Creating Healthy Habits with The Arc of Kentucky & The Arc of Central Kentucky

Throughout 2017, The Arc of Kentucky and The Arc of Central Kentucky participated jointly in The Arc’s Health and Fitness for All program. Health and Fitness for All addresses increased obesity propensity in the disability community by teaching healthy eating, portion control, and physical activity and helping individuals with I/DD adopt healthy habits and lead healthier lives. Sherri Brothers chatted with us about the chapter’s work, the importance of teaching healthy habits, and how other chapters can do the same.

 

Tell us about your chapter’s Health and Fitness for All efforts. How did you hear about the program? How are you tailoring the program to your chapter and participants?

Health & Fitness was created in Kentucky because of the obesity rates, sedentary lifestyles, and unhealthy eating habits. Some of our individuals were not well- educated in nutrition facts or the options of exercise. The Arc of Kentucky heard about the program through The Arc of United States. We created an individualized program for each person. One young man with autism in our program loved writing but had no interest in exercise at all. A psychologist used the young man’s interest in writing to facilitate a relationship with others who loved writing. We created a program where he would start working out on a stationary bike while at the same time sharing his stories with his peers and the psychologist. He now enjoys exercising and looks forward to class each week.

Sherri Brothers, executive director of The Arc of Kentucky, participates in a fitness class with another instructor and two students..

Why do you think it’s important for people with disabilities to learn about living a healthy lifestyle?

Chronic ill health can diminish an individual’s enjoyment in and ability to engage in all that life has to offer. By providing people with I/DD an opportunity to make informed decisions about their health by educating them on the value of proper nutrition and exercise and the impact it can have on how they feel physically and emotionally, we are giving them the tools to own their well-being. That is the key to success.

Was the program successful? How so?

Yes! We have seen so many positive outcomes in the time we’ve been running the program: program weight loss – 168 pounds; lowered blood pressures, regular participation in exercise programs; participants learning how to shop and making healthier food selections; learning how to prepare healthier meals; and improved self-esteems and friendships made. At our three-month post-training check in, Annie has lost an additional 38 pounds and wants more information about healthy diets. Josh is watching his diet and is using less salt. Shaud is drinking more water and changed to drinking diet soda over sugary drinks. Nyketta has joined the YMCA to be able to continue her exercise.

Are you planning on expanding the program past the conclusion of the 12-week training? How so?

We passed the 12-week program and are planning to offer an additional four weeks of fitness classes in the fall and four weeks of cooking classes. We are also starting The Health & Fitness for All in other local chapters around the state. I am visiting with them, providing materials to them, and replicating the program which was very successful in our chapters — although encouraging them to tailor the program to their individuals’ needs. This just gives them a starting point – some helpful materials, ideas to start creating field trips, speakers, activities, games, etc.

What advice do you have for other chapters looking to implement health and lifestyle programs to enrich the lives of their constituents?

My advice is to look at the program as an enjoyable lifestyle change for the individuals. Think of it as creating a fun atmosphere for them to create the class, participate as the leaders in the class and the games. For instance, you teach a dance class, and then have each participant lead their favorite dance routine.

Tell us about all the great things your chapter is doing! If you’re interested in being spotlighted, please email Pam Katz at katz@thearc.org.

May 2018 #HandsOff Blog – A Policy & Advocacy Internship with The Arc

#HandsOff is a series on The Arc Blog. Each month, we feature a story from individuals and families across The Arc’s network about how some of today’s key policy issues impact their day to day lives.

By: Peter Contos

Peter ContosAs my Paul Marchand Policy Internship at The Arc’s national office in Washington, DC comes to a close, I want to reflect on the importance of advocacy.

Advocacy has always been an important part of my life. My brother and I were raised to try and understand life from various perspectives, and through this I gained an appreciation for people coming from all walks of life. My mother is a speech language pathologist, and many of her students have disabilities. It was through connecting with her students, along with supporting a family member with autism, where I found my calling in disability advocacy.

I was incredibly lucky to attend public schools that were relatively inclusive. My high school offers a class which pairs students from the general and special education curriculums, in subjects like cooking and art. I was fortunate enough to be in the class my senior year, and the relationships that blossomed throughout were very important to me. That class represents one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable moments of my academic career.

Throughout high school, I was also a part of the Miracle League, a baseball league accessible to kids and young adults with a range of disabilities. The enthusiasm and joy that the game brought to players, volunteers, parents, and fans was undeniable, and it was in those moments where I knew advocacy was the right path for me.

Through volunteering with The Arc of Northwest Wayne County (MI) for the past six years, I have attended the Disability Policy Seminar (DPS). DPS is an incredible opportunity for self-advocates and allies to come together to learn more about important policy issues, and the advocacy we can use to support key programs. This year’s DPS featured a few sessions that really empowered me to continue my advocacy work. In the opening general session, we heard from Rebecca Cokley from the Center for America Progress, and Mike Oxford from ADAPT, both of whom have extensive experience as advocates. The personal stories they told were incredibly powerful, and through them, I learned about the tools they use to communicate their priorities. I also attended the Update on Employment Policy session, where we heard from a representative from the Department of Labor and a key Senate staff member, Michael Gamel-McCormick, about the work they are doing to make sure there are enough incentives and training available for employers to hire people with disabilities.

My favorite part of DPS every year is the Hill visits. This year, I was able to meet with three Congressional offices. Using a combination of statistics and personal stories, the group that I attended with effectively advocated for a variety of programs, including Money Follows the Person, but also to protect vital programs like Medicaid and Social Security, along with continuing to promote equity in educational opportunity.

I’ve continued my advocacy through action post-DPS by attending a rally on Capitol Hill opposing cuts and restructuring of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). This rally was well attended by disability advocates and coalition organizations, and it was an opportunity to listen to stories about the importance of SNAP — including several by Members of Congress sharing their personal experiences with the program.

I will be graduating from college in June, and I look forward to continuing my advocacy fight wherever I end up. I plan to use the knowledge and tools that I’ve gained since moving to DC to mobilize the communities I am a part of in my future.

Food Assistance for Millions with Disabilities Protected: The Arc on House Voting Down the Farm Bill

The Arc released the following statement after news that the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as the “Farm Bill”, failed to pass the United States House of Representatives. The Farm Bill reauthorizes farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“The current version of the Farm Bill was just the latest attack on programs that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on. If enacted as is, the Farm Bill voted down by the House today would have cut basic food assistance for children, adults, and seniors who are struggling to put food on the table. We are grateful to Members of Congress who recognized what this legislation would have meant for their constituents and voted no.

“We fundamentally disagree with the notion embedded throughout the proposed bill that some people are more “deserving” of basic food assistance than others. Approximately 11 million people with disabilities across the United States rely on SNAP to help them eat. Cutting off SNAP – including through new and harsher work and reporting requirements – would only make it harder for people with disabilities and their families to access the food they need to work and to survive. If policymakers want to increase employment, Congress needs to make major new investments in job training and supports and services for job-seekers with disabilities and their families – not cut off their basic food assistance.

“We are relieved that the current version of this legislation was not passed, but recognize there is still work to do. The Farm Bill has a long history of bipartisan collaboration and support. Our hope is that Congressional leaders will work together to develop a bipartisan proposal for reauthorizing the Farm Bill that strengthens and protects SNAP,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy, The Arc.

On net, the bill voted on by the House today proposes deep cuts to food assistance under SNAP. As taken up by the full House, an estimated 2 million people would lose their SNAP food assistance or see their benefits reduced under the bill.

  • The bill would significantly expand SNAP’s existing work requirements, forcing SNAP beneficiaries age 18 to 59 to engage in work or job training activities for at least 20 hours per week. The bill’s exceptions for people raising very young children or supporting a family member who is “incapacitated” (as stated in the bill) are likely to prove woefully inadequate and extremely difficult for people with disabilities to navigate. Ultimately, these new requirements would cause many people to lose their food assistance, making it harder for them to work, based on experience with existing work requirements in SNAP and other programs.
  • While the bill calls for greater access to job training programs, new federal investments would be funded largely by cuts to SNAP food benefits, and analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that funding levels for job training would be highly insufficient.
  • The bill also includes extensive new reporting requirements with harsh consequences if a person misses a deadline.

Fostering Community Connection through Comcast Cares Day: The Arc of Macomb County

Executive Spotlight

Lisa Lepine

The Arc of Macomb County

Clinton Township, MI

For over 15 years, Comcast Cares Day has provided an opportunity for Comcast NBCUniversal staff to volunteer their time with non-profits, schools, parks and other organizations to a positive impact within their local communities. Once again this year, chapters of The Arc across the country partnered with ComcastUniversal – and The Arc of Macomb County was one such chapter. Lisa Lepine, the chapter’s executive director, chatted with us about her chapter’s work and the value of inclusive volunteering.

  1. Tell us about your project for Comcast Cares Day! What type of project did you do? Are there any other community entities or groups that you partnered with? How many people did you impact in your community?

    Approximately 50 Comcast volunteers, from ages 6 to 60, spent Comcast Cares Day with more than a dozen employees, board members, and clients of The Arc of Macomb. The Arc of Macomb serves several hundreds of people per year, including operating a day program, organizing community outings, and providing employment services for people with developmental disabilities. Comcast volunteers organized the project of removing landscape rocks and weeds, installing barriers, and replacing the rocks; cleaning other landscaping and hardscaping; and repairing and painting walls inside the building. Some of Comcast’s employees drove almost two hours to attend the event! Several of the younger volunteers painted rocks to distribute throughout the grounds, beautifying the appearance for The Arc’s employees and clients. Both frequent and new visitors have appreciated and commented on the improvements from Comcast’s volunteers.
  2. How did you get connected with Comcast?

    The Arc of Macomb has used Comcast Business for its internet and phone systems for approximately four years. The Arc chose Comcast for its reputation for reliability and service.  Although occasional outages are unavoidable, Comcast has consistently provided accurate estimates of expected downtime and repairs, enabling The Arc to effectively allocate its resources during interruptions in service. Comcast’s on-site technicians have been helpful, timely, and worked well with The Arc’s IT company to keep things running smoothly.
  3. Why do you think it is important to engage in inclusive volunteering in your community?

    The Arc of Macomb’s mission is to help people with disabilities and their families engage meaningfully in their communities. Volunteerism – from everybody! – is an important and inclusive way for people to interact with people in their communities, particularly with people whom they might not otherwise meet. Volunteer events like Comcast Cares Day fosters connectedness among people in a community and thereby strengthens the community in immeasurable ways.
  4. What advice do you have for other chapters and organizations looking to get involved in inclusive volunteer opportunities?

    Many people want to volunteer in their community, but they don’t always know exactly how. Conversely, organizations always want volunteer help, but the volunteer opportunities they have don’t always line up with the volunteers’ availability. Comcast’s organizers scheduled a clearly defined date and time a few months in advance, held a pre-event planning meeting a few weeks before the event, clearly communicated the details of our organization and of the event, and obtained the necessarily materials in advance. The planning of the event, combined with the communication of the details of the organization and of the event, were critical to the success of the event. Going forward, most volunteerism will be centered on a clearly defined event, with clear and concise descriptions of the organization and the event.

See more photos from The Arc of Macomb’s volunteer day.