The Arc of Riverside County has served people with disabilities since 1953 – Press Enterprise
The Arc of Riverside County has served people with intellectual disabilities and other developmental disabilities since 1953.
The organization works with clients’ families, legal guardians or conservators to help them achieve their personal goals. The organization also offers services and support that provide greater opportunity and inclusion in the community, which is often a client’s primary goal.
“Generally, the people we serve have limited opportunities to participate in community programs,” said Executive Director Erin Stream. “Being part of the community is very important to our agency and to most people with disabilities.”
Arc’s mission to increase the quality of life of those it serves was challenging with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the organization closed its day programs for what it thought was a few weeks, but for many participants, that turned into two years. Even when staff returned to the office, many vulnerable program participants remained isolated for health reasons.
The organization felt it was essential to continue to meet the needs of customers and found ways to connect them to the community, their friends and their support team. While staff went out of their way to visit them from outside their homes or on their porches, the visits were brief and could not replace the programs, according to Stream.
To meet this challenge, the Arc created a virtual school and opened it to the 300 participants in Riverside County. The virtual school introduces customers to new interests and new friends in other parts of the county. These online opportunities were connecting people in new ways.
Some people are more comfortable in a remote environment, Stream said. Even though the organization has returned to in-person programs, many who have returned still want to attend the virtual school.
The Arc has been fortunate to continue to receive funding from the state budget throughout the pandemic, even though programs have changed dramatically, according to Stream. The organization also received support from partners who wanted to help during the uncertainty.
Recently, The Arc received a grant from the Arbor Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. Donations and grants help the organization deliver quality programs, filling gaps in state funding that have not kept pace with spending. During the pandemic, grants helped purchase laptops and tablets to send home with attendees. It also assists with vehicle purchases, keeping programs effective and efficient.
Providing quality programs can be vital to achieving the personal goals and growth of many participants. For some, the goal may be to interact with others and improve their health by taking scheduled walks with friends on Victoria Avenue in Riverside.
“We don’t want anyone to be limited in their options and opportunities,” Stream said.
A client had the goal of working for the first time in her life. The Arc was able to help him achieve every goal of this goal, which included learning to drive and getting a license. The staff also helped her with writing CVs and interviewing. Eventually, she found stable employment and was recently promoted to a supervisor position.
People with intellectual disabilities need to be accepted and supported by their communities, Stream said.
“Feeling respected and feeling valued in a place where you live improves your self-esteem,” she said. “Our programs are vital to the community.
Information: 951-275-5344 or https://arcriverside.org/
Inland Empire Community Foundation strives to strengthen the Southern California interior through philanthropy.