Helping Dreams Come True While Helping the Environment

eRecycling at The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties Inc.By Caleb Wilson, Vocational Director, The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties Inc.

A valuable lesson we have learned through our efforts of connecting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to community-based employment opportunities is that the idea of creating a business around someone’s interests and abilities is not commonplace. Some individuals have always dreamed of being their own boss and owning their own business.  Keeping that in mind, The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties started assisting individuals in creating their “Dream Job” of owning their own business.

The Arc and Walmart Foundation’s eXplore eRecycling Initiative has made it possible for us to assist a small group of individuals experiencing disabilities with starting a business that helps residents and community businesses/organizations recycle their old electronics in an environmentally sound way. From the development of the business plan and policies, The Arc eRecycling of Clarion and Venango Counties has truly been an effort led by these employees.

To comply with Pennsylvania’s Covered Device Act, we have held two free e-waste drop off days in both Clarion and Venango Counties.  These events brought in over 4,000 pounds of old electronics that do not work or that people simply do not wish to own anymore.   Additionally, several local city offices have started referring their residents to The Arc eRecycling for their needs and this has given us the opportunity to recycle hundreds of computer monitors and televisions.  With a motto of “We take anything with a plug” each day customers have the ability to drop off any electronic.  In order to meet the interests of some employees, The Arc eRecycling of Clarion and Venango Counties started creating catalogs to resell old electronics that are still in working condition.  This not only allows the business to help the environment but to help individuals find reasonable priced electronics.

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.

Chapters of The Arc coming together in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Claiming more than 100 lives, leaving millions without power, and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes, Hurricane Sandy will not soon be forgotten. The total cost of damages in New York and New Jersey alone will likely total more than $50 billion. Many chapters of The Arc are still coping with the aftermath of this treacherous storm.

While tragic stories filled media reports, inspiring tales of communities coming together seemed to be overlooked. The Arc’s network includes more than 700 chapters in 49 states across the country, with more than 70 in the hard-hit states of New York and New Jersey. But chapters in affected states were not alone as the storm approached.

Inspiration in New Jersey

In New Jersey, chapter staff was rushing home from The Arc’s National Convention in Washington, DC to prep for the storm. After previous storms, chapters had plans for disaster situations and specialized training programs on emergency preparedness had taken place. While chapters were concerned about all the individuals and families they support, a priority for many was to educate individuals with I/DD living in the community about what to do and who to contact in an emergency.

The selflessness and dedication of the direct care support professionals throughout the state was truly inspiring. They went above and beyond what was expected. One employment support worker lost her home during the hurricane. Despite her loss, her priority remained locating the young man with I/DD she worked with in an evacuation shelter, and making sure he would be able to go back to work once the business he worked in was reopened. Not once did she mention her own loss; her main concern was making sure that one young man didn’t get lost in the system. Her work paid off and she was able to move him into temporary housing with friends and even contacted his employer to make sure his job was secure. These stories of compassion and generosity are plentiful in The Arc’s community.

Many chapters suffered power outages and flooding, but The Arc of Monmouth in New Jersey was one the hardest hit. One building, where day programs were held, was destroyed. These programs not only allowed individuals with I/DD an opportunity to work and participate in the community, but gave parents the ability to work while knowing their loved one was safe. The Arc of Monmouth was not willing to give up on their community and the hundreds of families they serve, so they set up a make-shift center in their main office. Pulling together staff and volunteers they have been able to host a variety of mini-seminars and workshops – no small feat in an area severely affected by the storm.

Resilience in New York

In New York, similar stories of inspiration can be found. Some of the most compelling stories come from NYSARC, Inc., the New York State Chapter of The Arc. Their New York City chapter, AHRC NYC, knew the key to survival was preparation. Learning from previous experiences and storms, they knew what had to be done to ensure that they could continue serving their communities even if they ended up bearing the brunt of the storm.

Despite the amazing preparation throughout New York, the aftermath of the storm did pose problems. Accounting for all individuals they supported in many urban areas proved difficult, but chapter staff used all available resources to account for everyone. In spite of severe flooding and power outages in the Wall Street area (where AHRC NYC’s main office is located), staff was in the office immediately after the storm sweeping water out so that they could get back to work. Through teamwork they overcame the barriers to getting their office functioning again.

After dealing with the immediate crisis, the staff at AHRC NYC knew they had to ensure that everyone was paid on time so that they could cover personal expenses they incurred from storm damage.  With no power in their main office, staffers carried a 300-pound piece of equipment down 13 flights of stairs, and transported it to an area where there was power to get paychecks out on time. AHRC NYC employs 3,000 staff who fan out across the city providing services and supports to more than 15,000 people with I/DD.

The sense of community was powerful, and AHRC NYC truly exemplified it in the aftermath of the storm. They shared their limited resources, including gas, with other chapters to make sure the work of The Arc could continue.

We at the national office commend The Arc of New Jersey, NYSARC, Inc., and all chapters that were affected by this storm for their amazing work and dedication. We ask any chapter affected by the storm to contact the national office if they are in need of assistance, or wish to share their story with us.

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 Delaware County Speaks Out on Attack on Woman with Disabilities

The Arc of Delaware County is appalled at the senselessness of the recent attack on a woman with disabilities in Chester, Delaware County. According to Frank Bartoli, Executive Director, “This was a savage and cruel act on a person with a disability.”

People with disabilities are far too often targets of crime. This extreme example of bullying calls for better public awareness and sensitivity training in our schools. What possible circumstances would lead teenage girls to think these acts would meet their needs for notoriety. The Arc hopes this horrific incident leads to a forensic analysis of the events and that lessons are learned so that persons with disabilities are treated with equal respect. The Arc believes that this incident draws attention to the need for students with and without disabilities to be educated together, to learn from each other and to value each other as peers and friends.

The Arc has a long history of standing up for the rights of people with disabilities and The Arc stands ready to assist local law enforcement in their investigation and to assist other people with disabilities who may need our assistance.

The Arc of Nassau County New York Develops eWorks

By Karleen Haines, The Arc of Nassau County New York

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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.

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.

A New Day for Virginia

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The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia approved a settlement agreement between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commonwealth concerning its system for providing services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).  DOJ found that Virginia was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to give people the opportunity to live in the community.  Virginia will move many individuals out of training centers into the community, will provide services to some of the people on the waiting list, and will dramatically change the way Virginia provides services to individuals with I/DD.  To view the statement by The Arc of Virginia, you can download the statement via PDF.

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).