On Tuesday morning, the doors to the Arc Central Chesapeake Region officially opened the new campus for staff and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The headquarters of the nonprofit, now at Donald Avenue in Severn, expanded from a very small location to 19,000 square feet with three new buildings for administration, training and collaboration.
“Today, we stand before you proudly representing over 1,500 people who live, work, play but most importantly thrive in their communities,” Jonathon Rondeau, the chief executive officer, said.
“This campus is more than just a group of buildings, it is a critical investment in the people and programs of The Arc Central Chesapeake Region,” Rondeau said.
In front of a crowd of supporters, state and local officials, and members of the Arc programs, the campus opening ceremony detailed the humble beginnings to now.
Maryland State Sen. Ed Reilly brought up members of the general assembly to pledge continued support of the nonprofit and its mission.
“Seventeen years ago I was a fresh faced kid on the Anne Arundel council and the Arc was in front of us then asking for help and assistance — but more importantly recognition for the important work that they did,” Reilly said then turned to his colleagues.
“These young folks will be here for a long, long time and I am asking for their commitment to always remember the Arc and to always do what they can.”
The campaign, Promise It Forward Capital, raised over $3 million dollars from state, local and philanthropic donations to help build the campus, according to the press statement.
The Arc works with adults and children with intellectual disabilities by offering services like financial assistance, living options and workforce development.
One of the new buildings hosts space for faculty to train and collaborate in the effort to help individuals through a workforce program.
“We have a pathways to employment program where people are learning work skills with the goal of employment,” explained Rondeau.
In one of the new rooms, faculty and participants talked about the workforce development program.
“Our main goal is to get everyone at least a part-time job,” said Leah Mansfield, the CONNECT manager. “When our folks become employed, you see them smile and their confidence builds every day.”
The workforce development programs offers customized plans for each participant and weekly events that combine development and potential job connections. For example, in one week participants have sessions on budgeting, driver’s education, cooking, music and job searching.
For one participant, he began driving lessons and plans on taking classes for his interest in data-entry and computers.
“My favorite things that I have learned so far are to be professional, to be respectful, and to have personal space,” said Mitchell Wilson a 21-year-old from Odenton.
Wilson started with the Arc in October 2018 and since then made a lot of friends and finds the organization to be nice and very supportive, he said.
He recalled one of the workforce development programs taught him what to do when it comes to an interview.
“Mock job interviews basically give you the skills and tools to know how to act in a real job interview — shake a person’s hand firmly and look them in the eye,” Wilson said.
He then demonstrated it with eye contact and a firm handshake.
Even after a participant is employed, the organization will continue to work with them. In one case, a 26-year-old from Hanover still attends program training sessions and workshops.
Chris Douglas has been working at Maryland Live for two years but before that he met with the Arc staff to put together a “person centered plan” for what he wanted to do and how to achieve it.
“We look for the job we want to work at and they ask for our resume,” Douglas said.
In his blue striped pantsuit he talked about how Mansfield mentioned what to wear but that was one lesson he didn’t need to learn.
“She talked about dress for success but I always do.”