The Arcadia Institute

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

Pebbles Make Ripples

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

Welcome, supported and respected can only be measured by the impact that is made. Here at the Arcadia Institute we pay very close attention to the impact that we can make in the area of opening the eyes of the community around opportunities for more inclusion of persons with developmental disabilities.

I liken the work that we do to the casting of a pebble into a body of water that makes a ripple. Arcadia staff members “pebble” themselves into the lives and networks of our “bodies of water” within this community.

A few examples of this rippling is when we impact the individuals by challenging them to imagine/envision themselves expanding their gifts and talents more deeply into their communities. We impact in another rippling fashion when families find out that their loved one is connecting with The Arcadia Institute. It challenges family members to begin to view their loved ones with developmental disabilities in a different light. Especially when they hear of goals that have never been perceived of by the individuals as reachable. The other important ripples happen in the “bodies of water” within organizations, businesses, groups and schools that have chosen to adjust and accommodate in efforts to become more inclusive.

In closing, how many of us have heard our elders, friends, teachers and family remind us as we grow up, that we should do something that makes an impact. In the Navajo tradition it is understood that their moccasins that are worn upon their feet are actually walking prayers. Everywhere they walk they intend to impact and bless. Everywhere The Arcadia Institute moves we intend to be like a pebble in the water, troubling the waters in a beautiful but intentionally transforming way.

Why is Youth Brokering Important?

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

As a Community Broker, I have had the honor and the privilege of meeting new people, and bridging the gap between families and communities. In this day and age, I can only imagine how hard it is to be a parent and raise a child, let alone a child with physical and/or mental disabilities. Parents have the hard job teaching, caring, and navigating their children through life’s biggest challenges and decisions.

Part of my job as a broker, is to assure parents that their hard work and dedication to their children is not in vain. I also help parents break down barriers that they must face with their children, and to prepare them for the best quality of life they can possibly get.

Our youth need positive role models and community advocates to let them know that we support them, and at the same time teach them how to give respect and honor to everyone. Youth in general are bombarded with constant negative images of what it takes to make it in this world. We need to work together and embrace positive images, and provide positive support letting our youth see what the “real world” is like and how to maintain a balanced positive life.

With mental illness on the rise and 80% of American people dependent upon medication to sustain a “normal” life, we face a problem as well as a societal question of how do we deal with the day to day issues of life? Our youth face pressures that the previous generation may never have had to face when they were the same age. So what is the solution to these issues and problems youth face today?

It is overwhelming to think upon such questions, but in light of all this, I wake up every morning and tell myself “I am a problem solver” I may not fix everything that the world may face, but I help solve the issues with the families I deal with. When we have found a meaningful place in our surrounding community for them to feel safe, welcome, and at ease, then we have done our job.

Building a Community of Belonging Forum: A Happening!

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On March 26, 2015, Connect Kalamazoo will host the 6th Building a Community of Belonging Forum at Vanguard Church. This year will be a Happening! So mark your calendars.

We will be celebrating the successes of Connect Kalamazoo building awareness of inclusion of people with disabilities. One of the highlights of the Forum will be the creation of a community art project that shares the vision of Kalamazoo: A Place Where Everyone Belongs.

As the community art project develops, at the Forum we will:

• Tell the success stories of Connect Kalamazoo that is a network of community organizations leading the community around diversity, inclusion and equity for people with disabilities
• Learn how to build community awareness through the use of the logo in organizations that have met the Commitment to Inclusions Checklist and criteria.

The facilitators for the event include:

Kathy Jennings, Editor, Southwest Michigan Second Wave – Media Campaign
Simon Borst, Front End Manager, Peoples Food Co-op – Art Project Coordinator

To date the following organizations have committed to support the Forum:

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo
Portage District Library
Southern Shores Council of Boy Scouts
People’s Food Co-op
Media Arts Academy
Just Move Fitness and More
USA Tae Kwon Do
Family Center for the Arts
YMCA Sherman Lake Camp
Disability Network
Residential Opportunities Inc.
Center for Disability Services
Arc Community Advocates
Humphrey Products

We hope to see you there!

Networking and Relationship Building

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

Networking according to the Webster dictionary is defined as the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.

The idea of networking and how it applies to employment has been a frequent topic of conversation at our office. Many of the individuals with whom we work are very interested in finding paid employment. We know that when it comes to looking for work, it isn’t always about what you know, it is about who you know. For this reason, we are very intentional about helping individuals think about the people in their community circles who may be able to connect them to job openings and help them get in the door for an interview.

We have also been thinking through how we as an agency might help to open up doors for employment opportunities. We have been asking ourselves how we may use networking and relationship building to develop connections between employers and potential employees. Recently, several members of our staff attended a meeting at ONEplace with the Kalamazoo Foundation facilitating a discussion about community alignment and relationship building. It highlighted how organizations need to communicate and work together to build a stronger community.

In the work that The Arcadia Institute does, we have the opportunity to interact with other agencies in town who are also helping people with disabilities find competitive jobs in the community based on their individual interests. While we are working toward a similar cause, our individual missions and strategies are unique. It’s like we are each a spoke on a wheel. The work that we do is different, but complementary. So, when we work together for the benefit of the individuals we serve, we build stronger outcomes for individuals and for our community.

We value the interactions we have with these organizations and we have decided that we want to be intentional about inviting these organizations to come together to have a conversation about employment in our community. Nothing fancy – just talking around a table at a local coffee shop. We want to provide an opportunity for each of us to share about the work that we do. Through this dialogue, we hope to build a better understanding of what we have in common and what is unique about the way we each approach our work. We know there are areas where we overlap in working with an individual, so we believe there is benefit to us coming together to learn more about each other.

Are you interested in participating in the conversation? Please let us know.

Aligning the Community

In the last blog, I talked about the Connect Kalamazoo Network as being more than a group of people who meet monthly and conduct an annual forum. On occasion Connect Kalamazoo takes action to promote aligning the community around what full inclusion of people with disabilities really looks like. Here is an example of one of our activities.

A couple of years ago, a hair salon in our community found itself in the middle of a firestorm of social media and national news coverage. Unfortunately, a young boy with autism his mother were abruptly asked to leave the salon because he was being noisy. Another person who was at the salon posted the story on Facebook and it went viral.

The members of Connect Kalamazoo decided to write a View Point article for the Kalamazoo Gazette to make people aware that there is support for organizations to become more welcoming and supportive of people with disabilities. Below is the View Point article:

Recently in the news there have been stories about adults and children with disabilities in our community. Some stories have been positive about people with disabilities being included in very meaningful ways. Yet, other stories have been about people with disabilities being misunderstood and even unwelcomed. The Connect Kalamazoo Network would like to offer support throughout our whole community about how to welcome, support and respect children and adults with disabilities. We are a group of people and organizations committed to aligning the community around full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of life – meaningful activities, competitive employment and living arrangements of choice.

Who is the Connect Kalamazoo Network?

Some of the community organizations that are partners and supporters of the Connect Kalamazoo Network are: The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo; The Kalamazoo Nature Center; The YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo; The Media Arts Academy; Portage District Library; Boy Scouts of America, Southern Shores Field Service Council; YMCA Sherman Lake Camp; The Arc Community Advocates; Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run; Advocacy Services for Kids; Prevention Works; Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Big Brothers, Big Sisters, A Community of Caring; Comstock Community Center; Disability Network Southwest Michigan; Friendship Village and more.

Through the Connect Kalamazoo Network coordinated by The Arcadia Institute organizations are provided training, opportunities to network and share ideas as well as work together on an annual Building a Community of Belonging Forum that is held in March. In addition, these organizations continue to reach out to other community organizations to let them know that full inclusion of people with disabilities is possible. The community just needs to learn how not only to support people, but support each other in this endeavor to create Kalamazoo as a Community Where All People Belong. For example, one camp program director may contact another camp program director for ideas about how to successfully include a camper with autism.

The Connect Kalamazoo Network has been together for three years, and reaches out to all aspects of community in this effort. The network has created a Commitment to Inclusion Checklist this is available for any organization or company to use. For more information you can contact Allison Hammond, Program Director, The Arcadia Institute at 269-254-8224 or Join the Connect Kalamazoo Network to make Kalamazoo a Community Where All People Belong!