By Jessica Blondell
Only 3 – 5% percent of martial arts students across the globe ever receive a black belt. Between training for upwards of six years multiple days a week, needing strong determination, and sacrificing a lot of time and energy, earning a black belt is no small feat that many who start practicing martial arts don’t achieve.
Juan Carlos Lopez, an attendee of The Arc Wayne’s Day Habilitation and prevocational programs, received an invitation to earn his black belt this year and potentially become part of the 3 – 5% of people who can claim that title. When he was just 12 years old, Juan began karate at Premier Martial Arts in Newark and has been going ever since. Now, at 27 years old, Juan still loves stepping onto the mat and honing his skills.
With the help of his loving parents and his many leaders, Juan thrived throughout the years and improved not just his karate skills, but also his physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Teachers such as Sensei Z, Sensei Steiner, Sensei Ben, Sensei Conner, Sensei Josh, Sensei Spencer, Sensei Dakota, Sensei Jennifer, Sensei Isaiah, Chief Todd, and Hanshi Lee made Juan feel at home every time he entered the studio – or attended an online class during the pandemic.
“I am accepted in this great karate school,” Juan said. “I am autistic and appreciated here.”
An autism diagnosis never slowed Juan down from his achieving his goals growing up. When he discovered his love of karate 15 years ago, it was evident that it would be a great way to refine his gross motor skills, understand respect for himself and others, practice obedience, and learn self-defense. With his mother by his side helping him in each class and inspirational pep talks from his father, Juan found something he loved.
“I like karate because it feels good to finish each class,” Juan said. “I like meeting people there. It is hard sometimes. Hard to do what they show you. Karate does help my body grow and helps my mind. Sometimes at karate, they give me help and advice about life.”
The all-encompassing nature of martial arts makes it easy to see how practicing karate affects all areas of someone’s life. A large part of Juan’s life is his faith, and he continues to watch that grow as he goes farther into his training.
“I am thankful to God for karate and all the help I have had,” Juan said. “I am glad I do not give up because God helps me.”
It’s important for Juan and his family to lean on God, especially during this season of training for something that so few people complete. Juan’s test for his black belt is on December 17 and 18, 2021. Until then, he continues to train with karate boot camp every Saturday and at least two classes during the week.
Katie Anderson, Day Habilitation Team Supervisor at The Arc Wayne, submitted a character letter on Juan’s behalf. “I did not realize how much work went into this,” Katie said. “He has to take a fitness test, submit character witness letters, as well as the physical ability portion of this just to get his black belt. It is something that takes a considerable amount of dedication, and I am so proud of him.”
As Juan continues to train through December, everyone at The Arc Wayne wishes him the best of luck. The staff and other individuals are incredibly blessed to have someone with such amazing character, determination, and joy attending programs.
Shay has one of those contagious smiles that encourages people to impulsively follow suit. Few 15-year-olds love going to school as much as Shay does, and it really showed during my brief visit to Sodus High School last week.
Just two days prior to my visit, Shay spent the night of her birthday at Night to Shine – a prom sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation for people with intellectual disabilities – so she was in an extra good mood going into the school week. What 15-year-old girl wouldn’t be excited about looking and feeling like a princess, especially on her birthday?
For her special day, Shay received a Little Bo Peep doll that she showed off right from the start of my conversation with her. Fortunately for me, Shay thought my hair looked like Bo Peep’s, so even though she’s shy, she was more willing to tell me a little bit about what she does at school. I sat down with Shay, Desire Cruz, Vocational, Social Skills and Life Skills School Instructor, and Julie Steffler, Shay’s One-to-One Aide, to find out more about Shay’s volunteer service with Meals on Wheels as part of her curriculum.
I began my visit with a tour around Shay’s classroom that she shares with the five other students in Sodus High School and The Arc Wayne’s Step 2 Work program. The classroom was complete with a kitchen, computers and other supplies to help each of the students work on the skills they need to succeed in the community.
As we settled in to talk about Shay’s experience with Meals on Wheels, jokes and laughter carried the entire conversation – making it easy to see why Shay has excelled in this program. Her relationship with Desire and Julie is one where she can truly be her fun, loving and silly self while developing essential social, speech and motor skills.
Thursday is Shay’s favorite day of the week at school because she is able to deliver Meals on Wheels to elderly residents in her community. Her bus driver, Ms. Cheryl, in her Kermit the frog hat, takes Shay, Desire and Julie to the nutrition center in Sodus where they pick up the meals to deliver throughout the community. Because Shay knows the route and the residents so well, the crew usually has a little bit of time in between stops for a snow ball fight and a few other tricks to play on one another, which fuels her love for Thursdays even more.
Shay proudly told me that she is the boss on these trips. It’s definitely not Ms. Julie. The first stop on her route is to see Richard before she goes on to see two of her favorite residents, Harold and Hazel. She tracks all of the stops using a sheet of paper with everyone listed, and it’s Shay’s job to cross out each one that’s finished and let Ms. Cheryl know where to go next. Because of this program’s success, Shay now has the fine motor skills she needs to circle each name and check each box corresponding to the stops along her route.
Once they arrive at each house, Shay takes the food inside. Each meal has already been sorted – the cold stuff by Ms. Julie and the hot food by Shay. The residents are always delighted to see her sweet, smiling face as she knocks on the door or rings the doorbell – one of her favorite parts of this job. After she greets everyone and asks how they are doing, Shay is able to communicate with the residents and make connections with the people she serves.
Shay’s become so comfortable communicating with the people she’s met that she even did a cheer for everyone at the nutrition center last Halloween when she dressed up as a cheerleader – something Desire tells me she probably might not have been comfortable doing without the confidence she’s gained through this program.
This opportunity at Meals on Wheels was completely tailored to Shay based on her goals, developmental needs and personality. Shay continues to shatter expectations with her improved speech, fine and gross motor skills and cognitive developments. And, although she humbly doesn’t take much credit, Desire is to thank for this. With the help of her beloved aide, Julie, and other administrative personnel, Desire was able to get the Shay’s personalized Meals on Wheels program in place. Sodus is the only school district with the program right now, so students like Shay are incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity for hands-on learning. With five school years under their belts, the district and The Arc Wayne are looking forward to continuing this partnership with the intention of helping even more students in the future.
Step 2 Work allows students with disabilities to go into the community where they can learn social, life and vocational skills that will help them the rest of their life. Every curriculum takes a person-centered approach and is tailored to the specific student because Desire knows no two students are alike. While Shay helps with Meals and Wheels, other students help at Pizza Hut, Paton’s Marketplace and Dollar Emporium.
At The Arc Wayne, we are so fortunate to be able to grow and expand programs, as well as create brand new programs, in order to help the people in our community who need support. No two communities are the same because no two people are the same, which is why we might have different programs and services than other Arc chapters. We always strive to know our audience to provide the best services possible. It’s because of people like Desire that we can bring ideas to fruition in order to best serve the individuals in our community.
Interested in learning more about the nearly three dozen services we offer at The Arc Wayne? Visit www.arcwayne.org/services.
By Nicole Mauro
The Arc Wayne owns 14 individualized residential alternatives (IRA’s) and 10 supportive apartments across Wayne County that are home to almost 130 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
For many people, a job is just that: a job. At The Arc Wayne, every job makes a difference in the life of someone in the community. Direct support professionals (DSP’s), in particular, do much more than what might meet the eye. I sat down with Residence Manager, Stephen DeCook, and Direct Support Professional (DSP), Kelsey Fancher, to gain an inside perspective of what it is like to work in our residences.
Kelsey has worked at The Arc Wayne for nearly three years. Earlier this year, she left for another position but decided to come back because “other jobs just are not the same.”
With her flexibility, Kelsey has worked in all but two of The Arc Wayne’s IRA’s. When she worked at the East Miller St. home, she noticed that staff were never bored. They would always find something to do with the residents of that house: “If we had nothing else to do, we would go sunset chasing. We would follow the sun until it sets and then take pictures,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey now works at the Myrtle St. home, and she loves it. “Every aspect you look for in a job lines up – great team, great supervisor,” she said. “It is like having six other sisters.”
Working in a large home with six residents can get hectic at times. Kelsey refers to it as “healthy chaos,” but it paves the way for teachable moments, which is her favorite part of the job. As much as the job is fun and rewarding, it takes a certain type of person to excel in the position.
“You have to be here for the right reasons,” Kelsey noted. “You have to enjoy getting to know other people and helping them meet their goals and get them to where they want to see themselves being.”
It’s because of staff like Kelsey that The Arc Wayne continues to see growth and success in providing excellent service and supports to individuals with and without disabilties in the community.
For Stephen, the family-like environment shines through as well. He has worked in our Lyons IRA for about five months and is also the assistant fire chief at Clifton Spring Fire Department and the Midlakes Junior Eagles B Team coach.
According to Stephen, his position is truly more than just a “punch-in, punch-out” job; he could easily consider the residents he works with his second family.
“It is rewarding to come in every day knowing that you are going to make someone’s life better,” Stephen said. “The passion we have for [the residents] and giving back is sometimes better than a paycheck.”
The staff have to work together at each location to ensure the best environment for their residents.
“The staff is great,” Stephen said. “They have the back of the individuals and the best interest in mind for them. We work great as a team and it's almost like a big extended family.”
Working in a direct support position also comes with its difficulties.
“There are some rough times at times, but the good outweighs the bad,” Stephen said. “There are some great things going on, and moving forward, I think there are even greater things ahead.”
“Every day is different,” Stephen said. One of his residents really loves trains, so they recently took a group trip to see the Finger Lakes Live Steamers in Clyde. He enjoys taking the time in the morning to get to know his residents and build bonds with them before they leave for work. After that, he gets to work on scheduling, writing plans and ensuring the safety of his residents.
We are lucky to have Kelsey and Stephen as a part of The Arc Wayne team, as well as all of our staff who go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of the deserving individuals whom we support. If you are caring, compassionate and reliable, we encourage you to apply for a position in our residential program. The Arc Wayne offers the training needed to succeed. Check out our open positions at www.arcwayne.org/jobs.
Every fall, our HR department organizes and executes Employee Appreciation Week to say, “thank you” to all of our dedicated staff at the agency. This was one of our most interactive weeks to date.
A week-long celebration
This year’s Employee Appreciation Week spanned from Monday, October 21 – Friday, October 25. Each day of the week featured a different theme and gave staff an opportunity to express their interests and personalities. Monday celebrated movies, Tuesday showcased music, staff rooted for their favorite sports teams on Wednesday, hometowns were repped on Thursday and Friday concluded the week with everyone sporting their Arc Wayne gear.
With more than 550 employees in nearly three dozen programs across multiple counties, our staff help the agency achieve extraordinary goals to better serve individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the community. Employees come from all different backgrounds and bring in various skills that make The Arc Wayne one of the biggest and most diverse workplaces in Wayne County.
Supporting hundreds every day
It’s because of the dedicated, person-centered approach of our organization’s employees that we can continually improve our services and cater to more than 1,700 people’s individual needs. As the agency continues to expand and launch new innovative services, our employees continue to put their time, talents and hearts toward a shared a mission of serving the community. Whether it’s long hours, extra shifts, taking a pay cut from another job to work at the agency or stepping outside of their comfort zones, our employees are the reason individuals of all abilities can find services and supports that enhance their all-around quality of life.
Employee Appreciation Week is one small way The Arc Wayne can take time to recognize the hard work each staff member does every day.
Check out our week-long fun for Employee Appreciation.
On Saturday, September 7, The Arc Wayne introduced Color Wayne to Newark and surrounding Wayne County community members. The whirlwind disability awareness event sent at least 300 runners and walkers on a two-mile route along the Erie Canalway path ending in T. Spencer Knight Park located right in front of The Arc Wayne’s headquarters.
Kindness for Kasey
Groups and individual participants were given the option to raise donations to contribute to the Arc of Wayne Foundation, which all event proceeds benefited. Team Kasey exceeded all expectations by raising $1,150 in memory of Kasey DeMarree, a former student at Roosevelt Children’s Center that passed away at age 4 in 2016.
Kasey’s parents, Kelly and Dan DeMaree were overwhelmed by the support of their friends and family when they decided to participate in Color Wayne.
“Although Kasey was not able to join us at the [event], the kindness that he so willingly gave others was given back through the support and donations in his memory,” Kelly and Dan DeMaree said.
Kasey’s parents expressed their appreciation of Roosevelt Children’s Center and the school’s kindness in such a difficult time.
“It wasn’t until we unexpectedly lost Kasey that we were able to truly understand the magnitude of what Roosevelt has meant [to] our family,” Kelly and Dan said. “They understood our little boy so well, and we feel so lucky for Kasey to have been surrounded by so much love.”
RCC staff dedicated a bookshelf to Kasey to show their love and encourage his kindness.
“As a student, Kasey spread his love and kindness to everyone he came in contact with,” Kelly and Dan said. “Whether it was a hug, bringing you a book to share together, or one of his beautiful smiles, his kindness was on full display.”
The Arc Wayne hopes for everyone to follow in Kasey’s footsteps and lead with kindness.
“Seeing us celebrate our differences and accept all individuals for who they are is so important for our community,” Kelly and Dan said.
Color Wayne brought light, or in this case, color, to The Arc Wayne’s mission. The event’s theme was disability awareness to remind the Wayne County community of the opportunities the agency provides for people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities and show community members ways to get involved with the agency.
Team Kasey was given 10 tickets to a Rochester RazorSharks' game and 10 admissions to The Sterling Renaissance Festival for their generous donation. Charlotte Johnson was given four tickets to Dark Matter Scream Works haunted house and four admissions to The Sterling Renaissance Festival for raising a total of $125 for our foundation. The first-time event raised nearly $4,000.
A special thanks:
Kelly and Dan DeMaree for sharing their memories of Kasey.
In-kind prize sponsors
MVP Health Care
4Imprint - One By One Program
Legendary Auto Interiors
Rochester Regional Health
Shining the spotlight on RCC retiree, Sue Mulberry.
By Nicole Mauro
Roosevelt Children’s Center (RCC) is 1 of 32 services that The Arc Wayne offers. RCC is home to nearly 200 children from birth to five and offers preschool, early intervention and daycare programs. Although, the school has been home to only one Mrs. Mulberry for a number of years.
Sue Mulberry began working at RCC as a special education teacher in 1993 and retired in 2017. Previously, she had been a physical therapy assistant before deciding to go back to school for special education. She knew she wanted to continue working with individuals who had disabilities in some way. This past school year, she accepted a long-term substitute position and returned to RCC.
What kept her at RCC over the years was not only the option to work part-time, or the love for working with the pre-k age group, but the team approach she experienced at RCC.
“We are all here for the kids, and we want what’s best for the kids, and we are working together with all the different disciplines to meet their needs,” Mulberry said.
“Sue retired two years ago and offered to take a long-term sub role when we lost a teacher. This was a great cost to her very much enjoyed retirement,” Assistant Director of RCC, Vicktoria Sackett, said. “She has to ‘re-learn’ how to do many things related to the documentation required in a teacher’s role.”
As Mulberry revisits retirement, she will be greatly missed by her students and co-workers. She plans to return as a professional teacher substitute when needed.
“She has been a great mentor and trainer to the staff under her; they have grown in so many ways, as have the children,” Sackett said.
Thanks to teachers like Mulberry, RCC is able to help students develop their skills to ensure success in their future.
“Do it; do it in a minute,” Mulberry would say to a parent considering enrolling a child here. “Each and every person at Roosevelt is very dedicated.”
RCC’s goal as an Early Intervention and Preschool program for children ages birth to five is to provide the highest quality of service to all children, with and without special needs, in an integrated and natural setting where all children share the same learning environment.
RCC offers a wide variety of diverse services through an experienced, licensed and/or certified staff including special education and early childhood educators, speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and nurses.
For day care enrollment information and screening appointments, contact Caitlin Brown at 315-331-2086 ext. 3265. Screenings will take 20-30 minutes.
If you are interested in working at RCC, please visit The Arc Wayne’s job listings at https://waynearc.applicantpro.com/jobs/ to apply.
The partnership shines light on Walmart employee who utilizes The Arc Wayne programs
By Nicole Mauro
Seven months ago, Mike was hired at the Newark Walmart as a stocker. Almost 19 years ago, Mike was introduced to The Arc Wayne and our Supportive Employment and Care Coordination programs. Mike has worked in a nursing home, a gas station and another grocery store, but Mike is more than thrilled to be working for Walmart. Surrounded by fun coworkers, understanding managers, and stocked shelves, Mike has no complaints (at least today).
“I love my job; I am happy where I am at,” Mike said. “Walmart works with me.”
Cheryll Hall has been Mike’s case manager for four years. Updating resumes, taking individuals to interviews, observing and giving direction in the workplace is just a glimpse of what caseworkers do on a daily basis. Although, Mike received his licence in November. As a matter of fact, he earned it on his first try. (I would love to know how many of our readers can attest to that).
The Arc Wayne has relationships with both the Newark and the Macedon Walmart. Mike is not the only one who works at a local Walmart and receives support from The Arc Wayne programs.
“They have been very understanding,” said Hall. “We have had some people that have to start 1-to-1 and [Walmart] listened when [our individual] said he didn't like the job he was doing and they were accepting and worked with him.”
“Understanding” seemed to be the go-to word when describing The Arc Wayne’s experiences with Walmart, and we would not want it any other way. We hope for other workplaces to continue striving to be as inclusive as possible and help us in our mission of promoting independence with compassion, understanding and support while connecting individuals and their families to a world of possibilities.
Partnership With Walmart
The Newark Walmart awarded The Arc Wayne with a $500 Walmart Community Grant to benefit the 2019 Arc of Wayne Annual Golf Tournament on June 24 where proceeds go directly to The Arc of Wayne Foundation. The Arc of Wayne Foundation provides support to the numerous programs like the services Mike utilizes. Walmart Community Giving works to forge quality relationships and strong interactions with their grantees. The continuous support Walmart provides to The Arc Wayne through Walmart Giving is beyond impactful to our organization and the individuals we support.
ACCES-VR and The Arc Wayne provide support
By Nicole Mauro
It’s not every day that you have the pleasure to meet someone like Jeff Austin. Jeff is a 20-year-old Newark High School graduate, and he currently works in the kitchen of the Newark Wegmans. When he isn't there washing dishes and helping to prepare or package food, you can find him either volunteering for the Fire Department at the famous Fairville Fish Fry, or attending the races at Outlaw Speedway in Dundee.
Jeff is preparing for a hectic, but fun summer. For the last six years, he's become more involved at the speedway, and this year, he is going to be part of two racing teams working in the pit crew – a dream that his late father always had for him. When his father passed away, Jeff was overwhelmed by the support that his Wegmans’ team offered him. Not long after, his grandfather passed away as well, leaving Jeff with an even heavier heart. His coworkers did not hesitate in making sure he knew they were there for him, whether it was giving him the time off, donating products for the services or even attending calling hours.
When Jeff took a culinary arts class at Wayne Technical and Career Center, a chef from Wegmans came in and spoke about job opportunities. That stuck with him and inspired him to apply at Wegmans when he began searching for a job.
Although he's a dishwasher right now, Jeff is looking forward to working his way into and learning new positions.
“I would like to work in the pizza department or sub shop because those are my two favorite things of all time,” he said.
One of Jeff's major goals is working toward becoming an active member of the Fairville Fire Department; right now he is a social member and loves being able to spend his free time volunteering. In the future, Jeff aspires to become either a famous chef or professional WWE wrestler. He even made sure to sign a Wegmans chef hat for me, just in case.
Jeff is involved in The Arc Wayne’s ACCES-VR program that he learned about through his high school psychiatrist. The program helped him secure his job at Wegmans. Krista Stiles, a vocational instructor for The Arc Wayne, works with Jeff to ensure he reaches his full potential and surpasses his goals through the assistance of the program.
ACCES-VR is available to persons with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program provides assessment to help identify skills, abilities, and interests. It also offers career counseling and guidance, rehabilitation and assistive technology, training, supported employment, and job placement and retention.
Open Future Learning is an online learning provider 100% dedicated to the field of intellectual disabilities. Recently, The Arc Wayne's residential program started using Open Future Learning's resources to create better opportunities for the individuals we support. All of the videos, modules, and other resources have helped our staff improve the way we interact and help the individuals we support in our residences.
Some of the topics this wonderful organization covers include Centered Approaches Thinking and Planning, Challenging Behavior, Supported Employment, and more. If you would like to learn more or use some of their valuable resources, visit the website or contact Connie Jones, The Arc Wayne's Residential Director, for more information.
Community prevocational program members prepare for senior citizen luncheon, doubles as preparation for future endeavors.
By Nicole Mauro
Kristina and Joe are picked up from their homes each day and are bused to Key Industries where Kristina has worked for nine years and Joe, for 30. Key Industries production workers spend their days packaging items such as CO2 cartridges (“bullets” as the employees call them), golf balls, or tees, but some days they can choose to spend their time in the community volunteering, and Joe and Kristina often jump at those opportunities.
Each month, two members of The Arc Wayne’s community prevocational program help prepare for and serve food at the Lyons Senior Citizen Luncheon. For the January 2019 luncheon, Joe and Kristina worked alongside their job coaches to prepare a homemade beef stew to serve at the luncheon.
“I like to keep busy,” said Kristina, and being involved in The Arc Wayne community prevocational program helps her and Joe do just that.
Key Industries and Community Prevocational Services are both programs of The Arc Wayne and often work together being in such close proximity to each other and sharing a mission of preparing individuals with disabilities for competitive employment.
“If someone, lets say, would really like to work in a deli, going to observe deli workers at Sauders would be something we could go and do,” said Sharon Engle, a job coach at The Arc Wayne.
Members of the program sometimes volunteer at the local Humane Societies to help make animals adoption-ready, help at the Emmanuel Church Food Pantry, stock shelves or practice budgeting at the grocery store, go on environmental clean-up walks, or deliver for Meals on Wheels. The program assists those who want to work, but need extra help developing the skills to be successful in their future workplace.
“I would like to do something where I am helping people,” said Kristina when asked if she would like to work somewhere else aside from Key Industries in the future. Through the program, she hopes to volunteer at a local nursing home to prepare herself for a job in that area.
Joe grew up on a farm and would love to be a farmer if he ever decided to leave Key Industries.
Jessica Blondell, our Development Coordinator, writes all of our blog posts to keep everyone who supports The Arc Wayne up-to-date with what the agency is doing in the community. Enjoy!