The Arc Gateway - Pensacola, FL
3rd place winner and $2,500 grant recipient
Nominated by: Connie Frazier
When asked to think of a local organization that is dedicated to helping people, one name immediately came to mind – The Arc Gateway. The Arc Gateway’s purpose is to provide the best possible life experiences for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Since 1954, Arc Gateway has provided life-enhancing programs that help the people they serve realize their dreams, without regard for race, creed, color, sex or any other attribute. They see ABILITY not the disability.
My stepson, Doug, was born with spina bifida, which paralyzed him from the waist down. He also suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus and mild brain damage. He gets around in a wheelchair, and he requires additional assistance to do daily tasks and maintain personal hygiene. For my husband and I, caring for Doug is a labor of love. We are a family and we all face life together.
Because of this wonderful organization, Doug attends the adult day program that allows him to work in the shredding department. Having a job and doing this work makes him feel like he belongs, that he contributes something of value to people around him. The work also helps him learn to interact with others and have a chance at a life outside the constant routine of daily care.
Since Doug has been "going to work," he is happier and has something to look forward to every day. It enhances his feelings of inclusion and normality. When we go pick Doug up after his workday, it is amazing to see the faces of Arc's clients doing their work. It just makes my heart melt. You can see that they are thriving with a sense of accomplishment and a positive outlook.
My husband and I are also the guardians of my older brother, T Tom, who has had brain damage since he was five months old. T Tom lives with us and benefits from Arc, too. He is able to attend the local events and dances they sponsor. Thanks to Arc Gateway, T Tom’s world has also expanded, allowing him a fuller, richer life than he would have had without them. It is so easy to get caught up in his excitement as he gets to dress up, have fun with others and experience social functions that he would otherwise miss out on – things the rest of us take for granted.
As caregivers of special-needs adults, the services and community events that Arc Gateway provides, helps to socialize people with disabilities in a fun and family-oriented environment. Without these programs, many of the clients would have few, if any social interactions or inclusion.
To read more about the other winners, please click on the links below:
1st place winner and $10,000 grant recipient
2nd place winner and $5,000 grant recipient
***Photos published with the permission of The Arc Gateway