Greetings from The United Arc. We hope you are well and staying safe during these COVID-19 times. We have some exciting things happening at The United Arc and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you. Our "UnEventFull" Year is in full swing starting with our Online Auction. New packages are up for bid every 2 weeks. There are many vacation opportunties and fun things for the whole family.
Lynne Marie Bielecki
The United Arc provides an amazing support system for those in our community who are living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The mission of the organization, to provide opportunities for achieving the universal goals of inclusion, choice, and independence for our individuals is made a reality each and every day thanks to the efforts of a staff of dedicated employees.
With that in mind, The United Arc looks to recognize those within our organization that have been identified and recognized by others within the organization for their high level of performance over the past year. In this process, several staff members have been nominated for the Employee of the Year. Those nominated should take a great deal of pride in knowing that they have not only made a noticeable difference in the lives of those whom we support and serve but also in the lives of those who nominated them.
Those staff members receiving nominations for the past year are:
Shared Living Coordinator
Individual Home Support Coordinator
Family Support Specialist
Individual Home Support Coordinator
Certified Nursing Assistant, Adult Services
Please join us in applauding these nominees for all that they do each day and all they have done this past year and their efforts to help our organization be the positive resource it strives to be.
Of these nominees, one staff member was selected as The United Arc Employee of the Year. For each of these individuals, there is a positive or supportive impact they make. For this year’s recipient of the Employee of the Year Award, not only do they exemplify the notion of team and positivity within the organization but they do so within the entire community as well.
April Jones has been a consistent positive force for the Individual Home Support team. Starting out in reception, April laid the groundwork for building a supportive and helpful team. April always found ways to streamline tasks for staff, as well as developing creative means for individuals to obtain resources such as food, crafts, and activities.
April transitioned to a coordinator position and has created even more opportunities for the team through her active involvement with Stone Soup Cafe as well as other local vendors who have been receptive to promoting The United Arc mission. April is active in her community and through those networks and connections has provided the individuals with choices and opportunities through volunteering and assisting in projects for area vendors. Her work with the Stone Soup Café has led to a tremendous bridge between our organization and theirs and has led to opportunities for the individuals we serve. Wonderful opportunities that are a direct result of April’s drive to make the best for all in the community.
April is someone that direct support professionals gravitate to for support and to be listened to and guided. April’s nature of compassion and genuine caring translates to not only the staff, but to the individuals as well. For over half a year April split her time between the Greenfield and Athol offices. April was an integral part of the development and presence of the Individual Home Support program in the Athol office. April established relationships with individuals who are now fully engaged in services, who previously refused any help.
Overall, April is the coordinator who will come in on a weekend to cover medications, or will go above and beyond to ensure her individuals have everything they need.
Congratulations to April Jones, Employee of the Year 2020,
from all of us at The United Arc!
This year has presented unprecedented challenges, not only for The United Arc, but for everyone. Here at The United Arc we are responsible for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the individuals and families we serve as we navigate this new world of COVID-19. As health care providers all of our staff are essential personnel and as such, our organization has continued in full operation throughout.
We have always enjoyed coming together with our growing network of volunteers, members, staff, stakeholders, community and business partners, and the individuals and families we serve to celebrate our mission of supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in achieving the universal goals of inclusion, choice and independence. We could always look forward to a range of events such as our Annual Gala & Auction, Annual Business Meeting, Open Houses showcasing Talents and Pursuits, the Annual Summer Picnic, among others. Sadly, this is not possible this year. This will be The “UnEventFull” Year.
In this “UnEventFull” Year, The United Arc is taking its annual auction online. Starting on June 5, 2020 and running to September 20, 2020, auction packages will be available for individuals to bid on, with new packages being added to the catalogue every one to two weeks. All auction packages have a minimum value of $250.
Each time someone visits our Online Auction to consider the wonderful packages available for bid, they will be able to register for a free entry to a drawing to win a Pandora’s Box valued at over $400.
The name Pandora means all-gifts and according to Greek myth, the last thing that came out of Pandora’s Box was HOPE! Only the winner will get to discover what treasures are inside. The drawing for the Pandora’s Box will be held Monday, September 21, 2020. So visit and enter often.
Businesses wanting to showcase their products or services, or simply demonstrate their support of The United Arc mission of full community inclusion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can substantially benefit by being affiliated with and promoted by our organization. As auction packages are donated, they are displayed in the online catalogue with a full description and acknowledgement of the donor(s).
We invite businesses to contribute to our work by becoming a sponsor or donating a package for our online auction. An auction package is an opportunity for you to showcase the best of your business while demonstrating your commitment to the community and to the full community inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We encourage you to donate complete packages with a minimum value of $250. This allows us to maximize your exposure to our bidders as the sole donor of a package.
Auction packages or auction package items can be donated any time during the event year, however, to be included in our 2020 event, auction packages or auction package items must be received no later than end of business Friday, August 14, 2020. Auction packages and/or auction package items received after August 14, 2020 will be included in our 2021 event.
The United Arc supports people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities in achieving the universal goals of inclusion, choice, and independence. Every year the organization provides services to individuals and their families in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, and Worcester counties of Massachusetts. The United Arc maintains a robust history of providing quality services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families dating back to 1951.
If you would like more information, please call Willow Ross at 413-774-5558 Ext. 1011, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please share the link with those you think would also be interested in supporting the work of The United Arc.
A sampling of current auction items for bid now!
We Care About The United Arc Sponsors
A Hug For Everyone at the United Arc Sponsors
The Safe Mantle
In early March, individuals in the group homes were going to day programs, working, visiting with family and friends, and going out to eat. Staff were coordinating summer vacation plans and coming up with potential trip ideas to present to the folks in the residential programs.
The email from the Director of Adult Services the week following turned all the plans, hopes and goals to a bucket list ideal. The United Arc anticipated the huge affect the virus would have on the individuals as well as the rest of the world. Since we were responsible for staff and individuals, we focused on their safety, and left the world issues to the world.
As of St. Patrick’s Day, the United Arc group homes were already instituting safe practices, hand sanitizing, and conducting frequent surface cleaning. In the beginning of the pandemic’s affect on us we were using store brand Lysol and cleaners that got us through H1N1 and every flu season since. A few weeks later house staff were rushing to nearby towns to find cleaners and toilet paper. Who knew when local distilleries started to produce surface cleaner and sanitizer, that we would be first in line with our hands out! Staff found humor throughout these times by pointing out to new staff how adapting to our current state is as creative as they’d ever seen!
By the end of March everyone was still negative for the virus. Direct Care Professionals struggled with their dedication to the folks they work with, to the families they love and are responsible for, and to meet everyone’s health and mental wellbeing was an immense life altering process. Staff choosing how to proceed was a great struggle, and while they received full support from human resources and leadership, it was not an easy process for most. In the end 92% of residential staff have stuck it out for months on end, finding a way to make peace with the struggle.
When the month of April commenced, the group homes were taking everyone’s temperatures twice daily, visitors needed to check temperatures at the door and by end of April masks were required. Any time a staff voiced a concern regarding safety or questioned our processes put in place, it was immediately addressed. The Manager of the homes conducted a herculean effort to place staff to work exclusively at a one group home to avoid any cross contamination.
By May we knew that if any of the individuals became sick with the virus, it came from staff. Masks and face shields were made available to all, and the individuals in the group homes started to pay more attention to people coming into the house, acting as the safety patrol and reminding everyone to follow proper protocol. Staff and individuals in the homes were tested through a special pop up and mobile unit sponsored by the Department of Developmental Services. All staff and individuals remained virus free.
Group homes became creative. People could go outside, go for rides to nowhere in particular, and visit other group home yards. Scavenger Hunts, Teddy Bear tracking, and fun, silly challenges ensued. Fishing became a daily routine for one group home, and another would hold conversations on the front porch sitting in Adirondack chairs, contemplating the new normal.
As we enter what would normally be designated as end of fiscal year, we review our efforts of the past 100 plus days. We wear the mantle of safety proudly, if not still a tad bit anxious of what is coming around the bend. Either way, staff and the individuals have faced this head on together, and the investment in each other and the value of the relationships has been the lynch pin to our success. We are still virus free. So far.
CB’s Shared Living Story
Shared Living is an important model for care based on genuine home environment and friendship with the provider. The United Arc is fortunate to have Shared Living providers who view their role as one of support, care, and friendship. One such provider and individual match has created the model for what the Shared Living model is all about.
CB is an individual who has an Intellectual disability and has been in substance abuse recovery for a few years. Before finding stability, CB would manage his stress and isolation with drugs and alcohol. CB is a larger gentleman at over 6 foot and 3oo pounds. CB was not working and was struggling inside the vortex of addiction and isolation, reporting feeling nothing but loneliness.
The Service Coordinator for the Department of Developmental Services worked tremendously hard to find a placement for CB that would help him find stability and hopefully through security and engagement, find help for his addiction. Shared Living was identified as an option for CB to be successful and decrease his overwhelming feelings of being alone.
CB moved into Dan’s house a few years ago. CB started to work during the day at Riverside Industries, he stopped drinking and smoking, while requesting a marijuana medical card. CB and Dan found a routine with biking and hiking outside and working on meditation and maintaining sobriety. The Shared Living staff of the United Arc supported the transition and made frequent visits to the Dan and CB’s house to offer support and maintain communication.
When the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, it was difficult for everyone to isolate, stay at home, and keep safe. Dan had broken his ankle a few weeks before the stay at home order. Because of his limited mobility, CB took some responsibility for household chores and tasks, as well as offering help to Dan. Because of CB’s work site not requiring him to work, CB and Dan found themselves staying at home all day, needing to create a new structure and daily routine. The goal was to continue to find the means to support CB’s sobriety and mental status during the isolation period and limited resources.
The Shared Living team at the United Arc supported Dan and CB throughout this time. To maintain safety, they would talk with Dan and CB outside in the yard, phone calls were daily, and emailing and zoom calls contributed to maintaining the connection. As the weather became warmer, staff would meet CB outside and go for hikes, since Dan was still unable to be mobile enough to hike. During these hikes CB and staff would talk about goals and treatment, keeping CB focused on the future and not losing site of the progress he has made.
As we enter the summer, CB has maintained sobriety, and has decided to not pursue a medical marijuana card. CB has developed a viable budget plan, and his relationship with Dan has become stronger and more established. Dan and the Shared Living team have supported CB change his life and maintain a strong skill set to build on, even throughout the pandemic.
Our Family Program continues to provide quality services to our community. Below you will find a few short stories from people receiving services.
Edie (Mom) & Amber W ~
Edie called Family Support looking for assistance; Amber was so anxious and agitated with the sheltering in place. She was constantly escalating and upset and couldn’t sleep. Edie was so stressed and was trying to find music online to calm amber as Amber loves music with visuals. They didn’t have great service at home to access what Edie knew Amber needed. The Family Support staff jumped right in and found a visual display sound machine and calming/therapeutic music DVD’s with relaxing visuals online, ordered them and had them shipped directly to Amber. When Family Support followed up with a social distant visit and to deliver a food card; Edie was so happy with the music and visual display machine that she was in tears from gratitude and relief. Edie said it was the best investment ever and Amber is so happy, more relaxed than ever and sleeping well. 😊 Recently, Edie has joined our Franklin County Family Support Tuesday Morning Caregiver Coffee Times & Open Circle Time where we join together via Zoom Sessions for conversation, cooking, recipes, crafts, sharing perspectives and views from our windows. 😊
Leyla B & (Dad) Philip-
Both Phillip & Leyla are so grateful for the opportunities that The United Arc is providing through zoom for his daughter. She has been making friends and socializing in a new way that has really impacted her daily life positively. On days of the AmeriCorps Zoom Groups; Leyla is the one to remind Philip to log in – Philip states this a clear indicator of how excited she is to meet up with her friends; Leyla absolutely loves The United Arc – AmeriCorps - Friends In Common/North Quabbin Friends Combined Zoom Sessions.
Mindy B (New Referral) & Liz P (Mom)-
Receiving a new referral in the middle of a pandemic; lots of emails and phone conversations and in person social distance visit to assist with assessing immediate needs as family settles into a new area. This is what Mom/Liz relayed to us on one such visit:
Liz said - she was new to the area, and was told that when you relocated, if you need to change provider agencies you won’t get good services or support. Liz said she was nervous and hesitant to change providers but, she took a chance and switched to The United Arc. She is grateful and pleased she did because the Family Support services and support have been phenomenal. Right off the bat they were available to provide service and supports for food and clothing. They have amazing Family Support staff who have made the transition [especially during a pandemic] easy and welcoming for Mindy and the whole family.
Family support services is creatively working to meet the new needs of it families through curbside visits, providing food cards, and groceries deliveries.