The Arcadia Institute

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

Community Brokering: Helping People “Look UP” and See Possibilities

Recently, a woman who runs marathons related this story to me. She was running a marathon and came to the crest of a hill. In front of her was a beautiful horizon with the sun still rising over autumn colored trees. As she ran past a couple of novice marathoners, she said, “Look up at that beautiful scene.” The runners thanked her as they were concentrating so hard on running that they had not noticed the wonder in front of them. They saw the possibilities of truly enjoying running and seeing what lay before them.

Community Brokering is a way that The Arcadia Institute helps people with disabilities who may be caught in the endless marathon of navigating special services, programs and education to “look up” and see possibilities that they may not have seen in their future.

For example, we recently did a MAP (Making Actions Plans) for a young man who is really struggling with school and socializing in the community. He also loves animals and is great with them. He is particularly interested in the field of veterinary medicine, but is not sure that he can meet the educational requirements for work in that field; however, his Community Broker encouraged him to write a letter to a Veterinarian he is familiar with and request the opportunity to job shadow or help out at his facility. The young man and his family were not sure that this would be a possibility, but he did write a letter with some help from the Community Broker. The Veterinarian responded positively and the young man got to spend time at the office.

Had he not been involved with Community Brokering, he and his family would still be keeping their heads down just trying to navigate special education and other systems that are there to support him. Instead, his Community Broker offered him an opportunity to “look up” and see where he can share his interests and gifts.

For more information about The Arcadia Institute Community Broker Process please contact Allison Hammond at or 269-254-8224. You can also see a video about Community Brokering.

You don’t know what you don’t know

Through Community Brokering we help individuals get involved in their communities. One of the benefits of this is that we can introduce people to new experiences. Quite often, we are able to connect people to new opportunities and organizations that they did not know were an option. I think many of us can relate to the idea that we don’t know what we don’t know. In other words, we tend to focus on opportunities and experiences that are familiar to us or familiar to our families. Through the process of Community Brokering, we are able to bring in other perspectives and ideas, which grows the awareness people have about available opportunities.

When I first met an individual whom I will call Phillip and we mapped out what his ideal future would look like, he shared his interest in writing screenplays, playing video games and getting paid employment. As we explored the community together, looking for places for him to get involved, we started talking more about how to help him find educational opportunities where he could learn new skills and gain the experience that he needs to expand his employment possibilities. This led us to an organization called the Public Media Network. They provide workshops related to media production and they offer opportunities for their volunteers to develop and share their final creative products. Phillip has gone through the orientation class and now we are working to put the supports in place that he will need to participate in their workshops. In addition to the Public Media Network, Phillip and I are exploring classes at local community colleges. Phillip and his mother had looked into him taking some college classes before, but they ran into challenges when they tried to get the accommodations Phillip will need to be successful. Now, Phillip is once again pursuing his interest in college. We are learning what steps he needs to take to move forward. To be sure, there will be obstacles along the way and the path won’t be easy. But, with these new experiences, Phillip has the chance to try new things and meet new people. As his community circle expands, more doors are opened and new opportunities present themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing where Phillip is a year from now!

Light Defined

The blog this week was written by Dalanna Hoskins, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

Light Defined:
1. Something that makes things visible or affords illumination:
All colors depend on light.

As defined above I would like to make visible the story of an individual we will call Lance and Open Roads bike program. Lance is your typical average fifteen year old boy, who loves to work with his hands, eat lots of good food and plays video games in his spare time. Lance and I first met about two months ago over the summer and discussed his likes and dislikes. A light bulb went off instantly when he stated that he really loves to ride and fix bikes. At that very moment, I knew the right program for him would be the program known as Open Roads.

The second week of meeting Lance, I researched the opportunities they had available so that Lance could take a look at the program and see if he would enjoy it. The first program we went to was the Fix-a-palooza. This is where young people and adults in the neighborhood can bring their own bike, or fix a bike that is provided by Open Roads. Lance loved it the very moment we walked through the doors.

So, for about three straight weeks Lance would go to Fix-a-palooza until the summer officially ended. The story does not end here, for we also saw that Open Roads offers the Earn-a-bike program which runs for six weeks. In this program, students get to be involved in social activities as well as learn about tools, different parts of the bike, and how to work with others. At the end of the program, students earn not only a bike, but a helmet, certificate, and other notions to compliment the new bike that students fix themselves.

This opportunity illuminated the skills that Lance wanted to enhance. Seeing Lance work with the other students his age at Open Roads, allowed him to have a new confidence and to make friends with the same interest that he shares. I appreciate the staff of Open Roads and their willingness to work with all students. This was the best program for Lance and has given him the edge he needs to be successful in life.

It’s Not about the Office

Since I have worked for The Arcadia Institute, we have had office space in a variety of very interesting places. We started out in a building on Western Michigan University’s campus that was tucked in a corner office. Next we ventured to the Kalamazoo Enterprise Center on Parson’s. It was the home of Gibson Guitar many years ago. Our next stop was a classroom in an old school building owned by New Genesis which is a youth program in Kalamazoo. Recently, we have continued the classroom theme and have been working out of a portable classroom building on the property of Second Baptist Church. We share that building with a used car dealership.

Now we are moving to a house that was converted into a doctor’s office about 25 years ago. The office has also been used by an architect and a computer programming company. Now we are moving in and it feels like a great move.

Why am I telling you about where The Arcadia Institute has been located? Well because frankly it doesn’t really matter where our office is. The Arcadia Institute through our Community Brokering process and Connect Kalamazoo facilitation our work is about THE COMMUNITY. We are most often found out in the community. We meet people in coffee shops, parks, recreation centers, apartments, homes, etc. You can find us at the library, The Nature Center, Camp Rota Kiwan, schools and transportation training. We meet people where they are and to introduce them to the community.

If you would like more information about The Arcadia Institute, Community Brokering or Connect Kalamazoo contact
Allison Hammond at

Strengths of Community Brokering

See what Community Broker Jennifer Goodwill has to say about the strengths of Community Brokering in this clip from our Community Brokering video.