The Arcadia Institute

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

Community Brokering: What We Do

The main purpose of Community Brokering is to connect people with disabilities to live a full community life as they choose. This is done through the person working with a Community Broker who does three basis things: 1) gets to know the person, 2) facilitates Personal Future Planning meeting and 3) continues to follow up on the plan as needed.

The Community Broker is an employee of The Arcadia Institute who works through the process above to help people’s lives be focused on life in the community rather than disability specific programs and services. The areas of community life that are addressed are recreation, well being, housing and competitive employment.

Hopes, Dreams, Aspirations, Jobs and Sustainability

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

Hopes, dreams and aspirations require resources. At the Arcadia Institute we understand the value of persons with disabilities deserving to actualize their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Hence, we include employment as one of our very important goals that we assist participants in being able to obtain. This journey varies with each and every individual. Follow along as Erika shares a few excerpts as a participant in the Community Brokering process involving her journey towards employment.

In Erika’s case, she has been gaining employability skill sets as a volunteer over the past few years. Because, Erika recognized during this process that she needed first and foremost to find and exercise her own voice regarding her overall readiness for employment. It’s one thing to roll out and just get any job. It’s another thing to be able to sustain employment doing work that matters and that is a good match.

One of her first stops along the journey included her volunteering as an Administrative Assistant with New Genesis Education Center. “Learning new computer programs, navigating there and back independently, being a part of a team who was involved with students and their lives. I had deadlines that I had to meet. Getting in the habit of dressing up professionally on a daily basis.” Since no experiences are wasted even “having to create a new newsletter every week came with pressures but also brought out the creativity that was there but kinda hidden below the surface.”

Not every road was easy for Erika but still and all yielded lessons learned. “Once the volunteer projects end it was frustrating having to look for new opportunities at different sites.” There were also several times when maintaining the balance between motivation and preplanned annual family vacations collided. “It was hard to get back in the groove. Self motivation was not as strong, too.” “Jobs are important but so is maintaining family relationships. People with disabilities rely on family for strength and encouragement and on the flip side also become discouraged at times by family regarding employment.”

Overtime Erika has gained strength, confidence and self-esteem. Now “I currently volunteer for Connect Kalamazoo in hopes to use those skill sets to add to my resume. My socialization opportunities and community circle connections have increased. Being a part of something that lets me be get out there more and gain more knowledge about the community and what other opportunities exist for people with disabilities.”

Lastly, “I think with now being involved in the partnership with MRS/Arcadia Institute I will be exposed to even more job-related training opportunities. Years ago was not a fit for me with MRS because I did not have the self-confidence that has been gained through the Community Brokering process of finding my voice and being more exposed to pre employment.” “I have found that self-employment is actually the best fit for me at this time.” Erika suggests “that self-confidence and believing in yourself can often take time.” It continues to be a community team effort and the timing must be best for Erika or it’s merely another statistic.

Building a Community of Belonging: Employ People with Disabilities

When people with disabilities are part of the competitive work force there are huge benefits for the:

Employer and co-workers
Climate of the work environment
Public image of the business
Economy of the community at large

and more.

We have been working with some people through Community Brokering for awhile now. They have learned how to sustain a regular volunteer routine, communicate effectively and use public transportation. They are now ready for competitive employment and we are reaching out to businesses to help connect the people with opportunities.

Fortunately, this has been a real learning opportunity for The Community Brokers. We are learning that many prospective employers would like to hire people with disabilities, but they still hold misconceptions that we need to dispel. While this may seem like a challenge for us to overcome, when employers are honest about their concerns in hiring people with disabilities, we have an opportunity to introduce them to a person who would be a great fit for a position they have available. We are able to coach the employer to see how this person would be a great addition to their work force. Employers see that there often is no monetary expense to make accommodations – they just may need to take a bit longer to train the person and how to support the person on the job.

So we are working, albeit slowly, to reach out to prospective employers based on the strengths of the people we work with to build a community of belonging. People with disabilities becoming part of a business community and the business now belonging to a growing community of organizations employing people with disabilities.

If you would like more information about how to support people with disabilities in your organization or business please contact Allison Hammond, Executive Director of The Arcadia Institute at or 269-217-2205.

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Community Broker: Successful Youth Story

The blog this week was written by Dalanna Hoskins, Community Broker with Youth.

Brokering Develops Family Relationships

I am proud to write for all to see on the progress of one of our participants of the Arcadia Institute. For the sake of confidentiality we will name him Maxwell Smart.

For those of us who work as brokers, we have come to learn how to be patient, think outside the box and how to work with not just the individual, but key members of the persons family as well. Maxwell’s mother is a very hard working lady. She makes sure that all questions are answered when it comes to Maxwell’s safety and wellbeing. She is very much like my mom. She is protective, caring, and will call anyone out that does not have Maxwell’s best interest at heart. Maxwell’s mother and I have bonded over the past 6 months since working with him. My relationship with her has been a learning experience for me, and I appreciate who she is as a concerned parent who wants what is best for her son.

Because of this blossoming relationship, Maxwell has been able to volunteer at the Nature Center since the 10th of June once a week. He has loved every bit of it. He has developed a relationship with Garden Coordinator Dave Brown and his parents who are regular gardeners, and the Volunteer Coordinator Rose Norwood.

Two weeks ago the Nature Center celebrated their volunteers and Maxwell’s mother was able to attend along with him. This event introduced his mother to those that work closely with Maxwell. She was able to see how much her son was appreciated and that his gifts and talents were being used with purpose. She also has a higher level of trust, and is able to let her son get closer to the independence he may one day have.

This is what we are about, here at the Arcadia Institute. We are all about connecting our people with their community, sharing their gifts and talents as well as building relationships with the parents and families of the participants we work with.

Community Brokering…Why We Do What We Do

The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

At a recent staff meeting, we talked about our mission and why it is important to us. At the Arcadia Institute, we make it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their communities. It is not always easy to quantify the work we do, but through our experiences with individuals, we know our work has a purpose.

Our mission was exemplified for me during a recent MAP we completed with an individual. For confidentiality sake, we will call the individual John. John is in his twenty’s and lives at home with his family. But, he wants to move out on his own. He would like to get an apartment and he and a friend have talked about being roommates. His family loves him so much, they struggle with letting him be more independent because they believe he is vulnerable and they want him to be safe. It is hard for them to let go. As for John, he commented that he feels like all people see when they look at him is his wheelchair.

At John’s MAP (Making Action Plan), John had a chance to talk openly about his dreams for his future, and his family had the opportunity to voice their concerns. None of this was new information, John knows his family worries about him, and his family knows he has bigger goals and wants more for his life. The difference this time, is that everyone was together talking it through, and, with Community Brokering, we were able to lead the discussion to move beyond the concerns to talk about what action we could take together to move forward. Fears were voiced and acknowledged, but we pushed through to talk about solutions and ways to minimize worries. Of course, there will always be concerns. That is just a part of life when it comes to parenting and watching your kids branch out on their own. But, through the Community Brokering process, we are able to bridge the gap between where a person is today, and where they desire to be in their future. Families and individuals don’t feel like they are on their own trying to figure it out.

I think one of the beautiful things about Community Brokering is that we meet the individual where they are at and together we start building a pathway into the community. Individuals don’t have to go through an assessment and interview process to determine if they are eligible for Community Brokering. Instead, we are intentional about getting to know an individual, identifying their strengths and then moving forward with the support of their community. With some people, we take very small steps giving them time to build confidence and courage to keep moving forward. With other people, they are ready to go now, but need someone to run along beside them and help them to navigate the road ahead. Every person is different, so we have an individualized approach.

John and I recently visited some apartment buildings in his community. We are starting the process of supporting him in moving out on his own. It doesn’t mean he will move into an apartment next month. Instead, he is taking the smaller steps of learning to use public transportation on his own, getting out in the community on a regular basis to pursue interests of his choice, and talking to people who have faced similar experiences. John is hopeful because of his increasing independence and his family is seeing the possibilities that exist for John. The worries and concerns still exist, but with the support of Community Brokering, John and his family are building momentum to move forward.