Arc of Shelby County holds open house

Published 6:16 pm Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By EMILY BECKETT / Staff Writer

PELHAM – The Arc of Shelby County held an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony June 21 to signify its nationwide rebranding campaign and to showcase its services geared toward helping people of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Arc offers services in early intervention, supported employment, family support, advocacy and transition, the newest program in Shelby County.

“All programs are community based,” said Kristin Webb, director of development. “We feel individuals will get the best service by helping them in their natural environment.”

For this reason, Arc employees leave the office to spend the majority of their time working with people in their homes or schools.

“We have people on the road all the time,” said Karen Stokes, executive director. “It’s been exciting to grow.”

Since Arc is a non-profit organization, all services are free for people of all ages.

“Early intervention is the largest program, but the others are growing,” Stokes said.

Early intervention caters to children with developmental delays from birth to age three, Stokes said.

Another Arc asset is the supported employment program which helps high school students prepare for future job interviews and careers.

Heather Bell-Lawing and Jennifer Thomas, employment specialists, said the most important thing about their jobs is to make connections with companies so the companies will offer jobs to students and adults with disabilities.

“It’s a very rewarding job, but at times it’s challenging,” Bell-Lawing said, noting the economy has decreased the number of available jobs.

Supported employment also assists people in maintaining their jobs for as long as possible.

Bell-Lawing and Thomas said Best Buy, Lowe’s, Publix and Winn-Dixie are several program sponsors.

Mayor Don Murphy joined visitors for the ribbon cutting ceremony and expressed his appreciation for the Arc’s efforts in the community.

“It’s a most notable cause,” Murphy said. “I’m just delighted.”