The Arc of Schuyler recently launched its annual fund and membership campaign, which supports critical services, meaningful opportunities, and advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, and their families. (Read the appeal letter.)
The organization implemented a pet therapy program in 2015 through a partnership with volunteer, Elizabeth “Betsy” Hoffmeier of Rock Stream. She and her husband Jay are long-time supporters and volunteers of The Arc and the owners of three purebred Leonberger dogs that each compete in various dog shows. Augie, 4 and Ripley, 2 were recently certified as a therapy dog team through Therapy Dogs International. Still a puppy, Knabe is working toward his therapy dog certification.
Betsy and her dogs are regular guests at The Arc, visiting on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Conner Goodwin, 22, is one of many people who look forward to spending time with these fluffy companions. Though Conner’s disabilities can influence his memory retention, his parents recognize an improvement in his ability to remember on pet therapy days.
“He remembers each of the dog’s names and is excited to talk about them when he gets home,” Conner’s father Lewis Goodwin said. “They’re a tremendous part of his day and he always remembers more of it when he’s interacted with them.”
Others who receive services at The Arc enjoy reading aloud to the dogs or walking them throughout the building. The Arc’s Director of Day Services, Marie Scott adds that the dogs bring comfort and joy to many who have visual impairments, physical challenges, or who experience stress.
“Animals don’t judge or place expectations. That makes people feel good about themselves and it motivates them,” Scott said. “Betsy and her dogs are doing something incredibly significant for people and The Arc is proud to partner with them to make this program possible.”
The Arc provides 24/7 residential supports, service coordination, at-home respite, recreation, guardianship, day services, vocational training and employment supports to more than 200 individual and families in the Schuyler County area.
Members of The Arc of Schuyler, a nonprofit organization providing supports and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, elected officers and board members at its annual meeting in May.
The Arc introduced two new board members. Jeff Greuber was elected to a three year term ending May 2019. Greuber is the owner of Finger Lakes Accounting and Tax Service in Odessa and is an active volunteer in the community, serving on other non-profit boards. Matthew Hayden, Barbara Specchio, and Larry Tanner were also elected to a three year term ending May 2019.
Nan Woodworth-Shaw, retiring this fall from Watkins Glen High School, was elected to a two year term ending May 2018. She has served as the chairperson on the Watkins Glen School’s Committee on Special Education for many years and has also been involved on many community organizations in volunteer capacities.
Michael Stamp was elected president; Harold J. Hoffmeier, Jr. was elected vice-president; Michael DeNardo was elected as treasurer, and Matthew Hayden was elected as secretary.
Recognizing volunteers and showcasing their efforts was central on the program at The Arc of Schuyler’s Annual Meeting, on May 19 at Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel.
Volunteers who support The Arc through board and advisory committees, events, and other Arc programs were highlighted. President Michael Stamp thanked Barbara Frank for 23 years of dedicated volunteer service on The Arc’s board of directors. Frank, served in leadership roles and provided input and oversight through various committees.
“She has been a strong advocate for people with developmental disabilities and we know that will continue. We will miss her on the Board,” Stamp said.
Cynthia Hill, arts coordinator for Franklin Street Gallery, the community arts center operated by The Arc, spoke about the important role volunteers play in advancing the arts in Schuyler County. One of those volunteers, Warren Winner talked about his role as a volunteer at the Gallery and encouraged others to get involved.
Director of Community Relations, Holly Baker noted youth involvement and volunteer opportunities with The Arc. Odessa-Montour bowling team members Carolyn Arias, Alexander Grady, and Jackie Vincent were acknowledged for making The Arc’s bowling recreation program a great success in providing people with developmental disabilities inclusive opportunities in their community.
Other business included election of board officers and directors, welcoming new members Jeff Greuber of Odessa and Nan Woodworth-Shaw of Watkins Glen. The Arc’s annual Direct Support Professional Excellence Award was presented to Tracy Andrews of Willard, NY. Andrews was recognized for her outstanding leadership, creativity, and dedication to providing quality supports to people with developmental disabilities.The program concluded with a presentation by Betsy Hoffmeier, the driving force behind The Arc’s new pet therapy program. Betsy volunteers twice a week with her certified therapy dogs Augie, Ripley, and Knabe.
“Our purpose tonight was to demonstrate that our volunteers are diverse and whatever your passion or your experience, you can find your purpose at The Arc. We welcome people to explore opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives at The Arc,” Board President, Michael Stamp said.
Photo (Above): Stacy Burdick (left) assisted in presenting Tracy Andrews (center with her children) with The Arc's Direct Support Professional Excellence Award.
Photo (Left): Barb Frank (left) was recognized for her 23 years of service on the board with a rose for each year of service. Executive Director, Jeannette Frank pictured right.
The Arc of Schuyler recently announced a new shared staffing arrangement between Tompkins County Cooperative Extension’s Way2Go program and The Arc. Amber Simmons, Mobility Manager at The Arc, will be leading a project that brings together people who need transportation, transportation providers, and potential funders in order to identify, on a regional basis, barriers that limit people’s access to services, prioritize needs, and consider solutions.
“People’s transportation needs don’t stop at county borders,” Simmons said. “It is timely for us to be having these discussions as the health care industry explores ways to keep people well. Their goal is to avoid hospitalizations or other costly health care services by helping people get connected with supports in their communities. Lack of transportation always comes up in these discussions.” This Way2Go project expands upon a recent seven county transportation study completed by the consulting firm, Wendel.
As part of the partnership, Ms. Simmons will assist with the formation of an advisory council of human service, government, health care, and transportation provider representatives. An initial meeting drew interest from counties including Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins, Broome, Tioga, and Cortland. The group will assist with priorities of the project.
“One of our goals is to increase awareness of existing commuting options such as rideshare and transit services. But we also want to explore new and innovative designs. Transportation solutions are not one size fits all. Ultimately we need to make it easier for people to explore their options and increase access to services,” Simmons said.
Simmons has been providing Mobility Management in Schuyler County since 2010 and played a key role in the startup of Schuyler County’s public transit system, Schuyler County Transit. She has also been instrumental in setting up the County’s mobility management information and resource center, Transportation Link Line. For two years she leant her expertise to ECTC (Elmira Chemung Transportation Council), who contracted with The Arc to have Simmons provide Mobility Management for Chemung County before bringing on full time staff. “We are very excited to have someone with Amber’s expertise available to us on our project” said Jonathan Maddison, Way2Go Program Manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension, Tompkins County. “We have confidence this collaborative effort will result in a solid plan to enhance transportation options for our constituents.”
To contact Amber Simmons call 607-535-6934. More information on Transportation Link Line is available at www.transportationlink-line.org, Schuyler County Transit at 535-3555. More information on Way2Go is available at way2go.org or at 607-272-2292 ext. 199.
Photo: Amber Simmons, Schuyler County Mobility Manager
March 1 marks the start of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Join The Arc as we harness the energy of DD Awareness to kick off our campaign, Your Right to Vote. 2016 is an election year, and it is imperative that people with I/DD, their families, friends, caregivers, and chapters of The Arc understand and exercise the right to vote. Elections matter. When you vote, you choose who represents the disability community at all levels of government. You have the power to choose who decides the structure and funding of disability programs. The lifelines of our community, like Medicaid, Social Security, and more, are impacted by who YOU choose to represent you. Make sure that in March, you are ready to have an impact and know your right to vote!
The Arc of Schuyler was awarded an $8,000 grant from NYSARC Trust Services in 2015 to enhance recreational opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Schuyler County community. Funds will be used for projects supporting The Arc’s health and wellness and arts initiatives.
In May 2015, Jack LaDouce, a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 101 installed a bocce ball court at The Arc for his Eagle Scout Service project. His fellow scout, Robert Godlewski, made it his Eagle Scout project to add a cement pad to make the court wheelchair accessible. NYSARC grant funds will be used to further develop this outdoor recreation and relaxation area with the addition of new bocce equipment and court supplies, benches, and a canopy tent for shade during bocce play and other outdoor activities. Bocce enthusiasts are encouraged to contact The Arc if interested in helping to launch an inclusive bocce tournament in the spring.
A portion of the grant will be used to purchase a glass fusing and ceramic firing kiln. In 2013, a NYSARC Trust recreation grant was used to purchase a kiln for The Arc’s community arts center, the Franklin Street Gallery in Watkins Glen. Classes have been so popular that a second kiln is needed to meet demand. The Arc will pursue opportunities to partner with artists and local service organizations to offer inclusive ceramics classes at its 203 12th Street location.
2014 grant funds were used to develop a technology program for adults with developmental disabilities. This program has continued to have a strong following and includes iPad classes and internet café style socials where people can access the internet and technology staff to help with questions about their devices.
The Arc of Schuyler is chapter of the state agency, NYSARC, Inc. and an affiliate of The Arc of the United States. For more information, call 607.535.6934.
Photo Caption: Robert (Bobby) Godlewski smoothes cement at the bocce ball court built by fellow scout, Jack LaDouce. Both Bobby and Jack collaborated with The Arc to complete their Eagle Scout service projects.
Photo Caption (right): People receiving supports at The Arc enjoy a game of bocce ball.
Arc chapters in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Yates Counties jointly held a legislative forum on Tuesday at The Arc of Schuyler in support of the “It Matters to Me” grassroots advocacy campaign organized by the local agencies’ statewide affiliate, NYSARC, Inc.
State Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano attended the forum to hear families, self-advocates, and staff members share their personal stories focusing on funding needs for residential housing and program development, employment choices, and preschool programs for people with developmental disabilities as well as for a wage increase for direct support professionals at nonprofit agencies.
Jeannette Frank, Executive Director at The Arc of Schuyler remarked that nonprofits provide critical services that contribute to the quality of life of the community, providing supports for some of New York State’s most vulnerable citizens.
Amanda Jakubowicz was one of many speakers at the forum. Jakubowicz, a service coordinator at The Arc of Schuyler, shared the story of a young man with disabilities and his mother who twice applied to the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities for residential placement. Their request was repeatedly declined. The man has since lost both parents and now relies on a non-relative caregiver who continues to struggle finding a more appropriate housing situation to meet his needs.
“There are many people I work with in situations like this and without funding in the 2016 state budget for residential developments, where will they go?” Jakubowicz said.
Terri Rogers spoke on behalf of her brother Mike. She voiced concerns that without state funding her brother will lose the opportunity to work in a job he’s been successful in at Arc of Steuben for years due to New York State’s efforts to move people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into community employment.
She said she would like to see her brother have the opportunity to have a choice of employment options based on his goals and interests and the guidance of Mike’s circle of support, the family members and human service professionals that work with Mike every day.
“There are approximately 8,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities working in sheltered workshops across the state,” Bernie Berns. Executive Director of Arc of Steuben said. “People should have a choice about where they work.”
Arc of Yates Executive Director, Daniele Lyman addressed the need for funding preschool programs for children with disabilities. These programs are at risk of closure. This is the first year Arc of Yates’ Keuka Lake School has received a rate increase since 2010. Lyman was followed by Adam Campbell, a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, who credited Keuka Lake School for his daughter’s progress and successful transition into regular education for kindergarten.
Many family and staff members also attended the forum to advocate for a minimum wage increase to compete with the NYS Labor Commissioner’s approved plan to enact a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers.
“In my 35 years as an agency executive, the single biggest structural issue in our field has been the lack of appropriate pay for our frontline staff and the work they do,” said Michael A. Doherty, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Arc of Chemung.
Three parents, a residential manager, and two staff members spoke on the issue, reasoning that direct support professionals should receive a comparable wage increase or they would be forced to leave for better paying jobs and supports for people with disabilities will be reduced.
“The expectations on direct support professionals have increased substantially and we are under enormous pressure,” Pat Wilcox, a 30-year Arc employee said. “Direct support professionals need a wage increase. We need it to retain employees, to recruit new employees, and to ensure people with disabilities have the best people working for them.”
NYSARC, Inc. is the State’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting people with developmental and other disabilities. Arc chapters in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Yates Counties support more than 2,000 children and adults with disabilities and their families.
Photo Caption: (Left to right) Michael Stamp, Arc of Schuyler board president; Senator Thomas O’Mara; Jeannette Frank, Arc of Schuyler executive director; and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano listen as Arc of Schuyler board member and parent speaks on the issue of employment choices for people with developmental disabilities.