The Arcadia Institute

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

Curtains Up

Vivian really enjoys theater. She participated in a theater class when she was in high school. Now that she is out of high school and is working, she was looking for a way to get involved with theater again.

The Family Center for the Arts in Portage MI, has a theater company that is very community and family oriented. The owner Rebecca Achenbach is warm and welcoming to anyone who is interested in participating in visual arts, dance and theater. It appeared it would be a good place to connect Vivian.

In September, Vivian joined the theater company. Becoming a member of the company meant that Vivian could take classes as well as be part of preparing for a production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

During the preparation phase, Vivian helped work on building the sets, costumes and props. Mostly, she painted and glued things together.

Vivian not only enjoyed helping with the preparation, but she also enjoyed meeting with and working with new people. She said the best thing was working with a group of people to make the show come together.

Willy Wonka was performed the second weekend in December 2015 to sell out crowds of children and adults alike.

Now Vivian has started taking classes. Recently, she took an improvisation class called Stranger Things Have Happen!. First, the participants created their own character to share with the others in a situation the instructor designed. Then, as a group they created new characters and a new situation that they called “The Random Family.” Sounds like fun!

Mark Your Calendar

Mark Your Calendar for March 24, 2016: Building a Community of Belonging through Poetry

Mark your calendar

As the 7th Building a Community of Belonging

Really will be fun!

Connect, network and learn to welcome and support people with disabilities with Buddy

Hannah facilitates community poetry creation!

For more information contact Allison Hammond at

What One Thing . . .

What one thing did you do on a regular basis during the past year that made a difference in your life?

That’s a question that Thom Andrews, Director of ONEplace, posed in his weekly Blog titles Hurry Up and Wait. I thought it would be interesting to see how Michele, Jennifer, Dalanna and I answer that question as we reflect on the past year.

I had to think about this because this year brought lots of changes in my life and career. Almos t daily, I take time to think and jot down ideas on whatever piece of paper I can find. I don’t keep these notes in any organized manner, but I stumble upon them in a notebook, on a post it note, in notes on my iPhone, on my nightstand. I find that when I do see these notes again I’m surprised and delighted that I either accomplished the idea or I was a catalyst for someone else to do something new or different. I think I’ll keep jotting down ideas and see what 2016 holds!

For me, I think a key move has been communication. Whether it is making time to meet someone in person, just to check in on how they are doing, or picking up the phone and calling them. It has provided opportunities to strengthen relationships and learn more about the important things in people’s lives.

One thing I always do that makes a small difference would be providing service to families. Serving others is what makes the world go round. At times we forget that it is not about us all of the time, but we are able to make a difference in others lives with one small act of service. Serving does exert a lot of energy and is very humbling, which is why some choose not to do it. But serving others has its personal rewards and builds up the spirit man in each and every one of us.

A key thing I worked on this past year was staying present in the moment. I made an effort in meetings, in daily life at home, in time spent with others to stay present in the moment and not let outside distractions like my phone or thinking about what else I have to do that day interfere. It really enriched my connectedness with others and relationships.

Shining the Light Through Stories

“When you tell your story, you shine a light on the truth.”
Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International

The theme for our past few Blogs has been Shining the Light which is what Community Brokers do as they work with people with disabilities. Sometimes the light reveals true barriers for full community participation for people such as stigma, low expectations, or lack of accommodations. When we see these obstacles, our obligation is to turn the light to that of possibility and opportunity for full community participation.

Recently I saw Zainab Salbi on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday program. She travels through war torn countries listening to the stories of women who have experienced and survived horrific atrocities. She shares the stories of women who have overcome and succeeded through the organization she founded called Women for Women International.

While people with disabilities may or may not experience these extreme situations, they often still find themselves marginalized, living in poverty or segregated from the rest of the community. Staff at The Arcadia Institute hear these stories and work hard through Community Brokering to interrupt these patterns. We support people to become fully part of their community. We work to change the stories into possibilities, opportunities and success.

Over the years that The Arcadia Institute has blogged, we have shared many stories of people with disabilities who have been shining the light on successful community participation. Here are some of them.

Would you like to tell a story and shine the light on community participation for people with disabilities?

Helping People Discover Themselves

We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.
Galileo Galilei

One of the things that we love about Community Brokering is that we use the word “Help” in a very specific way. In our work, “Help” means connecting people to the community so that they can discover their interests and strengths. It means supporting them to participate in the community by either coaching them or the people around them to learn how to support them. Help does not mean doing for and doing to a person.

In the Community Broker Process there are several steps that we take to help people discover themselves and how to share their gifts in the community.

* Telling their story

In this step, the person and other people in their life have an opportunity to share instances when the person was able to show their gifts and strengths. Maybe they have a story about working with children or animals. Perhaps they can talk about a time when they showed real empathy towards another person. Maybe their story is about their ability to do art or music.

* Exploring new places and activities

We take people to try new activities. Maybe going to a Zumba class at the YMCA, or spending time with a veterinarian, or attending a class at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. While doing these new things, people meet other people in the community and begin to form new relationships. They are able to show other people that they can participate, with appropriate support, in the community.

* Listing their strengths during a PATH or MAP meeting

Sometimes during a PATH or MAP meeting when we have the group list strengths and talents not only does the person hear about strengths they have, but also, the rest of the group learns more about the person and the possibilities for the future.

* Opportunities to learn from mistakes

Yes in the Community Broker Process there is room for people to make mistakes and learn from them. For example, a person may think they really would like to take a dance class and then discovers that they do not enjoy it at all. Or perhaps a person who is learning to schedule their own transportation, forgets to be outside ready for the bus to go to a volunteer position. Once they have experienced disappointing not only themselves, but other in the community – they discover that they can learn from that mistake and do better the next time.

If you would like more information about Community Brokering you can contact Allison Hammond at or 269-254-8224.