Kent County Arc is Building a Community of Belonging With Us!

This week's article was written by Lynette Dooley from Arc Kent County. Thank you for sharing with us, Lynette! Following the original model of George Martin and The Arcadia Institute, The Arc Kent County is working to Build a Community of Belonging in the Grand Rapids area. Arc works with young adults with developmental disabilities and helps them pursue activities of their choosing so they participate along with others (of all abilities) in their communities who share similar interests.

To date, participants have attended sporting events, helped feed fish in an aquarium, assisted in managing a high school girls basketball team, ridden a Zamboni, spent time on a college campus, taken yoga classes, learned line-dancing, attended an opera, constructed, painted and tore down sets for a theatre, created and sold artwork and greeted guests at a YMCA. Presently, we have seventeen individuals who are a part of our initiative.

One participant, Philip, attends school and has a job at a restaurant in an avant garde part of town. In addition, he plays a significant role in the life of his dynamic family. He is artistic. His interests include photography, music, dance, singing, movies and drama. He has much to offer his community in terms of his unique personality and considerable abilities. Philip also has Down syndrome.

After meeting with Philip to discuss possible community opportunities, it was clear he wished to spend some of his spare time at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre (GRCT), where he was invited to video-graph their inventory of props and costumes for insurance purposes. Pam, the production coordinator, initially interviewed Philip and was impressed not only with the professional and skilled manner with which he held and operated the camera, but also with the quick and easy rapport they established.

Philip contributed meaningfully to the work of the theatre and was a valued member of the creative and technical team. He met other volunteers and employees and worked behind the scenes in rooms filled with costumes and props of all eras and characters—treasures that typical theatre-goers never get to see.

With patience and determination, Philip documented each piece as instructed. His work was then loaded onto a computer and forwarded to the insurance agency for their examination and inspection. As a member of the GRCT team, he and his family were invited to attend Peter Pan, which is one of Philip’s favorite Civic productions. When asked by his sister to give his critique of the performance, he borrowed a line from Peter Pan himself and responded with an enthusiastic crow! One word said it all!

Philip completed his first project at the theatre, and new projects are being considered for him in the future, such as additional photography work or ushering at performances. With the assistance of his community living support worker, the community connection was a success for Philip and everyone at the theatre.

We are thrilled with the meaningful connections that have been made so far for individuals in the Grand Rapids area through the Community Participation Initiative, and we look forward to many additional opportunities for individuals and organizations that are just waiting to be discovered!