Holiday Wishes Fulfilled – 100 Percent!

Jeannine Arrigo from The Richard Stockton College's Provosts Office with gifts she and her department brought for the family they adopted.

Jeannine Arrigo from The Richard Stockton College’s Provosts Office with gifts she and her department brought for the family they adopted.

The holidays start early at The Arc of Atlantic County – October, in fact – when our Social Services staff begin their annual appeal for Holiday Partners, a program that matches some of our community’s most caring and compassionate people with our community’s most vulnerable citizens.  Holiday Partners invites participants to adopt a family and help fulfill their holiday wish list, or make a donation so The Arc can fulfill their wishes. This year, more than 60 families caring for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at home and struggling to make ends meet signed up for assistance, knowing they would never be able to provide their loved ones with the kind of holidays they wish for.

Our hearts are filled with gratitude as we announce that ALL families who signed up for help will have their wishes fulfilled this Christmas, thanks to an outpouring of generosity from our community! 

But a few weeks ago, things did not look so good.  With only two weeks until the Holiday Partners deadline, we still had 34 families that needed to be adopted.   We put out a plea via social media, the local newspapers, and to our own contacts. And WOW did you heed our call!

On Wednesday morning, children with I/DD and their siblings will wake up to piles of gifts under their Christmas tree containing exactly what they wished for.  When parents stopped by The Arc to pick up their gifts, they said without this program, they never would have been able to fulfill their child’s wishes. 

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU to each and every individual and organization that contributed to our Holiday Partners appeal this year.  The families you’ve helped are faced with challenges each and every day. Many are single-parent households.  Some are caring for multiple children with disabilities. Many have large families, many are living in small apartments. For some families, it is the parent who has the intellectual disability.  You have given so much more than presents – you’ve given people faith that they are not alone in their struggles, and that their community recognizes and cares about the challenges they face. 

Happy holidays, from everyone at The Arc of Atlantic County!

 

August Story Time: Celebrating the Lives of People with I/DD

We just wrapped up our August staff meeting where more than 60 Arc administrative staff and management gathered to share stories and learn from each other. We want to share some of these stories with you and hope you find them as inspiring as we do!

  • When was the last time you looked forward to a trip to the bank? For most of us, it’s just a necessary chore, but for the ladies at our Galloway II apartments, it’s become one of the many highlights of their week thanks to the friendships they’ve made with employees at their local TD Bank.  The bank staff and residents have become so fond of each other, in fact, that when one of the tellers was getting ready to move away, she actually visited the ladies at their home to say goodbye and stayed a whole three hours!! Now THAT’S a community connection!
  • Birthdays are the best days, especially at The Arc! Two residents of our Roosevelt group home had a very special day when staff threw them a joint birthday party. But the best part was the reaction from the families who attended the party. They were touched by how the staff cared so much about their loved ones, enough to throw them a fantastic birthday party.  They were grateful that their family member was so respected and appreciated. This is another example of how seriously Arc employees take their job of helping people live meaningful lives, and how our residents and staff are like a family.
  • Family group home tours:  Recently a group of parents of people with I/DD had the opportunity to tour three of The Arc’s residential programs to see first-hand what life is like in our group homes and supervised apartments.  For families who have cared for their loved one at home all their lives and are considering placing them in a group home, it can be an incredibly scary thing.  Will they be happy? Will the staff treat them well? Will they have a real life? So many questions were answered on this tour, as we heard throughout the night and even after as parents reached out to express their gratitude for the experience.  As they met residents and saw how happy they are, how rich and full their lives are, and how much the staff care for them, the look of relief on their faces was clear.  Shereen MacDonald, a Supportive Living coordinator for The Arc, compared the visit to seeing the Grand Canyon.  “You can see all the photos and hear all the stories you want, but until you actually visit the Grand Canyon yourself, you cannot truly appreciate it.”

The Arc is planning to host several tours for families throughout the year. If you have a loved one with I/DD and are considering placing them in an Arc group home, we’d love to include you on a future tour. Send an email expressing your interest to Deborah Jewell at djjewell@arcatlantic.org.

Zumba Class Helps Arc Clients Get Fit & Have Fun

One of our goals at The Arc of Atlantic County is to promote good health and fitness every chance we can.  With the fitness dance class Zumba taking over the nation the past few years, last year staff introduced the class to our clients through Adult Evening Classes and in our ATC, a day program for adults with developmental disabilities.

For the past year, ATC participants have been enjoying weekly Zumba classes hosted in The Arc of Atlantic County’s multipurpose room with help from a DVD.  As fun as that was for the participants, we knew they’d have much more fun in a community-based Zumba class with a real instructor.  Recently, the group had the chance to move their Zumba classes outside of the agency to Good Shepherd Methodist Church in Northfield, NJ for a chance to Zumba with other community members and a certified instructor.

Zumba instructor Michelle Gano, who teaches at Good Shepherd and also hosts our Zumba Adult Evening Class at The Arc several times a year, was more than willing to help our ATC clients throughout the month of August by inviting them to classes at Good Shepherd.  Kathi Lentz, The Arc’s operations director of family support, paid the class a visit today and got some great video of the group showing off their moves.  Watch this clip to see how The Arc’s clients have mastered so many of the Zumba moves, and how fitness helps bring people of all abilities together! (P.S. We’re looking for another site to host Zumba classes in the community once August is over – if you have information that could help us, please contact Kathi Lentz at klentz@arcatlantic.org or 609-485-0800 ext. 164.)

Life Lessons for Teachers and Their Students

By Nicole Terzakis, Director of Social Services at The Arc of Atlantic County

For the past three years, Dr. Shelly Meyers has been teaching a Stockton College Graduate level Special Education class at The Arc for teachers in school for their Masters in Special Education. She lectures for the first half, and in the second half the student teachers work with Arc clients on academic and functional life skills that are important to the individual.  This program is so valuable for the students and for the people we support because they’re getting 1:1 and sometimes 2:1 assistance with learning how to cook, build social skills and develop math, reading and writing skills using iPads.

The Spring 2012 semester’s class was called “Survey of Moderate to Severe Developmental Disabilities”. The student teachers didn’t really know what to expect when they walked in the door. Only a few of them had worked with Arc clients before. For the others, their only experience with someone with a disability was the children with learning disabilities in their regular education classes. At the end of the semester, students shared their comments with The Arc about how meaningful this experience was for them.  Here are some of their comments:

Frank learns to cook with help from a student teacher.

“I think The Arc lessons are extremely important in understanding moderate disabilities and need to be a part of the course. I can’t imagine learning about this kind of experience I am having through a textbook or lecture. I think the best way to facilitate our class and future classes is to keep The Arc part of the course.”

“The past few weeks have not only been very emotional and entertaining, but also educational. The first thing that I have learned is raising a child with a disability is very demanding and stressful. Parents of children with disabilities are in need of support for their wellness; however, services are often unavailable due to lack of funding or if parents don’t know their own rights. This is where teachers need to step up to the plate to be the parent’s best advocate.”

“Estelle had an amazing time using the iPad. She was laughing and smiling so much that

Estelle helps prepare a meal. Thanks to this course, she has built confidence in the kitchen and shares her new skills and meals with her housemates.

I couldn’t help laughing with her at her loving nature and excitement for something so many of us take for granted; the simple skills of spelling a word, doing a puzzle or simple motor skills to use the iPad.”

These are just a few. The clients look forward to coming each week. We are done for the summer and they are bummed about that. But starting again in the fall, the students will be back on Monday nights. This class is open to anyone who receives services from The Arc – adults or children. Individuals must find their own transportation to The Arc office and everyone eats a healthy dinner that they have prepared while there.  For more details, please contact Nicole Terzakis at 609-485-0800 x 201 or nterzakis@arcatlantic.org.

Featuring the Photography of Robert Cheeseman

There is a certain sense of comfort that comes from being behind a camera at a social event, especially for those of us who are on the shy side. Although photography is certainly an outlet for creativity, it can also provide a seamless escape from those uncomfortable situations we sometimes find ourselves in when attending social events.

Arc Supportive Living client Robert Cheeseman, who once was reluctant to participate in Arc activities because of his shyness, has found his comfort zone in his role as the unofficial photographer for many of the activities happening at The Arc. Robert has photographed the Special Olympics basketball finals, the Supportive Living Program’s progressive dinner, a trip to the park, and most recently the Arc Artists’ exhibit at the Ocean City Flower Show this past weekend held in conjunction with the Ocean City Fine Arts League.

Enjoy Robert’s Flickr album and let us know what you think in the comments!

Story Time: Celebrating Recent Successes of People We Serve

On the second Tuesday of every month, we host a staff meeting for about 60 Arc employees. Every meeting begins with staff sharing some of the past month’s inspiring stories and successes achieved by people in our services.  We want to share these stories with you, because you too make all these great things possible! If you have any questions or would like more information about a particular story, please contact The Arc’s Communications Associate Beth Ann Spiegel at 609-485-0800 ext. 136 or bspiegel@arcatlantic.org.

  1. Athletes from our new Track and Field team had their first Special Olympics

    Jackie with The Arc’s Track & Field Team sign

    competition on April 29.  The seven athletes took home six gold medals and three were first time recreation participants! They competed in wheelchair obstacle races,  25m and 100m wheelchair dashes, and 25m assisted walks, among others.  One woman who won a gold medal used to be very shy and not very motivated, but recreation has really helped her come out of her shell. She couldn’t have been more proud to be there with her aunt and uncle to help celebrate her gold medal!

  2. A new resident moved to an Arc group home in January and with help from her staff and a healthier diet, she’s no longer needs most of the meds she arrived with and has lost 15lbs!
  3. Residents and staff at our new Galloway group homes planted a garden in their backyard filled with birdhouses and perennials – a suggestion by one of the residents! She felt their backyard was too plain and inspired the whole group to spruce up their outdoor space.
  4. Residents from our Pacific apartments went to NYC to see Mary Poppins on Broadway thanks to some deal-seeking staff who got tickets at a bargain. They had a wonderful time!
  5. The District 5 Self Advocacy Group of NJ, which is composed of residents from The Arc of Atlantic County and four other surrounding counties, hosted a Rock N’ Bowl fundraiser at King Pin Lanes in Egg Harbor Township May 4th. More than 90 people from Atlantic and Cape May Counties turned out for the event, which raised over $400 to help their cause. Staff pointed out that King Pin was so accommodating and welcoming and deserved a big thanks.
  6. A new resident moved into one of our Galloway Group Homes from a developmental center, and without any encouragement another resident took it upon herself to comfort the new roommate and help her adjust to her new home. She told her, “I was scared when I first came here too, but it will be alright. Everyone is so nice!”
  7. A resident at one of our group homes had his Individual Habilitation Plan meeting recently, which his sister and niece attended for the first time. During the discussion, the sister shared their family background. The family separated a very long time ago, and some of the children were placed in different locations throughout the state and never saw each other again.  As it turned out, the resident we support had three other brothers, one of whom is still alive. The last name was very unique, and the DDD case manager who was also attending recognized the name and knew exactly where the brother could be found! The sister and brother were so thrilled – they’ve been looking for him for years. They’re planning a meeting in the next few months!

All of these stories, and so many more, are made possible thanks to our dedicated team of 250 employees, as well as the generous support of our friends in the community. We can’t thank you enough!

A Sailor’s Life for Me

By Jessica Servis, Executive Director of Just-Sailing

At first, Diamond was not at all interested in going on the water, but by the end of the day she was sailing and loving it!

Ten kids and three staff members from The Arc’s Saturday Program enjoyed an amazing afternoon of maritime education at Just-Sailing last Saturday. The group arrived just before lunch eager to get on the water and learn something new. Safety first, upon arrival everyone was properly fitted with life jackets to provide safety on the boats, dock and beach area. The group now looked official.

Next, we toured the facility showing the kids different types of boats and how they are powered. The kids sat in the canoe and pretended to paddle. They checked out the safety boat, a motorboat used for safety patrol on the water, and listened to the sound of the motor. We walked down the beach to discuss the parts of a sailboat. The Just-Sailing volunteers had rigged and beached two Designer’s Choice sailboats to demonstrate the how the sails move in the wind, the parts of the boat, and how we steer. The kids can see and touch all the boats and sails.

After lunch, everyone had a chance to build their own boat with the help of our volunteers and float it in the test tank. This is a great way to get kids involved in a creative way. They made their sailboats and then tested them in the water.

While some kids made boats, it was time for others to go sailing. For the next two hours all the kids enjoyed sailing around the lake. They all had a chance to steer the boat and trim the sails. Everyone loves to drive, or in sailing terms skipper the boat. It makes you feel empowered and builds self confidence while enjoying time outside. When we sail, we try to teach the kids about the seasons, the animals that live by the lake, and the weather. They love to feel the wind on their faces as we sail around.

About a year ago as we began to build what is now Just-Sailing, Troy and I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Downtown Sailing Center in Baltimore. Acting as coaches in their Accessible Sailing Program for kids and adults with special needs we experienced first hand the joy on the faces of their sailors. Saturday, a year later we couldn’t be happier to see a program like this in our local community.

Thank you to all of the kids, parents, and staff at The Arc for making Saturday possible. We have all been working hard to get the kids on the water for the past few months. People like you make things possible.

Just-Sailing is a non profit organization composed of three major programs: accessible sailing, maritime education, and marine science. The proceeds from our programs and activities help support Accessible Sailing along with the donations and sponsors from our supporters. Thanks to AtlantiCare, West Marine, and Walmart for your support.

Just-Sailing is an education driven volunteer based organization that integrates the freedom of sailing and the power of marine education. We are committed to providing hands on learning opportunities that foster personal independence and a sense of community to the people of southern New Jersey, especially children with special needs, their friends and families, at risk youth, seniors, and people with disabilities.  For more information, please visit www.just-sailing.org, like Just-Sailing on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  Please also feel free to contact me at 609-214-5176 or by email at jessica@just-sailing.org.