PLATTSBURGH – Theresa Garrow is only asking for a little open-mindedness.
Get past the disability, she says, and see people for who they truly area.
“They maintain that simple joy for life,” said Garrow, executive director of the Advocacy and Resource Center for Clinton County.
ARC started nearly 60 years ago as an organization of parents who wanted better lives for their children with developmental disabilities. They were tired of the lack of medical support and education, as well as the way in which many in society treated their loved ones.
Today, ARC provides vocational training, day habilitation, respite homes, transportation and clinical, nursing and residential services for the developmentally disabled.
“Our mission is to help people find personal achievement and reach their full potential,” Garrow said.
Everyone needs support in one way or another, and people with developmental disabilities need different supports, she pointed out. ARC helps them discover they are capable of more than they or even their families suspected.
This is evident often with the 143 individuals employed throughout Clinton County at places such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Mangia and in cleaning crews.
“They appreciate contributing,” Garrow said. “I think it is great our individuals are part of the community as opposed to being in the community.”
Garrow came to ARC in 1985 as an accountant, figuring she would give it a few years.
“These people have kept me here.”
It hasn’t been easy, especially with more than $2 million in funding cuts over the past two years and only one base increase for employees in four years.
Still, the agency does the best it can with the revenues it has available.
Bob Manor is the director of day habilitation services and said at PATH roughly 100 people are involved in day habilitation activities. The activities are individualized based on interests and needs with the goal of obtaining various skills.