One of the most important parts of any community is its ability to offer assistance to those who are most in need of help, and to leave nobody behind regardless of their abilities.
One local organization, The Arc Jacksonville, dedicates itself to assisting one of our community’s most commonly overlooked groups: adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization provides a vast number of services to intellectually disabled adults, ranging from providing housing accommodations, to job training, and even to recreational activities.
Located just off of Blanding Blvd., the organization’s west campus houses several of their programs. The building, purchased from VyStar Credit Union several years ago, features two stories of space where adults with intellectual disabilities can thrive in a supportive environment. It has just about everything one could imagine: multiple production rooms for workers with differing levels of capabilities, snack areas, workout facilities, resting areas including a sensory room for those on the autism spectrum, and plenty of open space to accommodate small exercise groups.
On Friday nights, the upstairs portion of The Arc West Jacksonville becomes “Club Arc”, where adults with intellectual disabilities can gather for a night out that includes food, fun games, and even dance contests.
As we mentioned previously, The Arc West Jacksonville houses the production of Jacksonville in a Box; they also have contracts with larger companies such as Vistakon and Charlotte Russe. The adults who work at the west campus do so in hopes of establishing the skills needed to eventually gain independent employment within the community. The Arc provides them with both general training as well as more specific, individualized help to correct any issues that may have interfered with being employed in the past. It also assists them in finding employment once they’re ready.
The organization also works with the University of North Florida to allow the adults in their program to attend classes and even live in housing nearby the school’s campus, providing them with an authentic college experience.
“Whether it’s to have a job in the community, to live independently, everyone here has a goal that they’re working towards,” says Joe Goff, who helps with The Arc’s psychology group sessions. The organization offers psychological services to those with or without intellectual disabilities.
The organization has two main locations: its west campus, and its main offices located downtown. Aside from the services it offers at its two locations, the organization also provides housing and transportation services to its clients. According to their website, 44 adults are housed in the organization’s five group houses, which are divided based on age and ability. Later this year, it will finish construction on The Arc Village, a massive independent living facility located off of Hodges Blvd. that will allow adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live “on their own” in a community designed to support their needs.
While the number of programs and services provided by The Arc Jacksonville is outstanding, what’s most impressive about the organization is the sense of fulfillment and happiness they provide to their clients. These adults, of varying ages and abilities, all have one thing in common: they’re all ecstatic to be there, eager to work for their rightful place in the community, and happy to be among people who give them the respect and care they deserve.
“Our mission is really centered around helping them to live fulfilling lives, to break down the stereotypes. To show that we all have the same goals, we all have the same dreams,” says development administrator Julia Steffen.
To learn more about The Arc Jacksonville, and how you can get involved or contribute, check out their website.