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.
The ARc Wayne's Supportive Employment Program encourages Success in Competitive community employment
Inclusivity at organizations such as del Lago Resort & Casino help make this possible.
By Nicole Mauro
Becky works as a steward in the Farmers Market Buffet of the del Lago Resort & Casino. Like many people who receive services from The Arc Wayne, drivers in the transportation department pick her up at agency headquarters in Newark, and she is then taken to work in Waterloo where the resort and casino is located.
“My favorite thing about working there is the big big machine,” Becky said.
One of her duties in the kitchen is to run the large dishwashing machine that both washes and rinses dishes by pulling down the door. She also enjoys the environment and the people she works with at del Lago, specifically Mikey, who she says gives her a hand when she is in need.
“Becky has come along way since she started with us. She is coming out of her shell joking with the other stewards and carrying on conversations with everyone,” Becky’s supervisor at the del Lago’s Farmers Market Buffet said. “Becky is always willing and ready to help anyone that needs it. We all love working with her; she can brighten up our day.”
Del Lago Resort & Casino has a number of employees who are supported by programs of The Arc Wayne. Exercising inclusivity is an important step in creating both awareness among the public and opportunity for those with disabilities.
The Arc Wayne’s Supportive Employment Program helps make this job a possibility for Becky, as well as other people who work to achieve goals such as finding independence in the working world.
The Arc Wayne’s Residential Assistance Program also allows Becky to live in a supportive apartment.
“Our residence assistance team is proud of Becky and all that she has accomplished, and we look forward to helping her to grow further,” Becky’s residence manager, Jessica Peer, said.
The Arc Wayne currently has 14 24-hour staff-supervised homes that house individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Becky has worked at the Farmers Market Buffet for one year, and previously, she worked at Goodwill in Macedon. When she is not working, she is often completing items on her house’s chore list, visiting with her neighbors across the hall, or spending time with her cats, Sunshine and Ringo Starr. Like most of us, she is looking forward to spring, for flowers to start blooming, and to maybe even planting her own garden.
"Do We Need A Tragedy to Occur Before You Will Fund a Living Wage for Direct Support Professionals?”
Testimony on the 2019-20 State Budget Reveals the True Impact of the Workforce Crisis on New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities and calls on state leaders to #bFair2DirectCare
The Arc New York Executive Director Mark van Voorst told legislative budget makers today that services and support for persons with developmental disabilities are “slipping backwards” because non-profit agencies, due to lack of state funding, cannot pay direct care workers a living wage.
In testimony before the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees joint budget hearing, van Voorst said non-profits that support people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are in the midst of a staffing crisis that risks turning back the clock to a dreadful time in New York State’s history.
“After the revelation of abuse and neglect at Willowbrook State School, politicians, parents, providers and advocates stood together and swore we would never let that happen again,” said Van Voorst, who’s Arc New York is a leader in the #bFair2DirectCare movement. “For decades, we have consistently made forward strides for people with I/DD. Now, for the first time, I believe we are beginning to slip backwards.”
Van Voorst says he is done discussing a “looming crisis” in the I/DD field, and is prepared to present lawmakers with the true impact of an ongoing workforce crisis in a field where overworked, underpaid staff often provide life-sustaining care. He cites troubling examples, including:
Van Voorst anticipates policy makers will blame violations of quality standards and degradation of services for people with I/DD on poor management. However, he says the root of this pervasive, system-wide problem is inadequate funding, and the solution is in the hands of state leaders.
Van Voorst’s testimony (see below) outlined outline a pattern in which tragedy and death have historically been the catalyst for change in the I/DD field, and call on New York to address the problem before another tragedy occurs.
“The leader of New York’s largest I/DD provider is sitting here before you telling you that without adequate workforce funding, our field is not sustainable. Today dozens of providers, families and self-advocates will submit testimony to this body pleading for you to take action and fund a living wage for DSPs, as we have done year after year. I caution you to listen,” he said.
“In the aftermath of Willowbrook, New York state and its tremendous network of voluntary providers rose as a beacon of hope for families with loved ones with I/DD. No other state served these individuals as well as New York. Unfortunately, after nearly a decade of static funding, this beacon of hope is fading. We risk sliding again into the darkness. Do not let that happen. Do the right thing and #bFair2DirectCare.”
About The Arc New York
The Arc New York is a family-led organization that advocates and provides supports and services to people with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities, emphasizing choice and community engagement. The largest non-profit provider of services to New Yorkers with I/DD, The Arc New York has 49 Chapters across New York state, supports more than 60,000 individuals and families and employs more than 30,000 people statewide. This year, the organization celebrates its seventieth anniversary as an advocate and service provider.
**The contents of this blog post were published in an Arc NY press release that you can find here.
At The Arc Wayne, we are fortunate enough to have some incredible volunteers who help the Salvation Army during their Christmas Red Kettle Campaign. Staff and individuals the agency supports went to the Newark location Walmart to ring the bell this year despite some bitter cold and snowy days. Together, we helped bring in $11,863.94 for our local community.
"Your ringers and supervisors were wonderful," Anne Rogers, a Salvation Army volunteer, said in an email to The Arc Wayne staff. "They were punctual, polite, charming, friendly ringers. The shoppers really responded to them with open hearts. I learned from your ringer that we shouldn't even ring so we won't wake up the babies. I will never forget the gentle politeness in those words."
The Arc Wayne's Community Pre Vocational (Pre Voc) program connects individuals with disabilities to volunteer and pre-employment opportunities in their community. Individuals who are supported through this program have volunteered at dozens of businesses around Wayne County in order to gain valuable social and work skills that will help them prepare for future potential employment. People in this program appreciate being able to give back to their communities in a meaningful way, and we were so thankful that we could partner with the Salvation Army to do that again this year.
If you are interested in learning more about our Pre Voc program, visit our services page or contact Tina Rossman. If you or someone you know works at a business that needs volunteers, we would love to discuss partnering with you in the future.
In an era where people generally want to be more respectful and inclusive of different populations, it's sometimes hard to determine what the "right" thing to say is. To be quite honest, before I started working at The Arc Wayne, I struggled with deciding what I should and shouldn't say or ask to someone with a disability. I want to let all of you know the most important thing that I learned when talking with the individuals we support – they are just that: individuals. No two of them are the same, and they most definitely have their own personalities, interests, hobbies, and skills.
Just because someone has different abilities, their importance in society is not diminished. I've met some of the most hard-working, kind-hearted people down in our Key Industries Workshop, in our IRA's, and out in the community. They want the same basic things we all want: a decent home, friends, family, a marriage, a good job, and the ability to take fun vacations.
I'm hoping this advice regarding people-first language will be a launching pad for positive interactions between you and the individuals you interact with. If you take one thing away from this, let it be that someone's disability does not define who they are as a person and does not always prohibit him or her from accomplishing goals and reaching dreams.
So, what is people-first language? The Arc defines it this way: "People First Language puts the person before the disability, and describes what a person has, not who a person is. Using a diagnosis as a defining characteristic reflects prejudice, and also robs the person of the opportunity to define him/herself."
For example, if someone is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it would inappropriate to label him or her as "autistic." It would be better to say, "He or She has Autism." This emphasizes the person rather than the disorder. It's something that is a part of the person, not the person as a whole.
Almost 1 in 5 Americans has a disability – making it the largest minority population. It is also one of the most diverse minority populations because it is made up people from all cultures, backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. Disabilities don't discriminate, and neither should we. Individuals with disabilities are friends, coworkers, moms, dads, neighbors, daughters, sons, teachers, students, brothers, and sisters. All it takes is a genuine smile and an understanding that a disability does not define someone.
At The Arc Wayne, we are dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities feel welcomed and included in our communities. Thank you for your help and support with this goal.
Thank you to everyone who helped, donated, and golfed at our 36th annual Arc of Wayne Foundation golf tournament. It was our most successful to date bringing in more than $35,000 to support individuals with disabilities!
The weather was absolutely perfect, and we had so much fun out on the course throughout the day with our sponsors, donors, and friends of The Arc Wayne.
We also want to extend a huge thank you to Lyons National Bank, our presenting sponsor, for always supporting the individuals we serve. We are so grateful to be located in such wonderful, generous communities.
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!