“Their joy is contagious,” said Reesa Stanley describing what it’s like to work with The Arc Jacksonville’s Social Opportunities and Adult Recreation (SOAR) program. Stanley is the SOAR Program Manager and has worked with the SOAR program since 2012.
The program was originally established in 1985 as a senior program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. When the program relocated to The Arc Jacksonville’s Westside location it was expanded to include all ages, although its main demographics continues to be seniors.
SOAR attracts individuals who have either retired from contract work, or individuals who are no longer able to manipulate the boxes or other contracts due to physical limitations. SOAR also attracts individuals looking for a general social program. Unlike some of the other day programs offered, SOAR is solely recreational and social activities.
“The main goal of SOAR is to give individuals, no matter what their age or ability, a place to come where they can socialize and hang out and go out and do things with people with similar interests, “ said Stanley. She also mentioned the program encourages participants to be open to learning new things to keep their minds and bodies as young as possible.
Part of the program’s success is in helping individuals to become more sociable. The majority of the participants are friendly and outgoing which helps bring other participants out of their shell. Stanley shared that there have been several individuals who entered into the program too shy to speak, but overtime they began speaking to others and participating in more activities.
Stanley describes many of the participants as social butterflies, “They take everyone under their wings and make them feel welcome,” she said.
SOAR constantly has something going on whether it be crafts, listening to music, or trips out in the community. Some of their recent outing included bowling and shopping for the upcoming Oktoberfest Halloween Party Celebration. Stanley says the program plans to start volunteering in the community at a local food bank not far from the Westside location.
The community outings are a component of the program most participants enjoy; especially when they go out to eat.
“They love to sit together and socialize with their friends and coworkers, like one big happy family,” said Stanley.
Stanley hopes that participants in the SOAR program gain a sense of belonging to something wonderful.
“We hope that they feel important and that they have friends and family that look forward to seeing them, and that they have value,” said Stanley.
When asked about the program, the overwhelming response Stanley gets from co-workers is that working with SOAR is an extremely rewarding experience.
“The individuals come in every day with smiles on their faces and they’re always happy to see you,” said Stanley. It’s no wonder their joy is contagious.
Interested in being a part of SOAR? Click here for how you or your loved one can apply today!