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The “Patio Girl” at The Arc Jacksonville Village

Written by: Victoria Wirtz, Florida Backyard Store Manager

When most people think about a business they think about income, sales, and how to increase profits.  Just like most business owners, they have to make sure decisions are made in the best interest of the company. Florida Backyard is a small, family owned and operated company that has been in business for almost 20 years.

You probably have seen some of our work at your favorite local restaurant, or even at your community pool. We have been installing high end furnishings in the Jacksonville area since 2000.

Bernadette Moran came to meet with me and discussed the plans for The Village. I knew right then that this was something that I wanted to be a part of!  I was so excited!  I still needed to talk to the owners and see if this was even possible.  As far as I knew Florida Backyard had never done a project like this.

The Ebels are very special people to me. Yes they are business owners, but they also hold a special place in their hearts for people with disabilities.

The Village was going to open in a quick year, and Florida Backyard agreed to donate all of the outdoor furniture for the entire project.  We were able to donate everything from the pool furniture, to firepits and benches around the property.  Each porch was graced with two big comfy chairs for socializing and relaxing.  Now I am known around the campus as the “Patio Girl” and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I saw The Village blossom from pen and paper to Club Arc on Friday nights!  The project and the people involved have now become my friends and family.  I have personally been involved with The Village, not only as the sales representative for all of the outdoor furnishings, but also as co-chair of the Young Professionals Council, and an active volunteer at The Village.

Florida Backyard by Ebel, Inc. is a family owned company founded in 1988 with the first showrooms opening in 2000. Florida Backyard offers merchandise for any outdoor setting including outdoor furniture, patio furniture, pool furniture, fire pits and more.

March Mission Moment

This month’s Mission Moment focuses on three residents in The Arc Jacksonville group homes. Group homes are perfect for individuals looking to live independently with some assistance from staff, while also building social skills and learning to live among their peers. Residents work with staff to help achieve their personal goals and strengthen their independent living skills.

Read below to see how Carol, Timothy and Ronald have flourished while living in their group homes.

Carol Rodelli – Grove House Resident

When Carol moved into Grove House she was shy and struggled to make daily decisions. After much practice and hard work over the years, her communication and socialization skills have improved. Carol is now able to make decisions on where she would like to eat and what color to paint her room. Carol has increased her level of independence by taking charge of her medication regime and learning more about each pill. During the day Carol attends the Westside ADT Program where she does contract work and loves to see the staff and her friends.

Q&A with Carol

How long have you lived at Grove House: Since Grove House opened in 2009.

What do you enjoy most about Grove House: I enjoy going on trips with my peers and staff.

What have you learned since living at Grove House: I’ve become better at taking my medication on my own. I now know the colors and names of each pill I’m supposed to take.

What is your favorite thing to do: Going out to eat.

Timothy Davis – Kaden Road Resident

When Timothy first came to the Kaden Road group home in May 2005, he wasn’t very social. He spent more time in his room than with his housemates and group home staff.  In 2011, Timothy was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that will cause him to become legally blind. This diagnoses changed Timothy’s perspective, and he became eager to increase his independent living skills.  By using his other senses such as touch and sound, he’s learned to recognize different objects he uses in everyday life. Over time Timothy is cooking more, he’s able to load and unload the dishwasher and he washes his clothes with assistance from staff. In addition, Timothy has become more social and enjoys going on community outings.  Timothy is a happy and quiet individual who brings joy to the people who know him.

Q&A with Timothy

What do you enjoy most about living at Kaden Road: Being able to live independently and watching TV with the other guys at the group home.

Favorite thing to do: Going out into to the community to the Dollar Store to purchase collectibles.

What have you learned since living at Kaden Road:  How to set the table, wash clothes, make my own sandwich and prepare meals with staff assistance.

Ronald Thomas – Jammes Road Resident

Ronald was introduced to The Arc Jacksonville when seeking a day program that would assist his goals to expand social skills and to adapt to different environments.  Ronald found that opportunity at the Arc’s Westside location where he was accepted “with open arms.” Ronald moved into the Jammes Road group home in September 2014 and adapted quickly to the environment and the other residents. Ronald is non-verbal and communicates through body language signals. His smile is a clear sign that he is enjoying himself.  Ronald enjoys music, strobe lights and beaded necklaces to twirl. He is working daily with adaptive feeding devices to strengthen his handgrip.

Information compiled by Group Home Managers and Arc Jacksonville Development Staff

Seeing beyond limitations – a road to successful employment

While October 5, 2009 may have seemed like an ordinary day for most, for James Moultrie, that day changed everything. On that Monday James walked into Rogers Towers, reporting for his first day of work as the Office Services Assistant. At 20 years old, James was shy, living with his mother and riding the bus to work. Today, James is an outgoing, confident, seasoned employee of the firm, living independently in his own place and driving to work. For James, October 5, 2009 will always be a symbolic day, something special. James had just beaten the odds. When individuals with disabilities are given an opportunity, great things can happen.

This past December, Rogers Towers donated $5,000 to The Arc Jacksonville in honor of James. Employees of the firm, ranging from the IT department, to accounting, paralegal, HR and more, recently shared their experiences working with him. His positive attitude, infectious personality, dependability and hardworking nature was evident throughout the conversations. He stays on task, loves to be involved and learn new things and is “the best.” Kevin Rorabaugh, his supervisor when he first began working, says there’s “no question where he belongs; it’s right here.”

James is a full-time employee, responsible for stocking all the coffee and soda stations, refilling all the paper goods, making sure the conference rooms are always ready for the next meeting and collecting recycling from all three floors of their firm. When he first started, his job coach through The Arc Jacksonville assisted him with learning his new job responsibilities. Through hard work, determination and the natural support that James receives from his co-workers, he no longer needs the assistance of a job coach.

Rogers Towers’ culture values relationships and family, which shows through their connection with James, and their generous support of numerous local nonprofits.  When James was having issues with his truck, the employees personally pulled together to help him out and made it possible for him to get it fixed. Outside of work, James and his co-workers often compete in local races together, with James beating many of them to the finish line – something he is very proud of. As James says, “everyone here is family.”

Pam Bass, Executive Director, encourages other companies to consider hiring individuals with disabilities. “We are lucky to have James. You need to just give it a try; we’ve succeeded several times.” Board member Wyman Duggan agrees: “Don’t hesitate.” Duggan sees James every day, saying he has a “fantastic work ethic, a great attitude and is loyal and reliable.”

Rogers Towers is one of Florida’s largest and oldest law firms, with more than 70 attorneys practicing statewide. Their law firm — and attorneys — has been recognized in state and national publications for industry experience, most recently by Florida Super Lawyers Magazine and The Best Lawyers in America referral guide. Rogers Towers is proud to offer the full range of legal services in a variety of practice areas, including commercial litigation, family law, labor and employment, real estate, trusts and estates, wills and more.

The Arc Jacksonville applauds Rogers Towers for sharing in its vision of a community where disability is a distinction without difference. Interested in employment opportunities for your company? Contact Susan Hamilton at 904-355-0155 or visit our Community Employment page.

Turning a House into a Home

While 750 square feet may not seem like a lot of space, prominent interior designer and Arc Jacksonville board member, R. Ward Lariscy has proven that it’s the perfect amount.

That’s the size of each of the 97 affordable apartments at The Arc Jacksonville Village, where adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities will live independently. The apartments feature individual bedrooms and bathrooms and a shared kitchen and living room.

Three apartments, one two-bedroom and two one-bedrooms, serve as model units. Sticking to a budget of approximately $2,500 per unit, Ward completely furnished and decorated each apartment, transforming them into unique living spaces with a distinct personality.

To stay within budget and to show that a little can make a big impact, Ward visited resale shops, discount stores, outlets and major retail chains throughout Jacksonville. Each unit features a different theme, which took shape once a major piece, such as a sofa, was found. Accent pieces and décor items were then selected to perfect the look.

Ward’s favorite apartment became the British-themed model home.  “It reminded me of all the years I used to travel to England to buy antiques for my business and clients,” he said.

“It was not my usual decorating project, but it was rewarding!” Ward said. The smiling faces of future residents and compliments from all who have visited the models, Ward explained, were his most meaningful compensation.

Ward’s involvement didn’t stop, or begin, there. Ward was instrumental in decorating the community center, the hub of The Arc Jacksonville Village. At the community center residents check their mail, access the internet, pay rent, watch movies, eat dinner, participate in activities and much more. Decorated with bright colors, eye-catching artwork, modern furniture and interesting accents, Ward created a vibrant, inviting environment for residents, staff and volunteers.

A number of Ward’s colleagues helped bring his vision to life, including First Coast Designers Choice, American Society of Interior Designers, Janice Young, Ann Wingate, First Coast Supply, and Mark Timmons. To all, The Arc Jacksonville sends a “Big Thank You!”

The True Impact of Service

Katie Shaneyfelt: AmeriCorps Member

When Katie Shaneyfelt began volunteering with The Arc Jacksonville in October 2014 she had no idea it would be life changing.

She started as a Club Arc volunteer at The Arc Jacksonville’s Westside location, looking to fulfill volunteer hours needed for a course at Florida State College of Jacksonville.

Unlike previous volunteer experiences, once Katie completed her hours she continued to volunteer because she had fallen in love with the people. “I had never felt more at home. They became my best friends,” she said.

Katie’s passion led her to accept a grant-funded position with The Arc Jacksonville, where she was able to work hands-on with the agency’s volunteer program for a year. While in the position, her passion for working with adults with disabilities grew, leading her to change her major from Animation to Art Therapy.

“Before I was a part of The Arc Jacksonville, I struggled with what I wanted to do in life,” Katie said. Being around The Arc participants and staff has helped Katie realize she wants to do more than just create art. She wants to use art to help others and make a lasting impact on their life.

Katie was further inspired through her work with The Arc Jacksonville to pursue a Best Buddies chapter for FSCJ. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of Best Buddies, and I wanted to bring it to my college campus,” she said. Katie saw the Best Buddies project as a way to expand community advocacy for adults with disabilities.

When Katie’s grant-funded position ended in 2015, she continued her involvement with The Arc Jacksonville by becoming an AmeriCorps member. As a member she recruits additional AmeriCorps members and volunteers to serve throughout the agency. Her background with The Arc Jacksonville made her AmeriCorps experience more meaningful.

“If I hadn’t volunteered through Club Arc, I don’t think I would appreciate my AmeriCorps experience as much,” she said. Katie is inspired by the passion she shares with her fellow AmeriCorps members and values how involved they are in the program.

As Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” For Katie, volunteering did just that. What began as fulfilling a requirement for a college class quickly morphed into friendships, connections and opportunities and a career path.

“I never expected volunteering to turn into a job, or go past friendships,” said Katie. “I’ve come to value it more now that I can see the true impact.”

Innovation Grant Awarded to The Arc Jacksonville

Continued from March’s E-Newsletter link:

The Riverside Hospital Foundation Innovation Grant will help launch a pilot project between The Arc Jacksonville and area educational institutions to establish internships where nursing students will be in direct contact with adults with I/DD, enabling them to experience firsthand the specialized health needs of this population and the challenges to communication that are presented in treating persons with I/DD. Such opportunity to advance understanding and knowledge of patients with I/DD has not been included in traditional nurse training programs.

Riverside Trustees chose this philanthropic investment as a means of fulfilling the Riverside Hospital core value to provide innovative, quality care with compassion and concern for each patient’s unique needs.

“We are pleased to have been presented this opportunity to improve the quality of care provided to the specific population of persons with I/DD while advancing the field of nursing education,” said Riverside Hospital Foundation Executive Director Helen Werking. “We will be helping our neighbors with I/DD, nursing students in our five-county area and creating results that are likely to impact nursing curriculums throughout the state and the nation. This investment is an opportunity to effect systemic change.”

“The Arc Jacksonville is privileged to institute this program in philanthropic partnership with The Riverside Hospital Foundation,” said Jim Whittaker, CEO & President of The Arc Jacksonville. “We will learn alongside our constituents with I/DD and the student nurse interns just how to improve the interaction of healthcare professionals with individuals with I/DD. Results will advance individual well-being and knowledge in the fields of special education and healthcare.”

The Riverside Hospital Foundation was established in 1991 as a not-for-profit corporation to foster access to quality healthcare in Northeast Florida. Since established, the Foundation has granted more than $9 million to non-profit organizations primarily serving the five-county Northeast Florida area. The Innovation Grant program was established in 2013 to support new and innovative programs that have measureable outcomes, a self-sustaining endpoint to funding and are translatable and replicable.

About The Arc Jacksonville

The Arc Jacksonville, Inc. was established in 1965 to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Today, the organization has an annual operating budget approaching $8 million and serves approximately 400 individuals daily from three main locations and five group homes. Arc is opening in April 2016 The Arc Jacksonville Village, the nation’s first independent living community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to the direct services programs, The Arc Jacksonville serves as a source of information and support for Northeast Florida families of persons with disabilities through its advocacy program, called A.S.K. (Advocacy, Support and Knowledge).

For more information, please contact Judy Hall Lanier at jhall_lanier@arcjacksonville.org 

Mission Moment: A.S.K at The Arc Jacksonville

The Arc Jacksonville’s Advocacy department, better known as A.S.K. (Advocacy, Support and Knowledge), is a rich resource in providing assistance and outreach to the disability community. The advocacy department consists of Charlotte Temple, Vice President of Advocacy and Denise Torres, Advocacy Specialist. Advocacy is the only department in the agency that serves people with disabilities through-out the life span. Of the many services and resources they provide, information about the protection of rights, guardianship/guardian advocacy is a question that comes up often among parents and guardians.

Guardianship/Guardian Advocacy helps caregivers protect the rights of their loved ones with a disability.

It is encouraged that families begin to consider guardianship/guardian advocacy before the person with a disability turns 18, if they have a significant intellectual disability. Once they turn 18, they are of legal age and according to state law, the person is of age to make all legal decisions.   Education rights and decisions are transferred to the student from the parent(s)/caregiver(s).

The Advocacy department helps families to understand the many legal ways of assisting their son or daughter with legal decisions.  If it becomes necessary to obtain more formal rights to assist with decision making, the department provides information about the guardian and the guardian advocacy processes. Guardianship is for anyone that does not have the ability to make decisions.  Guardian Advocacy is only for those individuals who have an intellectual disability and developmental disability.

Guardianship and guardian advocacy generally only address areas of a person’s life where they are unable to make decisions and need protection.  The most common concerns are in the areas of medical decisions and the ability to negotiate government benefits and services.  Next, are usually in the area of finance and the ability to understand and enter into a contract.  Most guardianships and guardian advocacies are limited to the areas in which the individual needs assistance.

The Advocacy department assists families/caregivers with information on where to turn to seek professional assistance with the process.  Attorney representation is necessary for guardianship.  Individuals can represent themselves with guardian advocacy, but most are reluctant to do so and seek an attorney to assist them.  For those families who have limited resources, the Advocacy department assists them with locating reduced cost or free legal services in the community.

Christina Rivers recently worked with our advocacy department to assist in obtaining guardian advocacy for her son. “I had a wonderful experience working with the Advocacy department,” she said.  They were able to explain the guardian advocacy process and help Rivers obtain the help she needed for her 18 year old son, Christian.

“I appreciate Ms. Torres going all out. She was excellent and supportive,” said Rivers.

For more information on our advocacy program and assistance with guardianship, please visit arcjacksonville.org.

Mission Moment: Employment Services

In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness month, October’s mission moment features individuals with I/DD who have recently received community employment through The Arc Jacksonville’s Employment Services team.  The individuals we serve have all chosen The Arc Jacksonville to secure employment in the community.

Wade –  Brumos Motors (Atlantic Blvd.)

Wade began working as a greeter at Brumos Motor Cars (Atlantic) in early September. During the initial interview with the General Manager, Wade was a promising candidate. A week after his interview he was hired. Wade is responsible for greeting customers as they enter and making them feel welcomed by offering minor refreshments before introducing them to a salesperson. Wade enjoys his job and has made tons of new friends. His future goals include buying a house, getting married and being successful. He encourages other people with I/DD who are looking for employment to “be proactive and flexible.”

Ryan – Wowever Thrift and More

Ryan began working at Wowever Thrift and More at the beginning of August and currently works 20 hours a week. He enjoys working each day and having the opportunity to earn his own money and independence. His goal is to live independently in his own apartment. He’s responsible for hanging clothes, sorting through donations and keeping the sales floor neat. Ryan readily accepts new tasks when he is asked to perform something outside of his regular duties.

Andy – Publix

Andy is a proud, new employee of Publix Super Markets at Reedy Branch Commons. Andy serves as a valuable member of the Publix family as a Front End Service Clerk, where he is responsible for greeting patrons, bagging groceries, collecting carts, and providing exceptional customer service that encourages return customers. Andy is pictured with two of his supervisors, Josh and Ryan, who have succeeded in orchestrating an environment that embraces diversity and promotes both personal and professional development.

Jerry – Brumos Motors (Orange Park)

Jerry currently works as a greeter at Brumos Motors, Orange Park. According to fellow co-workers, Jerry is the perfect fit for the job; “He’s just who we need to greet our customers.”  He attends FSCJ, pursuing a degree in business.  Jerry is quite computer-proficient, especially in Word and Excel, and he enjoys online social networking.

Lauren – Carrabba’s

Lauren has worked as a Silverware Preparer at Carrabba’s Italian Grill, for three and a half years. She has recently obtained an increase in hours and now works five days per week. Lauren’s commitment to self-improvement, partnered with her desire to challenge herself, has been her key to success and has contributed to her ability to maintain meaningful employment. Lauren is pictured in-action, rolling silverware with a smile!

Congratulations to everyone on their employment!  We also want to thank our Employment Services team for all their hard work in finding the above individuals community employment. Keep up the good work!

To find out more about The Arc Jacksonville’s Employment Services Department, contact Susan Hamilton, Vice President, Employment at shamilton@arcjacksonville.org.

Click here if you want to learn more about National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Employment News & Updates

For the second year The Arc Jacksonville received a Public Service Grant from the City of Jacksonville to underwrite work by Arc’s Employment Services department.  Funding of $125,000 was included in the new City budget adopted for fiscal year 2015-16 that begins October 1.”This award will enable us to continue the momentum established over the past year in developing relationships with local businesses who are looking to diversify their work force to include persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” explained Susan Hamilton, vice president of employment.Arc’s employment services staff custom-match the skills of people to needs of companies through pre-screening, job training and on-the-job coaching. Among the 17 individuals recently placed in positions were Haley and Caitlin, two young ladies who have found what they consider “dream jobs.”

Two recent placements are Caitlin and Haley:

Caitlin works as a Shipping Associate for Holmes Stamp & Sign, a local company which has been in business since 1954. Caitlin is part of the Shipping Team and values being the newest member. Caitlin loves her new job and looks forward to going to work every day. Arc’s Caitlin Simpson (foreground) is accompanied in the photograph by (l to r) Brian Croft, CEO & President of Holmes Stamp & Sign, Elena Rend, Caitlin Genereaux, Anita Mascioli and Marc Rials.

Haley is a recent graduate of the On Campus Transition program at the University of North Florida. She loves fashion and aspired to work in a fashionable retail environment. Haley recently began working at Forever 21 as a Store Associate. Forever 21 is her first job, and she enjoys it. She readies clothing for display on the floor and has also learned how to sensor merchandise. When working early mornings, she does some housekeeping to prepare the store for customers. She is also responsible for checking clothing piles for missing price tags and ink sensors and then logging the findings in the loss prevention book.

Mission Moment: SOAR

This month’s mission moment focuses on participants from our SOAR ( Social Opportunities and Adult Recreation) program. The SOAR program began in 1985 as a program for senior adults with disabilities. Over the years the program has expanded to included all ages. Compared to other Arc Jacksonville programs, SOAR is slower paced and more social focused. Participants work on daily living skills, as well as enjoy community outings.  They connect with their peers and develop healthy and friendly relationships with one another. Meet this month’s featured SOAR participants: Theresa, Doug and Sharon.

Theresa Blandino

How long have you been a part of SOAR: Seven months.

What do you like about SOAR: I like the people.

What have you learned since being a part of SOAR: I have learned how to cook, how to respect others and safety.

What are some of your hobbies or interest: Cooking, karate and dancing.

How has SOAR helped to make your life better: I’m able to spend my days with my friends and that makes me happy!

Because of The Arc…I am happier.

Doug Griffin

How long have you been a part of SOAR: Almost 2 years

What do you like about SOAR: Bowling and shopping

What have you learned since being a part of SOAR: Safety when crossing the street.

What are some of your hobbies or interest: Darts, bowling, slot machines and spending time with my father on the weekends.

Because of The Arc…I get to go more places in the community.

Sharon Murray

How long have you been a part of SOAR: A little over a year

What do you like about SOAR: I get to do new things here.

What have you learned since being a part of SOAR:  I’ve learned how to cook and make crafts. Also, I’ve learned what to do in case of an emergency.

What are some of your hobbies or interest: Painting, watching movies and Elvis anything!

How has SOAR helped to make your life better:  I have somewhere to go during the day and I have lots of friends.

Because of The Arc…I get to spend time with my sister.

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