The Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham is part of the nation’s largest membership organization devoted to protecting and serving individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Our mission is to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and actively support their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.  Established in 1962, The Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham is currently celebrating fifty-five (55) years of advocacy, programs, and services to the Harrisonburg, Rockingham and, to a lesser degree, western Augusta communities.

We believe that every person with an intellectual and developmental disability has the right to live, learn, work, and play in the most normal and inclusive environment possible. To that end, we have established SpArc, a community engagement program that supports and fosters the individuals’ abilities to acquire, retain, or improve the skills necessary to build positive social, behavior, greater independence, employability, and to make the personal choices necessary to access typical activities and functions in community life, just like you or me.

SpArc’s “Arc Angels” engage in volunteer activities at Asbury United Methodist Church, Salvation Army, Sentara RMH, and Meals on Wheels, to name just a few.  Skills learned through volunteerism prepare SpArc participants for the possibility of future employment and, according to one volunteer, makes them better people.  SpArc teams, comprised of a professional direct support person and three (3) participants, visit area businesses to learn to make wise purchases and to explore employment possibilities.  By observing people at work, participants can assess which parts of a job they could do independently and which parts they might need some assistance with. This is often the first moment the individual realizes that he or she may have employable skills.

SpArc provides a wide variety of opportunities to build relationships and natural, rather than paid, supports while utilizing the community as a learning environment. We have seen immediate and profound results from engaging people with I/DD in community life, namely: increased vibrancy, energy, and connection. Mark, who volunteers at Asbury, has made friends among the congregation who now take him to and from Sunday services, Wednesday night fellowship meetings, and church softball league games.  This is a perfect example of an individual developing natural supports in the community. We hope to have many more such stories to tell as we expand SpArc.

The challenge in providing this type of service is the need to have and maintain a vehicle for each SpArc team.  This is in addition to the vehicles required to provide transportation to and from their homes each day.  A contribution of any size to the Arc Agency Fund will ensure that individuals with I/DD have access to the program, the community and are afforded opportunities for community engagement.

In addition to SpArc, The Arc provides In-home, Respite, and Center-based Day Support programs.  All Arc direct service programs are licensed and monitored by The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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