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At Arc Human Services, Community Participation Has Many Benefits
By Nancy Kennedy

Arc Human Services serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with programs that enable them to fulfill their potential, reach their personal goals and improve their quality of life, through satisfying and meaningful work and relationships. Arc accomplishes this with a range of innovative programs that address the unique abilities of each and present them with tailor-made opportunities to learn, work, gain confidence, develop increased independence, and contribute to the community.

It sounds like a lot, and it is. But Arc Human Services has a track record of remarkable success, and the Community Based Services Program is growing in size and expanding in mission. Audra Burd, Director of Community Based Services, says that community participation is strongly emphasized at Arc Human Services and has numerous benefits for both the individual and the community. “Our Home and Community Habilitation Program includes services that focus on supporting individuals that live in the community at home with their families, independently, or with assistance. We assist them with various activities of daily living, development of social skills, safety awareness, and household management, recreational and volunteering opportunities.”  

Employment Services includes a series of steps designed to ease the individuals into the working world gently and skillfully. According to Audra Burd, a component of Employment Services is the Supported Employment Program where the individual has a job coach, who helps with not only securing a job but also learning the requisite skills and becoming adjusted to the work environment. Each individual is initially given a thorough assessment to identify their capabilities and interests, and then they are matched to a workplace. Individuals have been able to secure positions in janitorial and maintenance work, bulk mailing, vehicle detailing, food service, and stocking merchandise. Many businesses in the Washington area are participating including Eat n Park, K-Mart and the City of Washington.

There is a pre-vocational Training Center in Washington County, where individuals first learn basic job skills. A key component of the pre-vocational training is community participation – clients volunteer with various organizations as a step towards working, and a chance to build confidence as they interact with others. “Our individuals volunteer with several different groups every day,” Burd says. “We have adopted a Meals-on-Wheels route, we go to Thomas Campbell Apartments and we volunteer at City Mission. We are also assisting with the City of Washington’s beautification project... It’s enriching for them and gives them a sense of pride. They get to contribute to the community, establish relationships within the local community and it allows us an opportunity to assess their skills and interests in the field.”

The Community Based Services Program helps individuals and their families to navigate the transition from home and family to independent living and the working world for those that are interested in taking that next step, Audra explains. “When they come to Arc Human Services, they are not out there alone and there is support based on each person’s need. They add value to the community. They are well prepared for their jobs and they are contributing members of the community. They want to be a part of things; they want to be out there working, earning their own money, among everyone else. It gives them a feeling of belonging and it is breaking down social barriers.”

Burd formerly worked as the Director of Residential Supports for The Arc of Westmoreland and became the Executive Director for The Arc of Fayette County in 2012 until moving out of the area. She became the Director of Community Based Services for Arc Human Services in 2017. 

Based in Washington, PA, Arc Human Services serves 500 individuals across eight western Pennsylvania counties. With an approach that is person-centered, the 700-member staff assists individuals to find meaningful work, develop relationships at home, at work and in the community, and find fulfillment, enjoyment and satisfaction in their lives. At Arc Human Services, each individual is unique and has individual needs and the organization strives to assist them, advocate for them and support them to learn, grow and achieve their goals.

For more information, visit www.aadvantageinc.org

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