Serving developmentally disabled for over 50 years

The Arc of Middlesex will hold walk-a-thon to raise awareness, funding

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — More than 50 years ago a group of parents built an Arc to keep their children with mental retardation afloat in the ever-changing tides of their community.

This Arc withstood the tests of time for their children and through the dedication and perseverance of community members, it has strengthened to support more people with developmental disabilities and their families.

The Association for Retarded Citizens of Middlesex County is committed to providing services to people with mental retardation and other disabilities.

Founded in 1949, the private, not-for-profit advocacy organization encourages personal growth through empowerment, choice and support.

"When the parents recognized they did not have any respite provided by the community, they banded together to help each other and to help society better understand their children and their disabilities," said Cindy Hollender, The Arc’s director of development. "We continue in that tradition today."

The Arc provides a wide array of services including advocacy, education, family support, respite, residential and vocational services, and employment options.

The organization ensures delivering the appropriate quality services with ongoing surveys and frequent member, family, and regional meetings, Hollender said.

The information compiled from these resources helps the association gain the necessary education and tools to best serve the people in its programs.

"In 2003, we expanded our services in two more municipalities with the opening of two more group homes," Hollender said.

Including the new houses in Highland Park and Carteret, the organization provides eight group homes, eight career centers and four bookstores in the county, Hollender said.

"These facilities provide participants with opportunities to increase daily living and vocational skills while living and working in the community," Hollender said..

The Arc also provides non-facility-based services to support participants’ living, family and employment needs.

The Supportive Living Program focuses on encouraging members to become more independent in the community by taking an active role in their day-to-day living tasks.

In-home respite services through the Family Support Program gives families time to do much-needed activities such as work, doctor appointments and leisure, with the assurance that their loved one is well taken care of by a dedicated individual.

The organization also provides job placement for members at various local hospitals, soup kitchens and nursing homes to further develop their skills and become more productive citizens within their communities.

"Most participants have been employed three years or longer and have worked in various job positions, such as nursing, clerical work, and customer service," Hollender said.

All programs operate under the supervision of staff members who continuously undergo training with the Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities to increase their skills and competence, according to Hollender.

Educating the public regarding The Arc’s services and further increasing its visibility in the county continue to be her priority, Hollender said.

"We continue to campaign for new membership and to develop new ideas for fund raising," Hollender said.

On average, 95 percent of its funding comes from municipal, county and state governments, Hollender said.

"However, the organization’s expenses continue to increase as the funding from these budgets decreases or stops completely," Hollender said.

The continuation of The Arc’s services will rely on the continuing advocacy, volunteerism, support and generosity of community members, Hollender said.

Annually, The Arc sponsors a walk-a-thon to raise awareness and funding for people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities and their families, Hollender said.

This year, the walk-a-thon will take place rain or shine at 10 a.m. on May 16 in Roosevelt Park off Route 1 on Parson­age Road in Edison. Registration will be­gin at 9 a.m.

Individuals, families, friends, co-workers and community organizations are invited to support the walk by rais­ing sponsorships of $5, $10, $20 or more.

The association encourages walkers to collect all pledges prior to the walk, Hollender said.

There is no registration fee and walk­ers who raise $50 or more will receive an Arc Walk 2004 T-shirt on the day of the event.

Walkers who raise more than $500 will receive special recognition, Hollen­der said.

Sponsors of this year’s walk-a-thon include Enterprise rent-a-car, Lincoln Benefits, Applebee’s, Mutual of America, Colgate Palmolive, and the lodges of the 27th District of the Free and Accepted Masons.

The Arc of Middlesex is affiliated with both The Arc of New Jersey and The Arc of the United States.

To register for the walk-a-thon or for more information about The Arc of Mid­dlesex County visit www.arc-middle­