Morse Insurance Community Spotlight: The Arc of Greater Brockton
This nonprofit enhances the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families by advocating for community support and services that foster social inclusion, self-determination, and equity.
Morse Insurance is back once again to put a spotlight on the remarkable work of an outstanding nonprofit in our community. This month, we sat down with Dean Rizzo, executive director at The Arc of Greater Brockton, the premier local agency for services, advocacy, and information pertaining to the needs and interests of individuals with disabilities and their families. One of the rewards of being the insurance partner and a proud supporter of The Arc of Greater Brockton since 2012 is the opportunity to share the story behind this organization’s invaluable mission.
Q: How did The Arc of Greater Brockton chapter get its start?
A: As recently as the 1950s, doctors were recommending that individuals with disabilities be institutionalized, schools were denying children with disabilities the right to an education, and adults with disabilities were being denied the right to work.
In response to the lack of social and academic programming focused on the development and care of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a small group of parents and concerned individuals in our community banded together to create The Brockton Area Arc on December 8, 1952. These founders understood the potential of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With the establishment of this nonprofit, they set out to alter perceptions and educate the public.
To this day, it remains a tradition that most of our board of directors are parents of participants at our facility. That’s one of the things that makes The Arc unique from other organizations that provide similar services.
Q: Can you share more about The Arc of Greater Brockton’s participants?
A: Our clients range in age from five or six years old to those in their senior years. They are typically residents of one of the 11 communities around the city of Brockton that we serve. At The Arc, we strive to take a holistic approach when helping our individual participants and their families. Whatever stage an individual is in during their life cycle, we pride ourselves on being able to offer them the support and resources they need to succeed in life and achieve their individual goals.
Q: How has the perception of people with disabilities changed over the years?
A: Every decade since the creation of The Arc, we’ve seen improvements in the lives of our clients. Some of this can be attributed to the enactment of numerous laws and policies aimed at supporting and raising awareness for the rights of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Important milestones include the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975, the Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act of 1986, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Along with other similar laws and policies, these were a strong statement to our country that adults and children with disabilities deserve the same rights and privileges that the rest of us enjoy.
As a result, there now seems to be a much better understanding that adults and children with disabilities are just like the rest of us. Yes, they have some unique challenges they must face due to their disability, but day-in and day-out, they have the same goals, dreams, and aspirations that any of us do. However, while Arc participants and individuals with disabilities across the United States are being more readily accepted as part of society, we of course feel there is still so much more to be done.
Q: Does The Arc of Greater Brockton coordinate its efforts with other Arc chapters and outside organizations?
A: We certainly do. Massachusetts is split up into 18 different chapters of The Arc, which is part of a national Arc network. We’re always sharing ideas and resources. We also collaborate in advocacy on a state and federal level to make sure resources are provided to individuals with intellectual and development disabilities and those on the autism disorder spectrum. This coordination is beneficial for so many reasons, but especially when an Arc participant has to move from one region of the country to another. As a result of our partnerships, these individuals and their families can seamlessly transition into an Arc in their new area and continue to access similar resources and services.
We also partner with many entities outside of The Arc family that serve individuals with disabilities. For example, we have many participants who come to our day rehabilitation program for therapeutic activities, such as music, arts, and exercise, and then return to a residential facility in the evening. Other programs we partner with don’t have employment support programs, so these facilities often send their participants to us for job training assistance and placement. It’s all one big family, providing support to these individuals, whatever stage of life they are at.
Q: Since you’ve touched on some of your programs and services, will you please tell us more about what The Arc of Greater Brockton offers to support the needs of individuals with disabilities in the community?
A: Providing our participants with opportunities to participate in activities out in the community alongside others without disabilities is a critical aspect of our program. Aside from social interaction, we also provide workshops aimed at helping participants develop their abilities in a wide variety of areas that help them achieve their personal goals. Some of those workshops include speech therapy, writing, and health and nutrition, as well as art classes and music lessons to encourage creative expression.
For participants who are looking for a part‑time job, we provide employment training. We’ll help them with interviewing techniques, writing a resume, and understanding workplace etiquette. We will also go with them on their job interviews.
In addition, we have a group employment services program, which is designed for those individuals who need a more structured and supportive environment. In this program, a few participants will work for the same company together. An Arc staff member accompanies them and provides support and guidance to both the participants and the employer. While at the company, participants get the chance to build important workplace skills and habits, gain confidence, and earn a paycheck. For some, this is their first experience making their own money and being able to decide the way they want to spend it.
Obviously, this is an extremely rewarding experience for our participants, but in almost every occurrence, we find that it’s as rewarding, or even more so, for the company and its employees who are hosting the group program.
Q: What is one of the biggest challenges for an organization like The Arc?
A: One of the major challenges in this industry is finding convenient and affordable transportation. Our participants need to get to their place of employment or other programs in which they want to participate. Most of the participants can’t drive on their own, and there is a lack of public transportation options. Uber and Lyft are generally too expensive for participants and their families. While we have our own vans to help transport participants to activities and work, this is a significant budget item for us. Developing a stronger transportation network in the future, not only in our state but nationwide, is going to be critical to continuing to be able to help people with disabilities stay involved in their communities.
Q: What does the future hold for The Arc of Greater Brockton?
A: It’s an exciting time for us as an organization. We are in the process of a rebranding, starting with a new color palette and a change from our former name to The Arc of Greater Brockton. We are also remodeling our interior spaces to make them more vibrant and will apply a similar look and feel to the outside of our building, as well. While several of the improvements are meant to enhance overall aesthetics, many of the changes are aimed at increasing functionality. Participants and staff spend much of their day at The Arc, so we want to make sure they feel as comfortable and at home in this environment as possible.
Q: How has Morse Insurance helped The Arc of Greater Brockton to achieve its mission?
A: Morse insurance has been our insurance agency for a number of years, and it’s been a strong relationship from the beginning. Its team has been very supportive of us, not only making sure we have the best policies possible but always checking prices for us to make sure we’re not paying too much. For every business, sticking to a budget is important, but especially for a nonprofit, because every little bit we save gets invested back into The Arc’s programs and services.
The Morse team is also very hands‑on and communicative. They will often just call to check in and see how we’re doing. It gives us a lot of peace of mind that they will be there for us in the event we have an urgent matter, like a claim.
In addition to being our agent, they support us by sponsoring several of our programs and events throughout the year. It’s a tremendous partnership, and it’s what all nonprofits should expect from their insurance professional. We’ve enjoyed working with Morse and hope the relationship continues for a long time.
Q: How can our readers support The Arc of Greater Brockton?
A: There are many ways to support The Arc of Greater Brockton. We always have volunteer opportunities for those who are passionate about giving back to the community or are interested in this field as a career. We offer student internships as well as opportunities to coach sports teams, teach, assist with arts and crafts activities, and more. Your time and talents are welcome, whether it’s a few hours a week, a single day each month, or one project at a time.
Donations from individuals are always welcome, and there are opportunities for businesses to sponsor programs and special events throughout the year. Shoppers can also make us the nonprofit of their choice in the Amazon Smile program, so that a small percentage of each purchase they make supports The Arc of Greater Brockton.
You can also help us with our annual fundraising initiatives or make us the beneficiary of your own fundraiser. Or, for those interested in advocacy, you are invited to join our Human Rights Committee or potentially serve on our Board of Directors. We truly welcome anyone who wants to assist us in our efforts to promote independence, respect, and dignity for the amazing adults and children we serve.