performed in a variety of roles including direct care, case management, fundraising and administration.  Her extensive knowledge base and experience allows her a unique perspective and understanding of issues facing the disabled community.  Missy’s passion and dedication can be felt in her decision-making process as she always puts the best interests of those being served by the agency first.  In her spare time, she can be seen acting with a local dinner theater acting troupe. Missy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Elon University in North Carolina and is originally from Virginia.