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.

Charging through Belle Isle Raceway with The Arc!

By Laurie Istook, wife of driver Don Istook

The Arc Audi Racing Program

As Don and I tour the country for the Pirelli World Challenge, we have had the opportunity to meet many amazing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) through The Arc Audi Racing Program. Most recently we were in Detroit at the Belle Isle Raceway. We were joined by staffers and self-advocates from The Arc of Western Wayne County.

The time leading up to the race and prepping with our new friends from The Arc was wonderful. From teaching them about the car, to having them help Don and his team get ready for the race it was an exciting time for all of us. The real highlight came after the race when Don won the “Hard Charger” award for the race. He won because he moved ahead of more cars during the race than any other driver.

While accepting his award on the winner’s podium, Don dedicated it to my brother Mark and our visitors from The Arc.  He let everyone know that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be “hard chargers” too if they are just given the chance.

We look forward to more races, victories, and of course to continuing our work with The Arc and their local chapters.

Meet Teddy: Self-Advocate, Entrepreneur and Inspiration

By: Annette Downey, Director of Community Living Services of Oakland County in Ferndale, Michigan

Teddy Fitzmaurice is a 28 year old energetic entrepreneur with Down Syndrome who promotes human rights and disability advocacy.  Teddy lives in his own apartment and loves to play his music loud and watch TV whenever he wants. He enjoys taking care of his bunnies, Chloe and Amy, walking, running, biking, swimming, and hanging out with his many friends.

Teddy began his own business, Teddy’s Ts, in 2006. He sells T-shirts that come in many sizes, along with a multitude of buttons. Teddy has taken his business around the country including Washington DC, Chicago, New York, San Juan, St. Louis, and Columbus just to name a few of his stops. He also displays his shirts in several stores.

The logos displayed on Teddy’s t-shirts and buttons promote improved quality of life, social justice, and equality for all. Teddy promotes community living, self-determination, inclusive education, and people first language. His merchandise proudly displays messages such as “Label Jars, NOT People”, “Shred the word – R E T A R D E D” and “Disabled, Sexy, and Proud!”.  Teddy uses a variety of creative methods to share his vision and passion for advocacy.

Always the happy salesman, Teddy is eager to attend every conference he can to sell his shirts.  Teddy’s products are creative and inspirational, and they promote disability rights and social justice.  To check out his product line, please visit Teddy’s T’s website www.teddysts.com or register for The Arc’s 2012 National Convention & International Forum and purchase one of his t-shirts in Entrepreneur Alley!

The Arc of Alameda County Shifts Gears

Race Group Shot of The Arc of Alameda County

By Richard Fitzmaurice, Director of Community Relations at The Arc of Alameda County

It was loud.  It was smelly.  It was crowded.  It was the thrill of a lifetime!

Eleven of The Arc of Alameda County’s 600 clients traveled some 100 miles south to California’s central coast for the Monterey edition of the Pirelli World Challenge motor race.

It was not the typical community-based excursion.

Carrying personal belongings in backpacks specially designed for The Arc of Alameda County, the group entered Laguna Seca raceway and was immediately dazzled by the sights, sounds, colors and cars.  Of particular interest was the white Audi TT RS with The Arc’s logo on the hood sandwiched between the Revo technik and Pirelli logos.

Representing The Arc of Alameda County was: Peter Parkins, Angel Peregrina, Dania Leyva, Peter Roe, David Robinson, Laimone Williams, Nelvin Goree, Annick Woodall, Dominic Lerona, Kenneth Lee and Terry Newman.

Staff members included Mark Caleira, Jr., Ed Segovia and Juan Ramirez.  They were assisted by Joann Scruggs and Raymond Gaddis.

The Arc crew was immediately ushered not to the usual grandstand seats but straight to the pit where they served as honorary members of the ISTOOK’s Motorsports pit crew.   After enjoying a homemade bag lunch and helping wax the car, driver Don Istook and his wife Laurie offered insights into the world of racing.

“He told us about the car – showed us how everything works,” said David Robinson, a client at the vocational development center in San Leandro.

It was personal experience involving family members with intellectual and developmental disabilities that led Don and Laurie Istook, owners of ISTOOK’s Motorsports, to form a partnership with The Arc and create the Arc Audi Racing Program.  It was that focus on the abilities – not disabilities – of the people we serve that made the Istooks comfortable giving The Arc of Alameda group total access to the pit.   Clients even got to check out the other cars.

“I got to meet other drivers,” said Angel Peregrina also of San Leandro. “Don was nice and super helpful.”

“Everyone was great,” commented Community Service Manager, Mark Caldeira. “Even crew members not affiliated with ISTOOK’S Motorsports took time to explain what they were doing and why they were doing it. It could not have been a better experience for our clients,” he said.

As race time approached, the Arc crew was invited to participate in “the walk to the grid.”  Don, who also has The Arc logo on his race suit, climbed into the Audi and fired up the 2.5L turbocharged engine and began creeping toward the gate leading to the track.  The Arc crew walked along side.

“It was loud but it was good,” said Peregrina.

When the race started, clients were in their seats and gave Don a huge cheer on every lap as he passed by.

Monterey was the third stop on the Pirelli World Challenge seven-race circuit.  At each venue, the Istooks invite local chapters of The Arc to attend.  They even invited the Alameda County group to return to Laguna Seca next year.

“We’re going.  We’re definitely going!” Peregrina said with a huge smile.