What happened to ARCH?

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Gates are closed now on the former site on the Atlantic Riding Center for Health

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP –The decision to sell the property that housed the Atlantic Riding Center for Health occurred within just three months, leaving many with questions as to why the 24-year-old program that supported special needs individuals from across the region ended so abruptly.

 As a way of explaining, two board members of ARCH, its president Ann Cancelmo and its attorney Roebrt Reilert, sat down with The Current for an interview Monday, Sept. 17.

 “There are answers to that question,” Cancelmo said. “But, whether that will satisfy people is always the question, because you think that you are doing things to be upfront and honest, and then people will argue.”


Each year the board reorganizes. On Jan. 29 a new panel was installed with Cancelmo at the helm. The program faced challenges getting volunteers who could accomplish the tasks needed to keep it afloat, she said.

 “Getting board members to do what we needed was difficult,” Cancelmo said. “They all have the good heart, but they are all like me. I don’t have any connections to money.

“I worked in education all my life,” said the retired special education teacher and guidance counselor. “Do I have the heart? Will I work hard? Will I clean the toilets? Sure, I’ll do all of that stuff. But we needed people that basically could fund-raise.”

A new director was in place by then, replacing founder and longtime Executive Director Sue Adams. The program had tried shifting from large annual events to a more expansive offering of programs, including lessons for able-bodied riders and yoga on horseback.

 But still the uphill challenge of raising funds remained.

“We still had the issue of raising tons of money,” Cancelmo said. “What we needed to have was a cushion. We were able to survive month-to-month but needed to have a cushion.”

The idea of selling the property was first raised by a former board member “who came and went very quickly,” Cancelmo said. “She wanted to buy ARCH. She had a boss who was willing to buy ARCH. We talked about her taking over and all of this stuff, and it just didn’t happen.”

But as a result of that conversation, word spread and another potential buyer approached the board, she said.

“We had people who board horses and were fairly well-to-do people call Bob and our treasurer in late June to discuss buying ARCH,” Cancelmo said. “They were pretty serious and tossed out a number. A board meeting was called July 7. We decided we were not just going to take the offer because it would look like we were doing something sneaky behind the scenes. We wanted to be upfront and honest. But it makes no difference what we think because people will turn things into negativity like you can’t imagine.

“Part of the ongoing issues we’ve had is gossip,” she said. “Gossip is huge in the horse world, and it’s not good gossip, I can tell you. The rumors that go on are amazing.”

 Reilert said these conversations were taking place in a financial environment in which donations were nearly nonexistent.

 “It was getting harder and harder to get contributions,” he said.

 Cancelmo said the United Way contributed $5,000 when in past years it contributed $18,000.

“Large donations weren’t there anymore,” she said. “Not that they don’t want to give, they just don’t have it. We’ve been through the donor list a million times.”

 After the board reached a unanimous decision to put the place up for sale, it decided  to open it up to everyone.

“We were going to be upfront about it,” Cancelmo said, but there were two stipulations that they were insisting upon. “We would make a potential buyer pay for the commercial appraisal. You’re serious, you do it. That’s several thousand dollars. We wanted a cash deal so we wouldn’t have nonsense with the mortgage. I don’t think what we were asking was easy for people, but it weeded out the riffraff,” she said, though the eventual buyer did have a small mortgage.

Cancelmo and Reilert said the buyer is Bob Orchard of Galloway, the first time the purchaser’s name was made public.

Asked about the change in criteria for the type of deal the board was seeking, Reilert said, “He did what he did and arranged financing. From our point of view it was a cash deal. We got cash. There wasn’t a contingency. We got cash. We didn’t take back a mortgage.  We don’t want to discuss the buyer. It’s not for us to talk about.”

Conselmo agreed and said “it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day how the buyer purchased the property. No one else came forward. There were the original people, this man who came forward and some man from Medford who read an article. Not one person has come forward to be serious about it.”

 She said the board did consider allowing another organization to take over the operation rather than sell and close the riding program.

 “We did consider allowing someone else take over – SPCA of Atlantic County. But, from what I know you just can’t walk away and have some other organization come in that you think may continue your mission or may not.”

The financial woes of the program were enhanced because of competition from the riding program opened next door, Reilert said.

“We were losing riders,” he said. “And you can’t necessarily have two identical programs next to each other, especially given the fundraising environment.”

Read more: Riding center sold, despite community outcry

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Rather than read ARCH, the sign now reads RC

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