LifeCYCLE Project – Changing Lives and Improving the Environment

By Greg Gates,  The Arc of Lee County / Kreider Services

From the outside, 629 Palmyra Road Dixon Illinois looks like a facility that would be home to a manufacturing operation. Walking inside the front door reveals an environment that is changing lives.

The greater vision for this recycling site, as explained by Jeff Stauter, our president and chief executive officer of Kreider Services, is to cultivate an economic development incubator and to offer people with disabilities the chance of being employed by the business and perhaps serving as owners of their own businesses.

“Think of it……why place limits on what people with disabilities are able to do,” asks Stauter. “Unfortunately they’ve already had enough barriers placed around them. We know that we have persons who are quite capable of doing some great things if they are given the opportunities to do so.  This new operation will recycle electronics, cardboard, plastic, food scraps, polystyrene and office paper,  and my hope it will serve as a model for others to pattern their operation after,” adds Stauter.

Current national figures show that 80 percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not  employed.  The “LifeCycle Project” as it has been named by Secure Recycling Services will create 20 jobs initially  for persons with disabilities. The persons hired for these jobs will be trained by project staff on collecting, dismantling, sorting, and inventorying electronic waste.  For instance, they are learning how to take apart a CPU, power supply, keyboards, or computer mice.    And others will be dismantling power cords for the copper wiring inside.

At Kreider Services, we understand the concern for the individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability who aren’t receiving funding assistance from the state anymore. They’ve fallen through the cracks……at the same time, they haven’t yet been developing the skills that will help them find the sustainable jobs they need.

As the electronic recycling efforts are expanding at our Palmyra Road location, the lives of people with disabilities are being changed indeed.  In the transition from working in a sheltered workshop environment to taking on jobs at the recycling site, at the start of the new year, five people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be working alongside “regular” employees at the SRS division.   After talking with Andy, one of the new workers, an incredible statement was made.  “My family is so excited for me to get this job…….. I’m no longer a ‘client’,”  he voiced with the most joyful pride. To hear his enthusiasm and to realize the deeper meaning of that simple statement is truly monumental, don’t you think.

Thanks to a project of The Arc and the Walmart Foundation, the eXplore eRecycling Initiative has provided funding to ten grant recipients across the nation of which Kreider Services/The Arc of Lee County was one. The local project has allowed for the expansion of Kreider Services’ existing electronics recycling operation and has provided paid employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Andy.

President of our local Arc chapter, Lee County Illinois, Jill Polivka had commented, “This is a great opportunity for individuals with disabilities in our community.”   Our partnership with The Arc will help make our recycling efforts even stronger.   The recycling industry is an open market of opportunity; it’s the perfect avenue to find the much needed employment potential for not only people with disabilities …but for our community in general.

Beyond the electronics recycling, the LifeCycle Project will help educate school children and the general public about the proper disposal of their computer, television or similar equipment.  Recycling Coloring and Activity books will be distributed to local grade schools. We will also be hosting a gallery opening at The Next Picture Show art gallery of original artwork created from recycled electronic material. Plans also call for working directly with local Walmart stores on educating their patrons on how to recycle their used electronics by having a number of individuals demonstrating the “de-manufacturing” of the outdated electronic equipment.

Need has always been considered the mother of invention… in this trying economic climate… what an exciting potential it may reveal. We shall live and learn as we move forward. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

For additional information, please visit the project’s website here.

“Bob, Would You Like the Chance to Meet with Vice President Biden?”

Vice President Joe Biden has lunch with Americans to discuss the importance of middle class tax cuts, at Metro 29 diner in Arlington, Virginia, Dec. 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Vice President Joe Biden has lunch with Americans to discuss the importance of middle class tax cuts, at Metro 29 diner in Arlington, Virginia, Dec. 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

By Bob Hage, advocate from The Arc of New Jersey and father of two daughters with I/DD

It was a typical Saturday for our family – I was shuttling our 13-year-old son Vann from a hockey game, while my wife Odette Adrian was home with our girls, Annika and Maya.My cell phone rang, and it was Marty Ford with The Arc’s national office.What she said was anything but typical…

“Bob, would you like the chance to meet with Vice President Biden?”

Our Family and the “Fiscal Cliff”

Marty had the opportunity to suggest a few names of people whose families included people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to meet with Vice President Biden about the potential impact of taxes going up in January. I’m sure you have seen all over the news the dramatic “fiscal cliff” countdown, as leaders in Congress negotiate with the Administration on whether or not to extend tax cuts for the middle class. If they don’t extend the cuts for the middle class, then families like mine could see a $2,000 or more tax increase in 2013. And that could have terrible consequences on our family’s ability to pay for disability-related expenses.

My beautiful 9-year-old twin daughters, Annika and Maya, are the light of my life. Both my girls have severe developmental disabilities and are non-verbal and medically fragile. We’ve been involved with The Arc since Annika and Maya were very young – The Arc of New Jersey has given us a place to go with questions and has served as a vital link to other families like ours and resources and information that we couldn’t do without.

So Marty’s question had barely sunk in before I was calling Odette and we were drafting our family’s biography to submit to the White House. While we have been involved with The Arc nationally, as part of their re-branding initiative in 2011, we had never had this kind of chance to advocate on behalf of Annika and Maya and millions of families like ours ever before. This was huge, and while Marty warned that many other organizations were responding to the White House’s request and we may not be chosen, I had a feeling that this was our chance to make a big impact.

Fast forward five days, and I was on a train to Washington, DC for a meeting with Vice President Biden. I huddled with the staff of The Arc’s national office, who gave me top-secret information about where I was to join the Vice President and the other meeting attendees. We had all assumed it would be at the White House – but it turned out that I was having lunch at a diner in Arlington, Virginia. Security is always top of mind when the Vice President is involved, so I couldn’t even tell Odette where I was going!

The Big Meeting

The next day, I joined six other Americans for a candid, in-depth discussion with Vice President Biden. It’s an experience I will never forget. I had brought along a photo of Vann, Annika, and Maya, and I shared it with the Vice President. He immediately smiled, as any proud father would, and connected with our family’s story. Annika and Maya have defied so many expectations, and I’m immensely proud of my girls.

I shared with him that Annika and Maya go to speech therapy, which has been instrumental in moving them from being totally dependent on liquid tube feedings to eating all their nutrition from pureed foods. Currently, speech therapy’s primary goal is to help Annika and Maya learn to chew so they can eat solid food.

Both girls participate in weekly music and gymnastics classes for children with special needs. While music and gymnastics is recreational for most children, it is vitally important to Annika and Maya’s development. The music class focuses on building finger strength and coordination through piano and helps the girls to vocalize through singing. The gymnastics class concentrates on building muscular strength and endurance which is especially important for children with low muscular tone.

But if we were to face a tax increase in the thousands of dollars, some of their therapies and classes that help them develop could be cut from our family’s budget.

Not only did Vice President Biden listen, he clearly understands the challenges families like mine face, and I walked away trusting that he will do everything he can to protect my daughters’ future.

Please join me in being a strong advocate on behalf of The Arc – join The Arc’s action community today.

The Arc of Madison County eRecycling Program

By Joyce Rinaldi, The Arc of Madison County

While The Arc of Madison County has worked hard to help individuals obtain employment in businesses throughout our community, we have also developed businesses to create new work opportunities. Our most significant success has been with our recycle and an on-site paper shredding businesses. With these programs, we have employed over 100 individuals with disabilities as sorters, material handlers, and on-site shredding personnel.

With our newest endeavor, we are excited to partner with The Arc’s eXplore eRecycling Initiative, funded by the Walmart Foundation, to place more individuals with disabilities to work! With this grant, we will be recycling and shredding metal products, circuit boards, cell phones and computer hard drives. By working with community stakeholders (individuals, local businesses, etc.) to recycle electronic equipment, it allows us to empower the individuals we serve and conserve natural resources, protect public health and the environment.

Our e-recycling employees work extensively in the community, engaging one-on-one with our customers. This structure has provided a maximum benefit to both employees and customers. We have received only the most enthusiastic feedback from our customers to this end and have enjoyed seeing the relationships they have been able to establish. It is also important to note that all employees associated with this particular initiative earn at least minimum wage, which further facilitates independence.

While taking a community leader on a tour of our facility last week, I noticed excitement was in the air. As we came upon several recycle workers, they could not contain themselves. They just had to show this person the new additions to our recycling program, our truck and new hard drive destruction equipment.  They explained how we received a grant from The Arc of the United States; how we would be recycling (and destroying) new items like hard drives and cell phones; and how other people “like me” will get to work. I did not have to say anything as the workers sold the program. It is exciting to see the “ownership” in the program. It also reminded me that their commitment is what has made our recycle and shredding services successful. Commitment to their job and to our community, in the services we provide.

Helping a Community Go Green!

By Kerry Mahoney, The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport

Cut the Cord: The Newburyport eRecycling Project

The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport has partnered with The City of Newburyport to implement The Newburyport eRecycle Project. In addition to job training and employment for adults with I/DD we are busy at work educating area residents on the impact e-waste has on the environment and City.

We have developed a multimedia approach to educate the residents in the goals of the project:

  • To demonstrate the abilities of people with I/DD
  • The impact and benefit eRecycling has on the environment
  • The benefit to the City of Newburyport.

In addition to press in the local papers we have reached out to the local cable station and radio station to raise awareness. A student with disabilities from Newburyport High School is assisting us in producing a film about the project through the local media station. This film will be on the websites of The Arc of GHN, City of Newburyport and their contractor-Electronic Recyclers International’s website. This student along with his sister (a graphic design major at UMASS/Amherst) also created a logo for the project. (Attached) A message is listed on the local cable news announcing the project along with a trivia game with prizes about eRecycling to capture viewer’s interest. The local radio station had us as special guests with an interview on air.

The staff attends social events arranged by The Chamber of Commerce to network with other businesses. To meet the needs of the business community we have established a separate date during the week for them to drop off their electronics. The Chamber member newsletter distributes announcements about the project to over 800 members via email.

On Saturday our eRecycle employees will be at the local grocery store displaying a table full of electronic waste and distributing information on ewaste as well as the opening celebration at the Newburyport Recycling Center on October 6th. The eRecycle employees are also busy at work constructing a scarecrow complete with electronic cords to be placed on a lamppost in downtown Newburyport during the Harvest Festival.

The Arc of Nassau County New York Develops eWorks

By Karleen Haines, The Arc of Nassau County New York

Workers at

Workers at The Arc of Nassau County New York’s eWorks program recycle parts of a personal computer.

The Arc of Nassau County New York (AHRC Nassau) over the last two years has developed a small business providing e-waste recycling to local organizations, titled AHRC eWorks. eWorks hires adults with intellectual disabilities as dismantlers to inventory, sort, clean work areas, dismantle electronic items, and label pallets. Though this position requires specific skill sets and flexibility based upon the types of electronics to be dismantled, several individuals have achieved great success.

Thanks to The Arc’s eXplore eRecycling program funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation, eWorks was recently able to offer another employee – James – this work opportunity. James is an older gentleman who recently came to AHRC Nassau and immediately showed great ability within eWorks. As a result of attaining this position, James is hopeful and excited about the possibility of setting aside money to find a modest apartment where he can live more independently.

Also, it appears that this opportunity for advancement has also encouraged James to “come out of his shell”. Now while at work, James has become more sociable with his fellow employees. We here at AHRC Nassau are hopeful that James and other current and future employees will all be able to share in similar positive experiences.

Standing up for Voting Rights

By Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director, The Arc Minnesota

The voting rights of persons with disabilities are in jeopardy across the nation.  Laws and constitutional amendments to restrict the access of people to the polls have been passed in numerous states already.  Here in Minnesota, voters will decide in the November elections whether to require all voters to have a photo ID and to change other Election Day procedures that will create unnecessary barriers to voting.

In Minnesota, challenges to voting rights have also surfaced in the courts.  Fortunately, disability advocates saw a victory in an August 17 ruling by the U.S. Federal Court in St. Paul.  U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed a lawsuit filed by several state legislators, individuals, and organizations who have worked to restrict voting rights.  The lawsuit asked the court to limit the right to vote of people under guardianship, including people with disabilities.  If the lawsuit were upheld, it would have run counter to current Minnesota law, which presumes that people with disabilities retain their right to vote, unless a court specifically takes that right away.

The Minnesota Disability Law Center, the federal protection and advocacy agency in this state, filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief to the judge hearing the case. It cited the legal and legislative basis for the presumption that people with disabilities under guardianship have the right to vote. The Arc Minnesota signed on to this brief, which the judge said provided a “comprehensive overview and history of Minnesota guardianship law.”

The plaintiffs who filed this lawsuit will appeal the judge’s ruling.  In the meantime, The Arc Minnesota and other disability advocates are celebrating this victory in the courts.  Our efforts will continue to protect the rights of people with disabilities to have a voice in whom their elected officials are.  These will include statewide efforts to defeat the voter restriction amendment on this fall’s ballot, and educating the public and the media about the right of people with disabilities to have a say in issues that touch their daily lives.  Let’s all fight efforts like these that push people with disabilities back into the shadows of society.

Promoting Inclusion in All Situations

By Mary Funk, Deputy Executive Director of The Arc of Prince George’s County.

Save the ChildrenWhat do chapters of The Arc do? A better question would be – what don’t they do? Supporting individuals with I/DD and their families can mean a number of things, from providing services to hosting educational program. Chapters look at the overall needs of the families they serve and are constantly working to find new ways to address needs in their communities. Realizing that many child care facilities are not required to specifically account for infants, toddlers or children with disabilities or those with access and functional needs in their disaster preparedness plans our chapter decided to take action.

Five years ago, The Arc Prince George’s County received a grant from the Maryland State Department of Education to create an inclusive childcare center. We forged a partnership with the local YMCA that was already providing childcare for typical infants andchildren 6 weeks – five years.  The Y offers the facility and childcare license, and our chapter provides the nurse and years of experience working with children with disabilities.

The collaboration has enabled children with developmental delays, physical disabilities, and medical diagnoses to play and learn alongside their typical peers, regardless of the nursing needs that may be required. Children are not separated because of their disabilities by walls or classrooms in any way. They receive on-site physical, occupational, and speech/language therapies and any needed specialized care. Children without disabilities play alongside children with disabilities, never concerned with any “differences”. They do not see a child with a disability….they see only a friend.

We are so pleased to share that Save the Children’s fifth annual “National Report Card on Protecting Children During Disasters” highlights the success of one of our employees, Judy Tribby, who works at the YMCA inclusive child care center, in Bowie, MD.  Judy has been instrumental in ensuring that emergency plans in place at the center take into account every need of the children with disabilities.  Her work paid off in August 2011, during the East Coast earthquake.

To learn more about Judy’s work and to read the full report, visit www.savethechildren.org/disaster-report.

Explore Genesee ARC and Its Growing Trash and Recycling Business

A worker with Genesee ARC’s Trash and Recycling Center helps recycle e-waste.

Submitted by Shelley Falitico, Genesee ARC

Here at Genesee ARC, we have been in the trash and recycling business for nearly 30 years. In fact, we have been the exclusive provider of this service to residents of the city of Batavia since 1983. Batavia is our county seat and has a population over about 16,000 people.

Over the years, Genesee ARC has continually employed as many as 20 people with disabilities through this successful work program, and quality satisfaction surveys conducted over the last quarter century have consistently rated our service exceptional!

This has been a very busy and exciting time for the Genesee ARC Trash and Recycling Center as we have recently moved to a larger, more modern facility. The move coincides with increased marketing efforts to expand the amount of recyclables we collect, and the wonderful news that we are one of ten agencies in the nation to receive an eXplore eRecycling Grant from The Walmart Foundation and The Arc.

We began picking up and recycling e-waste since last year in order to prepare for an impending New York State law requiring e-recycling in our communities. Since the first of this year, we have collected several tons from City of Batavia residents. That’s a lot of televisions, scanners, monitors and keyboards that have NOT ended up in a landfill!

The eXplore eRecycling Grant will allow us to expand on this success and plans include offering an e-recycling drop off service to residents in each of our County’s thirteen towns and six villages. We are currently in the process of developing the E-Waste Apprentice position. In the weeks to come, we will be designing a marketing plan to help guide our eXplore eRecycling initiatives.

How The Arc – Los Angeles & Orange Counties Helps Employ People with Disabilities

By Kevin P. MacDonald, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc – Los Angeles & Orange Counties

An employee at The Arc Los Angeles and Orange Counties new dollar store in the City of Long Beach, called Just-A-Buck, helps a customer check out.

It is an exciting time in Southern California for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD)!  On July 20, we celebrated the opening of a franchise to further our mission of employing people with I/DD. With an unemployment rate of 85% for people with developmental disabilities and state funding at a standstill for years – we decided to find a creative way to employ people with disabilities in our community.

Partnering with a New York based franchise called “Just-A-Buck” and with the assistance of a local benefactor we were able to make this dream come true.

The store employs 5 people with I/DD, each of them earning a salary at or above minimum wage, working alongside employees without disabilities. The employees participate in all aspects of making the store a success.  The new store will also provide an added bonus: to have people come into the store and see our workers and what they are capable of instead of their disability, you just can’t measure that! We believe that work gives everyone, especially those with disabilities, purpose and dignity and it helps them achieve independence and economic self-sufficiency.

To learn more about the store visit our website: www.thearclaoc.org. Also, if you live in the Los Angeles area stop by and visit us: 141 E. Willow Street in Long Beach at the Wrigley Shopping Center (Willow & Long Beach Boulevard).

Our Friend Mikayla – Our Journey to Bring this Book to Schools across Pennsylvania

By Kim Resh, mother to Mikayla Resh

Our Friend Mikayla

It is a certainly a most amazing accomplishment that Our Friend Mikayla, the book inspired by my daughter and written and illustrated by her third grade classmates, is now in every public elementary school in Pennsylvania. Still, I’m really not entirely surprised. I believe in kids. I always have. And if at any time I had doubts, kids have always renewed my faith.

No matter how certain we were of our decision to include Mikayla in a regular education classroom, we were afraid of how the other kids would react and respond to her. But our fears were unfounded. From the very first day, the children wanted to push her in her wheelchair, sit next to her at lunch, even turn off her feeding pump when it alarmed. So when they grew old enough to write their story, I knew theirs was a message worth sharing.

I’ve always said that even if the book was never published, the time we all spent working together was an incredible experience. Our honest discussions were priceless and are clearly portrayed through the kids’ writing. When I edited their words into one story, I was surprised at how easily the book wrote itself. And to be honest, almost everything else has fallen into place with equal ease.

I wrote one grant for publishing. That was approved, and another organization asked to help. Individuals and families privately donated copies of Our Friend Mikayla to their own school libraries. It was obviously more difficult to find donors for a statewide distribution program so I am grateful to Walmart and Air Products for their grants, which respectively afforded the printing and mailing of books across the state.

Still, am I surprised every public elementary school finally has a copy? No, humbled and most appreciative, but not surprised. It is all about the kids. They are smart. They understand more than adults at times. Young children are innocent and pure, capable of unconditional friendship and compassion. If learned young, these lessons last forever. By including our students with and without disabilities in the same classrooms, they will teach other life’s most important lessons. Our Friend Mikayla is not just a book, it is a wonderful example of what is possible in every school across the state, country, and beyond.