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Being an advocate for a good cause

People are like puzzle pieces; they all have their place.

Few may understand that as well as Mary Goetz who works as the executive director of The Arc of Freeborn County.

The Arc is a nonprofit organization which not only advocates for the rights of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but also encourages their inclusion and participation in the communities these individuals call home.

“I think it comes back to the basic needs of humans,” Goetz said. “We need to know that we are loved, that we are part of a community, that we can give something back to the community and that feeling of acceptance and value.”

The Arc hosts many activities to allow those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have a place to socialize with others. - Kelly Wassenberg/Albert Lea Tribune

The Arc hosts many activities to allow those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have a place to socialize with others. – Kelly Wassenberg/Albert Lea Tribune

Goetz, who resides in Austin, was inspired to pursue a job with the organization after hearing Jo Lowe, director of The Arc, speak at a multi-agency meeting. At the time, Goetz worked for a different nonprofit.

“Having listed to Jo talk about the work that she does made me want to come and experience what she was working on,” Goetz said of her decision to come work for the organization a little over a year ago.

Lowe’s work and volunteerism at The Arc has spanned over two decades. She said the organization offers supports to families, so their children with a disabilities can have the same hopes and dreams as children without disabilities.

“It is looking at and trying to find and help people realize that we can throw away the old models of, ‘They can only do that,’ or ‘They should only do this.’ But to say, ‘Let them do what makes them happy,’” Goetz said.

The Arc’s role in opening doors to those with disabilities continues to evolve with the needs of the people it serves. The Arc works to bring together resources to help support and enrich the lives of those with disabilities, including providing opportunities for social interaction and training for either the person themselves or their caregiver.

“My goal is to bring more awareness of what The Arc does for the whole county, not just Albert Lea proper but the Glenvilles, the Aldens,” Goetz said.

In addition, Goetz works on funding the programs, training and opportunities that The Arc makes possible. She does so through grant writing and fundraisers, but also noted that she takes her lead from the community. She invites community members to see what specific topics they would like from speakers or training.

“I don’t think I ever realized the impact of nonprofits,” Goetz said of her 23 years working with the American Red Cross, Girl Scouts and now The Arc. “It’s very fulfilling to help others.”

Goetz invited others to do the same by volunteering.

 

Why did Goetz choose to be in Albert Lea?

Goetz works in Albert Lea because she wanted to work at The Arc of Freeborn County.

 

By the numbers

1 – Year Goetz has worked at The Arc of Freeborn County

23 – Years Goetz has worked with nonprofits

40 – Free classes available to families of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities through The Arc