By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Most people in the Rochester region have at least heard of The Arc Monroe. Providing services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families for more than 60 years has helped The Arc grow its reputation in the communities it serves, including the 1,700 participants in its various programs across 40 locations.
The Arc’s offerings range from residential services to day services to an Article 16 clinic, “which is like a full-service clinic with speech therapy, counseling, physical therapy, and almost a doctor’s clinic,” said Beth Rapke, behavior intervention specialist at The Arc’s Article 16 clinic.
The Arc also provides community habilitation services, community behavior management and family support services.
Rapke has worked for The Arc since 1995, except for a five-year hiatus for having her children.
Rapke said that the role of The Arc is to support, not change or “cure” those they serve.
“Anyone with any kind of challenge needs their needs supported,” Rapke said. “If they need extra support in communicating or making friends or repetitious behaviors they’d like to manage, we can help them. We’re not saying they need to be a different person, but we support how they can function as they are, being the best person they need to be.”
The Arc emphasizes community integration — a far cry from when The Arc was founded, when many people The Arc now serves were considered by many as belonging in institutional settings.
Rapke said that people living in the group homes can participate in activities they may enjoy, such as attending a Red Wings game, shopping or attending concerts. About 800 people work for The Arc. In addition, “there’s a great amount of volunteer work done,” Rapke said.
“There are activities that get the people we serve in the community and teach functional skills so they might be involved in vocational activities or money-earning jobs,” she added. “I’ve had many employers say they’re their best employees. They’re very loyal and once they learn a task, they have it. There are so many local industries that have been wonderful supporters of our people.”
The Arc’s six points of emphasis for the staff and those they serve are empathy, integrity, camaraderie, excellence, integrity and perseverance.
“As an agency, we’re looking toward all those points to move us forward in the same direction,” Rapke said. “We strive toward that as our goals.”
She also hopes more members of the community understand the abilities of the population The Arc serves.
“They don’t know how wonderful they are as people,” Rapke said. “They have all the same goals, dreams and aspirations everyone does.”
The Arc operates 31 residential homes, two businesses (Arc Works and Arc Deli) and eight day services.
Recent initiatives of The Arc include Project SEARCH job training program hosted at URMC with Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES, ACCES-VR, Finger Lakes DDSO, and Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities.
The Arc also began LifePrep Naz, a four-year collegiate experience that partners with Victor School District and Nazareth College and ROC Your Flight, a partnership with TSA and the Greater Rochester International Airport, which aids in preparing individuals for flying.
The Culinary Career Prep represents another newer program. It fosters pre-vocational and vocational skills at the ArcDeli on Lyell Avenue.
The Arc receives funding in part from the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR).