The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for July 2012

Being with Friends in Georgia

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute.

At our 2011 Forum we were able to introduce our Community Participation Initiative and our Community Partners to John and Connie O’Brien. John and Connie talked about what we are doing when they returned to Georgia.

Several months later Dottie Adams, who works with the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities brought a group of people from Georgia to Kalamazoo to see firsthand what we are doing. From that visit we were asked to bring a group to Georgia to present to a wider office. So in late June, Allison Hammond, Jill Angell, Josh Stephens and I traveled to Georgia to make presentations on two separate days.

Dottie’s organization is funding some exciting work in six Georgia communities which they call Real Communities. They have paid part time staff in these communities whose job is to build community support and involvement for people with disabilities in all areas of community life. They were interested in learning from us, and we in turn learned much from them.

Speaking to two separate audiences we shared what we are doing, told stories about our work, and explained some of our thinking behind our Initiative. In one of the sessions, I talked about my views on what Community Coaching is and is not:

It is creating Community Pathways. It is not continuing Clinical Pathways.

It is Clearing Space for the Community to be involved. It is not being the expert about people with disabilities.

It is about what Individuals and the Community do. It is not about focusing on Systems Change.

It is about Examining your own Assumptions. It is not about following a Script.

It is about Reinventing the Wheel in each Community. It is not about Developing a Model.

On the second day their local Community Builders presented on what they had learned from us. Key Points were:

• They like our assumption that the community will respond positively to people we support.
• They affirm our idea that we are learning as we go.
• It is good that we give ownership to others and we are there to assist.
• They like our intentional/thoughtful/strategic approach
• They wanted to ‘clone’ Allison, keep Josh as an ambassador, and have agency people like Jill.

They also fed us well and showed us great sites around Atlanta and Macon!

An Inspiring Artist

The blog this week was written by Hyun Berkley, Community Participation Initiative assistant.

I met Matthew Bell a few months ago. When I went to his house, I was struck by the beautiful mosaic art and number of abstract paintings on the wall. Since Matthew can’t use his hands, he holds a paint brush using his mouth. When he told me how much he loves to paint and show his work, I thought immediately of the places in the Kalamazoo Community where our partners and supporters are.

Thanks to Chris Broadbent (Outreach Coordinator at People’s Food Co-op), Matthew was able to show his paintings during the 100 Mile Market Festival where local farmers and performers come together to share their talents at the parking lot of the People’s Food Co-op. Matthew even sold a couple of his paintings while I was interviewing him for this article.

Here are few Q/A’s we exchanged during the 100 Mile Market Festival on 6/27:

Q: Why do you like to paint?
A: I like colors, pretty things, and it’s a way to express myself

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: Life! I like nature and my inspiration comes from looking at flowers and trees.

Q: When did you start painting?
A: About 5 years ago when I turned 28 years old

Q: How would you like to describe your paintings?
A: Abstract, colorful and vibrant

If you would like to meet Matthew Bell and see his paintings, he will be coming back to the 100 Mile Market Festival (507 Harrison St, Kalamazoo) on 8/29, 9/26 and 10/31 from 3-6pm.

You will also find Matthew Bell’s artwork at the Portage District Library (300 Library Lane, Portage) from 12/10/12 to 1/18/13.

Matthew Bell
Matthew Bell painting

Do you have an inspiring story to share?

Opportunities to Build Community Relationships MATTERS!

Paula is a woman in her fifties who has lived in the same group home for many years. She enjoys going into the community, but this was not always the case. When she was first living at the house she was fairly healthy and liked to do things in the community. About 10 years ago, Paula experienced some significant health problems that made her extremely tired and depressed. She spent most of her time in bed. After an extended period, her health problem was resolved and she could start going out again, but she refused to leave her room. The staff at the house were alarmed and not sure what to do.

Thankfully, a new community living support person, Gloria, with lots of energy, creativity and patience contacted The Arcadia Institute Community Participation Initiative staff. When we first met Paula she would not talk to us, but did show us her guitar. She told her staff that she wanted to take lessons. We found a Western Michigan University Student who was willing to teach her. At first, Sam met Paul at the house, but then they began to venture out to Milham Park to play in the picnic pavilion. From these first outings, Paula became more willing to go out into the community. She began going to help at St. Vincent De Paul where she started to talk to other people as she got to know them. From there she began to strike up conversations in other places like Walmart.

Recently, I attended Paula’s planning meeting. Everyone remarked how much her quality of life has improved because she is building her own community relationships and how much that MATTERS!

The Network

The blog this week was written by Michele Momotiuk, the administrative assistant at The Arcadia Institute.

After the first Building a Community of Belonging Forum in 2010, a Network was formed that has been meeting monthly since. This group has been instrumental in planning subsequent Building a Community of Belonging Forums including beginning to plan 2013’s Forum which will be held on Thursday, March 21, 2013. There will be some exciting news coming out later this summer about that event.

The Network has also created the Kalamazoo: A Community Where All People Belong Commitment to Inclusion Checklist. The purpose of this checklist is to help organizations evaluate where they are at when it comes to being ready to accommodate people with disabilities and creating a community culture of inclusion. The Network believes that truly including everyone in a community can only make it stronger using the gifts, passions, perspective and knowledge of all its residents. This checklist is now available to Network organizations on-line so that they may gauge their strengths, determine areas that need strengthening, and measure progress in their organizations. Contact michele@thearcadiainstitute.org if you would like a survey collection setup for your organization.

The Network has also been working on plans for sharing what we are about with others in the community. If you are interested in learning more about the network, please contact michele@thearcadiainstute.org.

Dr. King

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This past week, George Martin and Allison Hammond of The Arcadia Institute, along with Jill Angell (Program Director for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo) and Josh Stephens (Chair of the Regional Interagency Consumer Council (RICC)) took a trip to be with people from communities in Georgia. We were guests of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD). The purpose of the trip was to share the Community Participation Initiative with people in Georgia. (A report of the trip will be in a future blog.)

While we were in Atlanta, Dottie Adam of the GCDD, took us to visit the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor until his death in 1968. The church, now part of the National Parks Service, is a memorial to Dr. King. It is a very moving tribute to the man who worked his entire life on behalf of those who were marginalized, disregarded and discriminated against. One cannot help but be inspired to work toward the inclusion of people with disabilities in real community life just as Dr. King and his followers championed desegregation.

The Arcadia Institute and its partners in Building a Community of Belonging continue to work toward connecting individual gifts of people with disabilities to the community for the very reason Dr. King was talking about in the quote above. We cannot be the strongest community possible when we marginalize people with disabilities by separating them into special programs or places. We need everyone participating in and contributing to our community; otherwise, we are truly missing valuable pieces of ourselves. As Ryan McGraw, former Community Participation Initiative Assistant once said, “A person with a disability is just like everyone else. They want to live it up. They want to live their lives with the same joys as everyone else.”