It's 2013 and the beginning of my 27th year as Executive Director of Contra Costa
ARC. Even after all these years, every day is still exciting and meaningful. When I think about all the good things that happen at Contra Costa ARC every day, it is truly
humbling. It's humbling because my understanding of what it takes to keep the agency going is 27 years deep.
I've learned that it takes two important things:
- People who are willing to unselfishly give an enormous amount of time, energy
determination, commitment, and love, every day; and,
- People who value what is happening at Contra Costa ARC and try to support it in whatever ways they can.
With the way things are in California, keeping Contra Costa ARC afloat is getting
harder, not easier. But somehow we do it together, in spite of the odds. Quite honestly, this is not something I can understand with my mind – but my heart understands perfectly.
Here are just a few of the good things that happened in 2012:
- Adults with disabilities felt the satisfaction of "giving back." Their county-wide
community benefit projects included:
- Delivering meals to homebound seniors through the "Meals On Wheels" program
- Volunteering at the Contra Costa Food Bank
- Reading to 1st and 2nd graders at Dover Elementary School
- Volunteering at Berkeley Animal Services, ARF, and the Martinez Animal Shelter
- Participating in community gardening projects
- Volunteering at the Lindsey Wildlife Museum
- Visiting Seniors at local nursing homes and shelters
- Collecting recyclables at local businesses and at the Lafayette Reservoir
- Corresponding with troops overseas
- After many years living at Agnews Developmental Center, 30 adults with severe
and multiple disabilities, who have moved to the community, enjoyed new experiences that most of us take for granted: shopping at the mall, going to the movies, dining out…The folks loved the trip to "Disney On Ice." One participant
could not stop smiling!
- Greater independence and self-sufficiency is the most important goal of Contra
Costa ARC's programs, and many people meet that goal through paid work in the community. In spite of the high unemployment rate, we supported over 150
individuals in jobs, 25 of whom began working independently for the first time.
- Teenagers who participate in our After-School programs learned the value of
helping others by participating in the Bay Area Rescue Mission's annual winter coat drive. In 2012, the students gathered 215 coats for homeless people in need.
- Our programs continued their focus on physical fitness and healthy lifestyles.
To enhance our gym equipment and fitness program, an outdoor circuit training course was installed at the George Miller Center in Richmond. Participants held
their first annual Walk-A-Thon. A new yoga class began at CAP-Concord. Gardens were planted and vegetables harvested for use in cooking classes.
One participant exclaimed, "I pulled carrots out of the ground and it was fun!"
- Hundreds of children from 18 months to 5 years of age received early intervention
services to give them the strong start they need. The children are learning to play, share, communicate, and interact with their families and friends every day. One
young mother said:
"The greatest gift was to hear my baby, Ella, say 'mommy' for the first time! I really don't know what we would have done without your caring staff."
- Training for new staff members is a constant focus for every agency that provides
services to people with developmental disabilities. To meet that need, we have
created an extensive training program called "ARC University." Through ARC
University, we train our own staff, and also help meet the training needs of other local agencies. In 2012, ARC University provided quality training to 58 Contra
Costa ARC staff members, as well as 154 staff members from other local programs serving people with developmental disabilities.
- The need for our early intervention services has grown so much that we had a
new portable classroom built at the George Miller Center in Concord so that more children and families can get the services they need.
- The children's mental health services provided by Lynn Center include an
intensive program called "Wraparound." The program helps children through a team approach involving the entire family and all the key people in the child's life.
Lynn Center's Wraparound program has an excellent reputation not only here in Contra Costa County, but throughout California. In June, 2012, our Wraparound
team was invited to present the program to their statewide colleagues at the 2012 California Wraparound Institute in Anaheim.
- In November, we began a new program, called "Next Steps," to provide early
intervention services to young children whose parents are recovering from dependency on alcohol or drugs. We are working closely with local agencies that
provide recovery services for the parents.
- Participants in our adult programs took responsibility by helping with fund-raising
projects. From candy sales, to promoting the Walk-A-Thon, to ticket sales for Contra Costa ARC's Annual "Go For The Gold" raffle, individuals helped raise
funds for program supplies, new chairs for an activity room, and iPads that have opened new ways to communicate for people with autism.
- In 2012, PG&E stepped up and helped us achieve greater energy efficiency and
lower electricity costs. PG&E did an assessment of our energy use and then installed new lighting at Commercial Support Services in Concord and Antioch.
Now we're not only brighter, but greener too!
- Hundreds of families received educational, advocacy, and emotional support
from the staff members and 40 volunteer parent mentors at our family resource center, Care Parent Network. One mother said this about her experience with Care: "When I met them, everything changed in my life. Before that, I was
just here at home with my four year old son with autism. I was depressed. I couldn't go anywhere, do anything. I met the people at Care, and I was
speechless. They are wonderful – their words and the way they approached me made a difference. Parents don't know how to let out their feelings – Care allowed me to do that."
- The 21 volunteers at our Good Stuff Thrift Shop in El Cerrito continued to hold
their place as the agency's most consistent top fund-raisers. The store sold over $170,000 in 2012 to benefit Contra Costa ARC's programs.
- It took 7 years, but we finally completed all the renovations of the 15 buildings at
the George Miller Centers in Richmond and Concord! Everyone is thrilled about the improvements. It was a massive project. In October we celebrated the completion of the project. Click here to see photos of the celebration.
- We welcomed a major new addition to our Contra Costa ARC family in 2012.
An adult development program, the Asian Family Resource Center (AFRC) in Richmond, became part of the agency in January. The AFRC provides
multi-lingual, multi-cultural services to Asians with developmental disabilities and their families.
We'll continue to do our best to add to this list in 2013. Thank you so much for your
good wishes, your contributions, and for being a part of the Contra Costa ARC family.
Barbara Maizie, Executive Director
Contra Costa ARC
P.S. If you haven't contributed and would like to help keep good things happening at
Contra Costa ARC, you can click the star below.