“Come on in! Follow me – I’ll give you a tour of the whole house,” Steven* said to the group of eager visitors who showed up at the door of his Egg Harbor City group home he shares with five other men. Steven directed the 11 Arc board members and Arc staff throughout the house, showing off their bedrooms and where they watch TV and eat dinner, and the pool in the backyard. The group home staff, from the program director to the residential assistants, stood by quietly and let Steve and his housemates introduce themselves and tell a little bit about their lives.
This was one of several stops during The Arc’s annual Board Tour Monday night designed to help reconnect members to the mission of the agency that they guide. Sometimes they attend dances and other activities, but this year they focused on three of our group homes. Along the way, they heard about one resident who saved a kitten that became the new pet of one of their staff. Another resident had everyone laughing when she explained how she’s dressing up as the assistant manager at her group home for Halloween – “with a blonde wig and everything!” she said. At another house as the group was leaving, a resident had already asked his staff for help writing a letter to invite a board member to his home for a swim next summer.
This event is always so rewarding, both for the people we support and the board members as well. It gives residents an opportunity to open up the home, describe how they live, and take pride in themselves and their space. It gives the staff who work in the homes an opportunity to connect with The Arc’s leadership, and to be proud of the hard work they do to support their residents. Board members always leave with a greater understanding and a reminder of why they’re involved in the first place.
Peter Beck, who has volunteered in The Arc’s golf program for seven years, joined the board this summer. “Tonight was my first look at The Arc from another perspective, and a very rewarding one I might add! First, the homes fit right into each neighborhood and are well kept and maintained. The Arc men and women seemed happy to see us and equally happy in their environment,” Beck said. “I was also very impressed with The Arc employees themselves and the interest they took in their work, and the care they took in the folks living there. Equally impressive was the amount of training that everyone was receiving. They all looked forward to additional training and learning.”
Audrey Fischer is also relatively new to The Arc’s board. “The interaction with the residents and the way they received us was great. I feel so proud to be a part of The Arc and so fortunate to meet the residents and the staff,” she said.
Board chair Herb Hummel has been involved with The Arc for many years, but he always looks forward to visiting the group home residents. “What I notice most about these visits is how much like a family the residents and staff are. It’s obviously not just a job to the staff. They know and understand the residents so well, and each resident and staff member fills a specific role in the home,” Hummel said.
Irv Singer, who runs The Arc’s new Northfield thrift shop and chairs the annual Golfing for Good Tournament, now in it’s third year, to benefit the agency, accompanied the tour to get to know a side of The Arc he is not so familiar with. “Every time you turn around at The Arc there’s something else that you didn’t realize,” Singer said. “The tour heightened my awareness of The Arc and inspired me to do a better job. As the thrift store manager, you sometimes forget that the purpose of what you’re doing is not necessarily to run a good store and make money. We’re also generating funds that make it possible for people who are very vulnerable to live their lives with dignity. It’s wonderful that there’s an organization like The Arc to help that along,” Singer said.
Would you like to schedule your own tour of an Arc program? We’d be happy to accommodate your small group, and the residents would be thrilled to meet you and show off their homes. For more information, please contact Chief Development Officer Deborah Jewell at 609-485-0800 ext. 135.
*Names have been changed