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Clinton Township

October 2, 2013

Arc of Macomb celebrates 60 years of special needs care

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

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From left, Sue Lind, Rachelle Cummings, Virginia Goleski, Christine Park (sitting) and Judith Edwards pose in front of the Arc of Macomb sign. The Clinton Township-based Arc helps people with special needs and their families to cope and be productive members of society.

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Arc of Macomb County has been a staple in the area for 60 years, dedicated to improving the quality of life for those with special needs.

But even after decades of involvement in the community, the message is still lost among some of the public.

“When I talk to people, a lot of them don’t even know the Arc has been here for 60 years in Macomb County,” said Judith Edwards, the advocacy services coordinator for the Arc of Macomb County. “People go, ‘What’s the Arc? What does that stand for?’”

The Arc started in 1953 when a group of parents who had children with disabilities — be it mental or physical — wanted to create an environment where the youth would be welcome and treated the same as everyone else. Rather than put the kids into various institutions, alternatives were sought that provided community-based activities.

Thus, a school named the Macomb County Associates of Retarded Children was initiated as an educational facility that was designed to help meet the needs of both parents and their children.

Now known as the Arc of Macomb, the organization (located at 44050 North Gratiot Ave. in Clinton Township) has grown and continues to incorporate different methods to better equip those with special needs to be members of society in a viable way that best represents their particular situations.

“Our main objective is to get people with disabilities integrated into the community, where we don’t just put them in a work center or a place that (results in) inclusion,” Edwards said. “Some people will obviously never have a normal job in the community.”

Members have certain goals and a particular plan of service in their files. That plan of service is checked upon and aided by Arc volunteers, and there are about 13 houses watched by a staff of about 90 people.

Edwards also that said the Arc is the only agency that provides shared parenting, which is a 24-hour program that provides an alternative to long-term, out-of-home placement for persons with disabilities over the age of 18. This pertains to such things as community employment, which provides job coaching in a field where people are referred by job placement professionals and thought to be good fits.

People are referred by the Community of Mental Health (CMH), Macomb-Oakland Regional Center (MORC), Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) and the Department of Human Services (DHS). If people are already receiving aid through CMH or through the state, their case manager will ask them what they want to do or where they think they will thrive in society.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of budget cuts throughout the state,  and it trickles down to the counties, so this is a time when we need even more donations and memberships and things like that,” Edwards said. “We rely a lot on fundraising and through donations.”

The Arc is contracted through CMH while the courts pay for guardianship. With other locations in counties like Wayne and Oakland, the Arc is about giving people an opportunity to live as normal a life as possible.

“A lot of people — it’s an uncomfortable topic when you talk about people with disabilities,” Edwards said. “Before I started working here, I didn’t have that much exposure to disabilities,  either. That’s what our goal is: to get people more aware that there’s people out there who don’t have a voice. We don’t want them just sitting in front of the TV and vegging out all day.”

The Arc of Macomb is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The shared parenting program is a 24-hour, around-the-clock operation. For more information about Arc of Macomb, call (586) 469-1600 or visit www.arc services.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec at nmordowanec@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.