Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Presidential Election Sparks Reaction at The Arc of Delaware County

For quite possibly the first time ever, Robert Eckert took a special interest in politics and the Presidential Election. He exercised his right to vote, followed the election results, and was overjoyed to learn that his candidate won. And with the assistance of Kimberly Allegretto, Assistant House Manager in the home where Robert resides, he was able to take it one step further. The events that took place are best described in an e-mail written by Kim, which she sent to The Arc of Delaware County’s (Delarc’s) Residential Management and Executive staff as follows:

I thought I would share a bit of happy and I feel exciting news with you all. As some of you know, Robert advocated his right to vote in yesterday’s Presidential election. When I came on to shift this morning he was a very excited man holding his arms over his head in victory stating, “We did it! He won!” I spoke with him briefly on the events that had unfolded in the election the night before..

Later in the day when Robert returned home from work he turned on the television and switched from his usual M.A.S.H. watching and turned on the news instead. He had caught a bit of Barack Obama’s speech after learning he was the new President Elect. This excited Robert. He came out to me in the dining room and excitedly stated, “I saw him!” When I asked who, he stated Barack! He then began telling me how excited he was again that he had won the election and how happy other people were as well. I then went on to tell him that he should feel proud of himself as he exercised his right to vote and helped him get elected. Bob then lookup up at me with a kind of sad look and said, “He probably doesn’t even know who I am.” I simply looked at Bob and said, “Well you can always write him a letter and introduce yourself.” Bob looked at me very perplexed and asked, “Really? What would I say?” I told him that he could write to Barack Obama and introduce himself, tell him a little bit about himself and anything else he would like him to know about him and that I would be glad to help. Bob got VERY excited. I sat down this evening and assisted Bob in forming a letter to the newly President Elect...

Bob worked very hard at typing this letter himself and is very proud of himself, as he should be. I just thought that I would share this bit of news with you all, as again I found it all very exciting and felt very proud of Bob as he took his stand as a United States Citizen!

-Kimberly Allegretto

The following is a copy of the letter written by Robert:

Dear President Elect Barack Obama,

My name is Robert Eckert. I am a 44 year old African-American man with a Developmental Disability. I live at a group home with The Arc of Delaware County in Delhi , New York . I work in my community Price Chopper grocery store part-time and in a sheltered workshop called Resources for Industry part-time.

I am writing to congratulate you on your successful Presidential Election. I wanted to let you know that I voted for you. I voted for you because I am hoping that as President of the United States that you will do a great job running our Country and help it be a safe place for us to live.

I am looking forward to hearing from you. I would also like to ask you to send me an autographed picture of yourself, if that is possible. Thank you very much for your time. Again CONGRATULATIONS!!

Robert Eckert

After reading the above, you can probably imagine the pride and joy our staff felt after reading Kim’s memo. Not only were they proud of Robert and his accomplishments, but they were also very proud of Kim and the Residential staff. Without their encouragement and support, Robert might have missed this opportunity to feel the pride of who he is and what he was a part of. This is a perfect example of our Unifying Principles in action. Never once did Kim bring her own political views in to the picture; we don’t know if she voted for or against Robert’s candidate of choice, we don’t even know if she voted. All we know is that she saw an opportunity to increase Robert’s sense of self-worth and she put his needs and desires first, without regard for her own. She sat with Robert, supporting him in writing the letter, spelling out each word as he painstakingly struck the keyboard one letter at a time. She was also so proud of Robert and filled with his excitement that she took the time and initiative to send the memo to others so they too could share in this special moment in Robert’s life.

Robert, Kim, and everyone at Delarc have been watching the mailbox, anxiously awaiting a reply to his letter. Don’t you wish you could be there to see Robert’s reaction when that letter arrives? And this all sparked from one Delarc staff person taking the time to truly care.

Ignoring God's Children

Re-printed with permission from The Arc of Texas. Written by Clay Boatright. Clay Boatright is president of The Arc of Dallas, and serves on the board of directors for The Arc of Texas.

It is startling to see your life depicted on a television show, especially when that show is a top-rated crime drama. This week's episode of Law & Order , titled "Challenged," showcased the challenges facing millions of American families, including mine.

The plot revolved around Pete, a 47-year-old man with intellectual disabilities who had been sent to a state institution by his parents when he was only 3. Willowbrook, the real-life New York institution closed in 1987, was described as a "hell hole." Now living in a community home, Pete today enjoyed his unique group of friends, diverse caregivers and the respect of his employer.

This episode's moral dilemma questioned parents who willingly place a child with disabilities in a state institution. It bitterly, and quite accurately, described the immeasurable stress that disabilities bring to a family and the lack of support they receive.

The writers, however, made one mistake. Several times the dialogue referenced, "that's how things were done then," suggesting times have changed. For many families, things have hardly changed at all.

As the parents of 8-year-old identical twins with severe developmental disabilities, my wife and I have come face to face with this moral dilemma. Our pediatrician recently told us that we should "prepare to place them somewhere" in the next couple of years. In other words, he recommended we institutionalize our children.

This happened in 2008, not 1964. While many parents make this difficult decision, it does not come easy. As reported in The Dallas Morning News , all 11 Texas "state schools" for people with developmental disabilities are currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for alleged abuse.

Most families want to stay together. However, as shown on Law & Order , the physical, emotional and financial strain on a family without support can be insurmountable. Community-based services cost less than institutionalization, but Texas forces people with disabilities to endure waiting lists for nearly a decade before receiving help. Not surprisingly, for families who can no longer go it alone, there is no waiting required to place their child into our DOJ-investigated institutions.

With almost 100,000 people on waiting lists, and more citizens institutionalized than in any other state, Texas ranks among the worst five states in the nation for disability services. Collin County has the lowest per capita funding for people with developmental disabilities in Texas. In cruel irony, Plano was recently named the wealthiest city in the United States.
In other words, the most prosperous city in America is at the bottom of the bottom for helping God's children most in need.

The lack of adequate care for people with disabilities is pervasive. Earlier this week, local news aired video from a Dallas County school bus showing a driver choking a student with disabilities. While most professional caregivers are compassionate, abuse is not isolated to certain areas, just as it was not isolated to the 1960s.

Caring for people is a matter of choice. Our state lawmakers can choose to end the waiting lists, while the federal government can chose to provide funds to upgrade education, housing and employment options. Our schools can choose to improve staff training and provide quality programs and supports. Our churches can choose to respond to God's word and "treat with special honor" those he created differently.

While these choices are not cheap, the costs pale in comparison to the destruction of families who have no choice at all.

To submit comments on this article, go to

RFI Recognizes Outstanding Performer

Michelle Gee of Deposit was one of the recipients of the 2008 “Outstanding Performer” Award from New York State Industries for the Disabled’s (NYSID) William B. Joslin Outstanding Performance Awards Program. The Joslin Awards Program was established in 2004 by the NYSID Board of Directors to recognize outstanding job performance and personal success by people with disabilities.

Michelle was nominated for this award by the Arc of Delaware County’s Resources for Industry (RFI) program. RFI staff member Nicky Carr explained that Michelle was chosen for her hard work, great communication and flexibility. In addition to being recognized through this high profile awards program, Michelle was awarded with a certificate and check for $250. When asked what her family thought of her accomplishment, Michelle shared, “They were very excited and happy that I got that award.”


The Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) Statewide Conference took place this year from October 30th to November 1st in Albany , NY . The Arc of Delaware County (Delarc) supported 11 people to attend the conference this year. SANYS is a not-for profit organization run by and for people with developmental disabilities. It encourages those with disabilities to speak for themselves individually and collectively. The conference provides guests with the opportunity to learn and share ideas to promote self-advocacy within their own communities.

Delarc self-advocates who took part in the conference enjoyed workshops and focus groups, providing them with the opportunity to discuss issues that were important to them. Each night, guests were treated to entertainment, including music and dancing with a live band, a DJ, and even a Halloween Costume Contest.

Self-advocate Stephen Huff, who has attended the conference in prior years, attended again this year. When asked what keeps him going back, Stephen responded, “I learn a lot.” As the President of a Self-Advocacy Club, Stephen was excited to share all he had learned at the conference with the members of his club. Tina Cawley, who also attended the conference, said she enjoyed taking part in the focus groups. She was also happy to have been given the opportunity to speak up about things that are important to her. “I’d really like to go back next year,” she added.

When asked why it is important that organizations such as Delarc support folks to participate in such a conference, Steve Finkel, Life Coach at Delarc, responded, “It is important for consumers to broaden their horizons, make (informed) choices, learn from others who experience many of the same challenges, and learn that it's cool to be them!”

The Arc of Delaware County Promotes Scholarship

The Arc of Delaware County is again pleased to take part in offering scholarship applications to individuals who plan to study in fields related to intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The scholarships are available through NYSARC, Inc., the Chapter’s parent organization.

The James F. Reville Scholarship, in the amount of $3,000.00 will be presented to two people in New York State who are not currently employed by a chapter of NYSARC (i.e. The Arc of Delaware County) and are enrolled full-time in any year of their college training in a field related to intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The scholarship will be paid in installments of $750.00 per semester for any two years within a four year period from the time the scholarship is awarded.

Two additional requirements for scholarship consideration are that the nominated person has been actively involved in serving individuals in some capacity who have intellectual and other developmental disabilities (i.e. worked or volunteered), and the person has a letter of recommendation from the organization in which they were involved.

Applications must be submitted by Monday, December 22, 2008 to The Arc of Delaware County, Attn: Community Relations, 34570 State Highway 10, Walton , New York , 13856 . The Arc of Delaware County will then select one application to be sent on to NYSARC, Inc. for consideration for the Scholarship Award.

Individuals seeking applications or additional information on applying should contact The Arc of Delaware County Community Relations Department at (607) 865-7126 or email