We often take for granted the value of being independent until it is taken away, or may not even realize how much of a privilege it is to have the personal freedom and means to do things on our own. The Arc of San Diego strives to assist individuals with disabilities, and continues to provide the gift of helping those with disability-based challenges achieve and maintain an independent lifestyle. Due to the commitment and initiative of forward-thinking advocates, the organization of The Arc can be attributed to a group of concerned parents and their vision of implementing various support systems and providing resources for individuals with disabilities. This movement was pursued further by The Ocean Beach Junior Women’s Club, and by 1951 California’s Governor, Earl Warren, signed a bill, offering Public Education Training for individuals with learning and developmental disabilities; soon after, The Society of Exceptional Children was established.
In continuing with this cause, The Arc is dedicated to promoting and attaining a healthy and productive livelihood for the young as well as adults with disabilities — both intellectually and physically. In creating service programs within the community, The Arc promotes awareness and offers outreach support groups in fulfilling an integral role of helping individuals and families overcome obstacles encountered on a daily basis. This includes assisting families to cope with the inherent-born disabilities of young infants, offering job placement and educational classes, and teaching adults life skills in becoming self-reliant with the goal of reaching their full potential.
The Arc’s Jennifer Bates Navarra, Vice President of Marketing, shares a moving story of one of their volunteers, by the name of Meliha, who started volunteering as a result of her sister’s support from The Arc and how it impacted their family. The assistance provided by The Arc gave Meliha and her family the hope that her sister would have the means to lead a normal and productive life. And, due to The Arc’s tremendous support, empowering Meliha’s sister to maintain an independent lifestyle, Meliha had the urge to give back to the community and help others in need. In November of 2011, Meliha began donating her time by leading music classes at the non-profit.
Other service programs of The Arc include:
- The Parent Infant Program: Focused on young children from birth to 3 years of age, who are considered “at risk” or have developmental delayes. Its objective is to create a relaxed and playful environment, while simultaneously enhancing their motor, cognitive, and language skills; as well as, encourage personal and social interaction through specific self-help activities by having speech therapists and behavioral specialists involved with their progress.
- Arc Community Employment Program: Guides and offers employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. This service allots professional advice on job placement with various organizations throughout San Diego, and assistance in writing resumes while providing individualized coaching for the interviewing process.
- Currently, The Arc is in the process of implementing health and wellness programs in fitness facilities, lending access to the disability community to promote overall health through nutrition and proper exercise.
In recognizing individuals with disabilities, the month of March is officially commemorated “Disability Awareness Month,” due to a proclaimation by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. In the declaration, our former president stated, “For many of these people with developmental disabilities, there is now the prospect of a brighter future and greater opportunity. Americans are becoming increasingly aware that such disabilities need not keep individuals from realizing their full potential in school, work, at home, [or] as members of their families and their communities.”
Reagan’s powerful message affirms these values; and The Arc of San Diego continues paving the way for members of the disability community to actualize their full capabilities. Last year, The Arc celebrated their 60th year of service, and along with their continued efforts of initiating programs for individuals with disabilities, the non-profit keeps the heartfelt mission from a group of Ocean Beach women alive by laying the foundation for the disability community to excel, prosper, and lead successful lives in becoming independent.
The Arc of San Diego