Sarah Kaplansky, right, and her son said they are excited about the Halloween costume dance on Oct. 12 in Harbor designed to benefit The Arc of Curry County.

Curry County’s newest nonprofit says it’s ready to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), their families, and providers.

The Arc of Curry County officially received its 501(c)3 status as a tax-exempt organization in August.

The organization offers advocacy and support to navigate the services available in our area, and hosts community events to bring awareness, as well as just fun social events.

The Arc of Curry County’s mission is “to promote respect, create opportunities and advocate for equal rights for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

“As our organization continues to grow, we will be providing support groups throughout the county for parents, siblings and providers, as well as a self-advocacy group,” said board president Sarah Kaplansky.

“We are having a family game night in November, which will be a great time to discuss with families what they would like to have offered.

“Community inclusion is one of the greatest challenges facing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Kaplansky said. “People with I/DD often do not participate in community activities in a meaningful way or in roles that allow them to demonstrate their abilities, establish true relationships with others, earn recognition and respect from others, learn new skills or simply to have fun.”

According to Kaplansky, barriers sometimes occur because other community members may not fully understand the disabilities, and that can cause people to not welcome I/DD individuals, or to simply fear the unknown.

She said other barriers are a lack of resources that support I/DD individuals, and often fears of not being accepted or not fitting in can cause self-imposed barriers for individuals with I/DD.

“My husband and I own an adult foster-care home for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Gold Beach,” board member Jolene Saadat said. “I would like to see our community events help create positive and enriching relationships between people with I/DD and their communities, and help them make friendships with people in their community that are not considered paid staff.”

Another major barrier for people dealing with I/DD is finding personal support workers and direct support professionals. “It is a very high-turnover field,” Kaplansky said.

“Oftentimes, people apply for the job not knowing what they are going to be doing and then realize they don't like the work. It can be a tough job, and oftentimes they are not paid well.”

Kaplansky said the individuals being supported are struggling to have long-term staff that are around long enough to get training and get to know them well enough to provide adequate support.

“Having worked in the field, I believe better training, clear-set expectations and better pay are needed for workers to succeed. The job can be amazing. The individuals you support in this work are great,” Kaplansky said.

The organization’s board of directors is well aware of the issues for people with I/DD, with many caring for children with I/DD or working in various capacities with connections to the I/DD community, Kaplansky said.

In addition to Kaplansky and Jolene Saadat, other board members are vice president Tonya Wingo; treasurer Christine Ballou, a teacher at Brookings-Harbor High School; secretary Joy Lea, services coordinator with Community Living Case Management; Debbie Schriver, area director for Mentor Oregon Coastal Region; Nanette Birdwell and Sandra Galan.

“I chose to become involved with The Arc of Curry County from the start because I see areas where our small communities that make up Curry County are lacking for people with I/DD and their families and caregivers,” Saadat said.

Families that reach out to The Arc are asked to attend a meeting with a board member or Kaplansky. The group will provide whatever information, advocacy or support that they can for as long as needed.

In addition to providing contact information, and basic knowledge regarding the services provided by other agencies, the group hopes to set up support groups and training, while continuing with community events every other month.

Future plans include a sensory gym where services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and more could be offered in one place.

The Arc advocacy and referral services are provided at no cost. Support groups will be free, and training will be free or have a minimal charge to cover the costs of trainers. Community events have a minimal fee and are open to the public. Fee waivers may be provided on as-needed basis.

The Arc board members are seeking feedback from the community they serve about what else is needed. “We will do what we can to bring those services to the area,” Kaplansky said.

“You can support The Arc by volunteering, making donations, supporting the mission and helping educate our community.”

The Arc is in the process of requesting grants to fund a brick-and-mortar location. The ongoing operations will be funded by donations, grants and fundraising activities.

The group’s next fundraiser is a Halloween costume dance from 4-9 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Chetco Grange, 97895 Shopping Center Ave. in Harbor.

The dance will have a sensory hour from 4-5 p.m. with softer music, more lighting and fewer people. From 5-7 p.m. will be music, dancing and games. From 7-9 p.m. will be karaoke, dancing and games.

Chili, hot dogs, nachos, water and soda will be available. A bake sale and 50/50 raffle with multiple prize baskets will round out the activities. Tickets are $5.

For more information, phone 541- 661-2107, or email TheArcofCurryCounty@gmail.com.


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