The Arc Middlesex County celebrates 70 years of serving residents with disabilities

As the culture for people who have a disability moves away from an institutionalized setting and encourages them to be integrated into the community, The Arc provides services to help those individuals adjust to a productive life.

The Arc Middlesex County runs 20 group homes and four vocational centers across the county, offers family support and respite, provides afterschool programs, holds a Saturday drop-off program, and helps with supportive employment for residents of any age who have developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“Moving out of institutions and into the community, we support that 100%,” said Frank Adu, chief executive officer of the Arc Middlesex.

On site at the county location in South Brunswick, there is a vocational program, a computer lab, a sensory room for individuals with autism, gardening, arts and basic skills classes.

The participants volunteer with Elijah’s Promise, food pantries and other community organizations. There were more than 2,000 volunteer hours logged in 2018, Adu said.

“The [misconception] is that people with disabilities take from us … but our folks are giving back to the community. … It brings a sense of pride and it brings a sense of ‘I’m part of this community,’ ” said Adu, who has held various positions with The Arc for 24 years. “When you volunteer it makes you feel good that you are doing something for someone else.”

Middlesex has 300 employees serving 400 people annually, Adu said. He said the services are so critical because, for example, when he was a group home manager he saw how a person who could not talk while institutionalized became more interactive just six months later.

Or, for example, there was a man who wanted to work so the organization helped him secure a job and he worked for 15 years until he retired.

“In the community when people dialogue and interact, it brings out a different person,” he said. “And it’s the civilly right thing to do. You can’t lock people up because they have a disability.”

ARC previously stood for the Association for Retarded Children, and then the Association for Retarded Citizens, but simply goes by The Arc now.

With one in every county of New Jersey, there are approximately 700 nonprofit organizations across the country, Adu said.

The Middlesex location was originally in North Brunswick, moved to Milltown and is now on Blackhorse Lane in South Brunswick.

The Arc Middlesex County celebrated its 70th anniversary with a gala at the Pines Manor, Edison, on Oct. 17, honoring John Fitzgerald, president and CEO of Magyar Bank; Paulette Crabiel Wahler, manager of the Crabiel Home for Funerals; David Mosseri, president of Mosseri Realty; and Raymour & Flanigan.

The Step Up for The Arc Walk and 3.2K Run was held in May at Woodlot Park, South Brunswick.

Although many services are provided in-house, The Arc does work with referral agencies to provide participants with the help they need. For more information, visit www.arc-middlesex.org

“We want to continue to be the agency of choice in Middlesex County … to provide and support, that’s our vision … and have more of us getting into the community,” Adu said. “We hope to be a player in the landscape of disabilities in New Jersey.”

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.