ARC Community Support Systems Celebrating 50th Anniversary

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Published on October 17 2012 9:12 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Below is our complete audio interview with Mike Poe of ARC.

In the midst of funding uncertainties and unsure futures for some people-helping agencies, ARC Community Support Systems of Effingham County continues going strong as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

ARC will mark its milestone with a Chamber Business After Hours Thursday night and an Open House Friday night.

The agency began as the Effingham County Association for Retarded Citizens in 1962, but the name was later changed as ARC began helping people with a variety of developmental disabilities.

(RECOGNIZED AS THE FOUNDERS OF THE ASSOCIATED FOR RETARDED CITIZENS, THE FORERUNNER OF A-R-C COMMUNITY SUPPORT SYSTEMS ARE: TOP, LEFT TO RIGHT, D.L. "BUD" WETHERELL AND CLIFF STEVENS AND BELOW, NANON WOOD)

ARC Executive Director Mike Poe said the agency is serving 150 clients in its day programs.  The agency oversees housing for 40 individuals in ARC residences in Effingham and Teutopolis, and monitors 10 clients who live in their own homes.  ARC secures employment for many of its clients at various businesses and industries, and provides jobs through its Developmental Training Center.

Poe said the anniversary has given him the chance to reflect on those who helped ARC in its early days, including D.L. "Bud" Wetherell and Nanon Wood to mention a couple.  Wetherell's motivation was his son, Duane, who is still active and recently helped present a check to ARC after the recent death of his mother, Vi. 

Poe appreciates that ARC has helped its clients live a fuller life, such as living independently, having a job and getting a say in their futures.

Funding is always a consideration as well as a lack of services statewide.  Poe said there are 18,000 people with developmental disabilities on the waiting list in Illinois.

The change in how services are delivered is also a consideration.  Poe said he agrees with the current mindset that it's better to have those with developmental disabilities in their own communities rather than being institutionalized, but he is concerned about whether there will be sufficient local services available in each community.  He said, "It's gonna cost to keep people in their communities."

Poe also notices that as no increases in funding have been seen in the last seven or eight years, it might be difficult to maintain adequate staffing.  He said, "So many have departed, there's no one there to train those new employees who've come in."  Poe said the current rate of funding from the State only covers about 80% of what the agency needs.  That's why we see the various fundraising efforts designed to cover the gap in funding.

Still, ARC has a good mix of veterans and new staffers and hasn't had to face the difficulties seen elsewhere in Illinois.  He also commended the area employers who have offered job opportunities to ARC clients, and those who support the agency in other ways. 

The Chamber Business After Hours will be held from 5-7pm Thursday, while the 50th Anniversary Open House Soup Supper will be held from 5-8pm Friday, and both events will be held at ARC's Developmental Training Center in Teutopolis.