‘Community giving is for everyone’

HOLMES AND WASHINGTON COUNTIES – The Arc of Washington-Holmes Counties, Inc. has been serving individuals with intellectual disabilities since 1974, often with support from the local community. Recently, Arc staff found a way to give its consumers an opportunity to support their community in return.

Arc has partnered with several local businesses and organizations to offer volunteer opportunities to consumers.

Community Project Coordinator Glenn Craft says the idea is to highlight what the consumers are capable of, not just to the public, but to themselves as well.

“We want to make the community aware of their abilities, not their disabilities,” said Craft. “Not only that, but we want our consumers to know that they have a valuable role to their community. The project gives them a sense of pride in their work.”

Craft says the idea came to him after re-reading the organization’s mission statement, which stresses its goal of “providing adults with developmental disabilities with a purpose, recognizing individuality and worth, and promoting self-determination and community involvement.”

“I thought to myself, ‘How can I apply this out in the community?’ We were definitely meeting most of that goal, but I didn’t feel we were hitting on volunteerism.”

Arc provides a list of available projects to the consumers, who then choose the volunteer opportunities in which they are interested. So far, consumers have engaged in activities which include picking up litter at Shiver’s Park in Chipley, helping out at non-profit thrift stores, and donating to “blessing boxes,” which are free-standing food collection and donation sites placed around Holmes County.

Craft said the project allows him to match the volunteerism to the varying abilities of the consumers.

“There is something for anyone who wants to participate, regardless of their ability,” he said. “For example, we have a consumer who is vision-impaired who did well placing food donations in the blessing boxes.”

Pam Boone runs Amazing Grace Thrift Store in Bonifay and was the first to partner with Arc for the project.

“[The consumers] have just been a blessing,” said Boone. “The guys who came to help out at the store were so respectful. They did everything we needed, and they did it with a smile. They all have a heart of gold. It’s an honor to know them and be partnered with them.”

Thomas Chadwell and Gabe Rowe are two of the most active consumers. Both say it’s all about giving back.

“We have had so much given to us that we want to give back,” said Chadwell. “It’s like a cycle. The community gives to us, and we give to them.”

“That’s the way it should be,” agreed Rowe. “You can do things for other people so that they don’t have to do it on their own. I like going out and helping others. Community giving is for everyone. Giving back is just the best way to go.”

Businesses or organizations interested in partnering with Arc for community service projects can contact Craft at 850-638-7517, ext. 116.