The Arc: Programs Help 1,400 People With Disabilities

Oneida-Lewis Chapter started out with 46 students

By Barbara Pierce

Nearly 70 years ago, local parents refused to accept that their children weren’t worthy of attending public school because of their disabilities.

Back then — in 1954 — little was known about children with disabilities. There were no community-based programs for these families, no community support. Doctors advised parents to place their child in an institution, hidden away from the community. And many did.

But here in Oneida County, a small group of parents got together. All of them strongly believed the best option for their disabled children was living with their familes. But they wanted more for their children. The newly formed association had the goal of creating a school for the children.

And they succeeded. This grassroots effort blossomed from a single schoolhouse serving 46 students to become what is The Arc, Oneida-Lewis Chapter, an agency that today has more than 50 sites in two counties and serves more than 1,400 people with 700 employees, said Mark Dudek, communications officer, The Arc, Oneida-Lewis.

The vision of The Arc is “that all persons with disabilities live as fully included members of their community.”

And that’s what they do: “We continue to assist children and adults with development disabilities in a variety of programs that are aimed to help them achieve their potential — through a full spectrum of educational, vocation, employment, residential, family support services,” said Dudek.

Developmental disabilities are disabilities that are characteristic of mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, neurological impairment or autism. The disability must have originated before the 22nd birthday, can be expected to continue indefinitely and constitutes a substantial handicap to the person’s ability to function normally in society.

For example, Dudek said, The Arc offers respite care programs for families to temporarily relieve their caregiving duties,  and provides fun recreational activities. Its school-to-work programs are available throughout school districts to provide options for middle and high school students. CollegeWorks is a two-year certificate program offering the full college experience, housed on the Mohawk Valley Community College campuses.

Fifteen day programs offer skill development and integration into the community. The Arc’s residential program offers supervised and supportive living environments, with 30 residential homes that have 24-hour staff support.

“Our employment solutions programs help people with disabilities find and maintain competitive employment at area businesses,” added Dudek.

“Promoting work for the people they support has been paramount for The Arc since our beginning,” he said. “We provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities through contracted packaging, assembly, fulfillment and warehousing with regional and national companies.

“We’ve had a longstanding partnership with The F.X. Matt Brewing Company. We own and operate the Nickelback Redemption Center in Waterville. Last year, Chef’s Express, a bake shop–art gallery was opened in downtown Utica. These enterprises promote The Arc’s vision that all persons with disabilities live as fully included members of their community.”

Next year The Arc, Oneida-Lewis, will celebrate its 70th anniversary.

To learn more about The Arc Oneida-Lewis, including rewarding career opportunities, visit or call 315-735-6477.

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Arc Herkimer Offers Support to 600 People

“We support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in many ways,” said public relations director Courtney Brown “We operate several social enterprises to engage these individuals in a variety of ways, whether socially, through work, through volunteering, etc. We own a golf course, restaurant–bar, used goods store, café, park, industrial operations and many other outlets.”

Just more than 50 years ago, Arc Herkimer was born, when a small group of devoted parents was determined that their disabled children have programs available to them. These parents started with a summer camp, with 20 children.

Now, with seven diverse divisions and more than 40 different sites throughout Herkimer County, Arc Herkimer supports more than 600 people with disabilities each year in community-centered experiences.

The mission of Arc Herkimer: “Empowering people with disabilities and enriching lives throughout our community.”

“This is the foundation of all we do,” said Brown.

Some of the opportunities include: the Career Connections program that links people to employment, support to families, such as respite care and day programs. The Arc Herkimer Goods Store is a community shopping and donation center offering both brand new and gently used items. Arc Park brings together people of all ages and abilities for recreation and social experiences.

Through funding, grants, donations, fundraising events, and unique revenue opportunities, Arc Herkimer is able to offer first-class services and a community-centered experience.

“At Arc Herkimer, we’re a family and we welcome you to join us. Call 315- 574-7000,” said Brown.

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