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Serving a State: An Interview With the Only Chapter in Oklahoma

Lisa Turner, Executive Director of TARC

As the only chapter of The Arc in the state of Oklahoma, TARC has both a unique opportunity and challenge. Around 60,000 Oklahomans have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities–and are spread across almost 70,000 square miles. The chapter employs a range of strategies to help as many people as possible. Read more about their work below.

Tell us what it’s like being the only chapter of The Arc in your state.

As the only affiliate of The Arc in Oklahoma, TARC takes an active role in convening organizations serving the IDD community for events, like the upcoming listening session in Tulsa. TARC participates in numerous statewide initiatives that impact the lives of those we serve. We are active in public policy and advocacy and recruit and train others across the state to join our efforts.

What communication strategies do you employ to reach as many people as possible throughout the state? (emails, print products, online groups, etc)

TARC recently conducted a statewide community needs assessment to identify the unmet needs of individuals with IDD and their families and caregivers. Focus groups included self-advocates, family members or caregivers, community partners, and funders. Through this process, unmet needs were identified, helping to refine TARC’s strategic plan and guiding us to form more partnerships and collaborations.

In addition, we work with partners around the state like the Developmental Disabilities Council, People First, and other like-minded organizations to help generate awareness about IDD-related events, advocacy opportunities, and public policy issues.

How do you structure your programs and services to be available to as many people as possible?

TARC is stepping up communication and marketing strategies to develop the infrastructure, partnerships, and tools to inform as many people as possible about the needs of the IDD community and services available. TARC just opened a new office in Oklahoma City to increase our presence at the State Capitol and engage in opportunities for more partnerships, services, and funding.

Do you partner with other providers and organizations to maximize your ability to serve the community? If yes, how so?

TARC recently received the 2019 Goodwill Community Partner of the Year Award for convening several providers and nonprofits to host a transition resource fair for self-advocates. We also support two People First chapters, are active in Oklahoma People First, and the Oklahoma Self-Advocates Network. Together, we co-host IDD awareness events at the Capitol and in our community. We also invite participants from employment agencies to join us for MLK Volunteer Service days.

How does being the only chapter in the state affect your funding streams and strategy for engaging with sponsors, grants, and donors?

TARC contracts with the State of Oklahoma to provide residential advocacy and monitoring for adults residing in state-funded group homes in all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. For much of our organization’s history, funding has come from the Tulsa area, where we are located. We recently began expanding our relationships with funders and sponsors across the state since our reach really is statewide through our advocacy work and our state contract.

Do you have any advice for other chapters who are merging to cover a larger area, or who are also the only chapter in a large geographic area?

Collaborations and partnerships are key! Consider collective impact models to enhance your advocacy efforts and voice. Together we are stronger.

Lisa Turner, TARC Executive Director