ARC of Rensselaer 65th Anniversary

Our History

The Arc of Rensselaer County originated at a time when institutions were the primary service option for people with developmental disabilities. In 1950, when our Arc chapter was founded as part of the Capital District Chapter of the New York State Association of Retarded Children, it was a radical act to keep children with disabilities at home as opposed to shipping them off to an institution. Our Arc chapter was built on the hopeful visions of parents who saw their children as capable and contributing members of an acceptant and inclusive community - living, loving, and working beside neighbors, friends, and families.

The formation of our chapter provided an opportunity for parents to talk about and plan for ways to support their children who were excluded from typical places in the community such as schools and workplaces. At that time it was public policy to deny an education to children who were unable to “benefit” from public instruction. This led The Arc to create training or activity centers housed in donated spaces such as church basements and vacant community buildings. Acadia Building in Frear Park and School 10 in Troy, New York were sites that provided some educational instruction, but mostly crafts and recreation. These formative centers were not funded by government dollars, therefore parents and friends engaged in many fundraising activities such as bake sales to cover program expenses. In the wake of New York State’s initiative to close its abusive institutions, The Arc partnered with the Office for Developmental Disabilities (formally OMRDD) to create community options such as group homes and sheltered workshops.

We have since come a long way in supporting those with developmental disabilities live a life that they value. The form of service has morphed from group settings to individualized arrangements at work, at home and in integrated community settings. Residentially this appears in the shape of live-in, live-next to supports, shared living and paid neighbors as opposed to group homes. Supported employment and volunteering has taken the place of our sheltered workshops. At the edge of innovative assistance is self-determination, where we act as service brokers and fiscal intermediaries for individuals self-directing their funding and staffing resources. Ultimately, we envision supporting all individuals with developmental disabilities as active citizens of their communities.

 

Testimonials and Success Stories

“They say the days are long, and the years are quick”

By Tracey Hempel
Associate Executive Director of Community Supports

April 29, 2016 will be my 20th Anniversary with The Arc of Rensselaer County; thankfully it’s also a Friday! I can say for certain that when I crossed over the river, I didn’t anticipate the journey that I was about to begin. We had 28 hour shifts back then, I was a floater (DSP) which meant I worked at every location, but Hoosick St., Detroit and Euclid Ave were places that I called home. They were the absolute joys of my work schedule; now that’s not to say that I didn’t love other place or people, but I had an undeniable, almost innate, connection with the people who lived in those places. I look back at those memories, like I do my childhood memories. For all intents and purposes, they could be because no place and no one person has defined me more than The Arc. Ok, maybe my kids and my husband have had a hand in shaping me too, but in three years, I will have been working at The Arc for half of my adult life. I would be lying if I told you that statement doesn’t impact me; I am who I am because of all of the people who I have crossed paths with over the years, all of the experiences they shared with me and the lessons that came along the way. For that, I am thankful.

(Tracey is shown in the picture above with Rob Beza in 1997)
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