Letter to the Editor: The Arc says ‘Thanks!’

When people hear about The Arc, most think it is an organizJLLambert Pication that rescues animals, such as Noah’s Ark. However, The Arc of Winnebago, Boone and Ogle Counties serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) through advocacy and support.

The Arc also has been the home of the Great Home Giveaway for over twenty years. However, in 2014, they hung up their tool belts and converted the Great Home Giveaway into the Great Dream Machine Sweepstakes due to an overwhelming response from donors that cash is preferred to a house. The Great Dream Machine Sweepstakes is a fundraiser where a $10 donation entry can win $10,000 and up to an additional $100,000. The Arc relies on fundraisers, such as the Great Dream Machine Sweepstakes, to continue their important work for one of the most vulnerable populations in the community.

Many people ask what exactly does The Arc do? The Arc assists individuals and their families through a variety of services. One of their largest programs is Home Based Services, a Medicaid Waiver Program given by the Division of Developmental Disabilities, Illinois Department of Human Services. This program allows adults with I/DD to live at home with some support. They are assigned a Home Based Services Facilitator to help with monthly goals and coordinate a personal support worker to help with tasks such as transportation, paperwork, cleaning, etc. This is actually a more cost effective measure for the State of Illinois than institutionalizing an individual. Participants’ lives are greater fulfilled and enriched. Home Based Service Facilitation is the only program of The Arc’s that receives State of Illinois funding.

The Arc also provides low-cost guardianship services to families at a fourth of the cost to hire an attorney. The Arc is fortunate to have attorneys in Winnebago, Boone and Ogle Counties that have partnered with them; a large portion of the attorneys’ time is donated. A guardianship coordinator gets the paperwork in order and makes it a seamless process. This is an important service as many families have a tremendous amount of costs associated with taking care of their loved one with I/DD.

At times, individuals with I/DD may need assistance with budgeting and paying bills. An opportunity available to them, though The Arc, is a money management/representative payee program. The clients’ bills and communications are sent to The Arc where they are paid (out of the designated clients’ funds) and organized. They also meet monthly with the program coordinator to go over their budget and adjust as necessary.

Life Skills Training sessions are offered to promote a healthy and satisfying life. One of the classes is Emotional Regulation which focuses on anger and aggression, identifying triggers, and healthy ways of dealing with these feelings, such as relaxation techniques. Other curriculum opportunities are: Healthy Relationships, Health & Wellness, Employment Skills, and Social Media Safety.

The Arc recognizes the therapeutic benefits of art expression, as well as the prospects for an individual to build on an inherent creative skill. As such, they have been developing a more robust art program: Project Art. Project Art includes Beadware (a class where individuals make jewelry and home goods) and curriculum geared towards using art as an income stream, as Illinois is an employment first state. They have also partnered with Therapeutic Recreation, a division of the Rockford Park District, to instruct Art at The Arc and Open Studio. These classes are designed to educate artists about their craft, give them the necessary tools for art creation, and provide a communication outlet.

Socialization is an important life component for an individual with I/DD. Oftentimes, individuals with disabilities are secluded and have not been given the chance to cultivate their interpersonal skills. The Arc promotes community integration and supplies activities to promote public inclusion. Opportunities such as: Ice Hogs Hockey and Aviators Games, Open Gym, Rec Nights, and book clubs at local coffee shops are all events offered to address the need.

Not only does The Arc work individually with participants, but they advocate for the I/DD population and educate the counties about disabilities. The Arc’s staff has been in communication with local legislators on behalf of individuals with disabilities. They are also in the midst of a major campaign to inform the Rockford area about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and alcohol abstinence during pregnancy.

The Arc is grateful to have so many community partnerships and is touched by the demonstration of love for its participants from donors and volunteers. With more State of Illinois budget cuts looming on the horizon, it’s become more important to increase fundraising efforts and calls to action. The Arc desires to continue its work for many years to come and needs the fundraising support to be the advocate for individuals with I/DD. By donating to the Great Dream Machine Sweepstakes, a person can have the chance at becoming a little wealthier and enriching the lives of others: a win-win!

Attorney J. Laird Lambert
Board President
The Arc of Winnebago, Boone and Ogle Counties

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