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Grant Report: From the Freeborn County Community Foundation to Arc of Freeborn County

Organization: The Arc of Freeborn County

Project: Inclusion Matters program

Report: For over 63 years, inclusion has mattered to The Arc of Freeborn County. The grassroots organization was founded in the 1950s by a small group of parts who came together to act as voices for change for their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. According to a press release, it was common at that time for doctors to tell parts that the best place for their child was in an institution. But like every parent of any child, they wanted more. They wanted their children to lead fulfilling lives out in the community and not shuttered away in dark institutions. It was in that spirit of acceptance and inclusion that The Arc was established.

But inclusion is NOT just a disability issue. Members of the organization feel:

Inclusion is about all of us.

Inclusion is about living full lives — about learning to live together.

Inclusion makes the world a classroom for a full life.

Inclusion treasurers diversity and builds communities.

Inclusion is about a person’s abilities — their gifts and how to share them.

Inclusion is being welcomes and embraced as a member who belongs.

The organization believes people with intellectual and developmental disabilities belong where everyone else is, whether that’s jobs, housing, school, doctor’s offices or playing golf. Through Inclusion Matters The Arc is working to increase community inclusion and that sense of belonging for children, teens and adults with disabilities in Freeborn County. Inclusion Matters focuses on five target areas:

Out-of-school programming and youth development

Unified sports/Special Olympics

Aktion Club

Family support

Transportation.

Out-of-school programming includes:

Collaborating with Family Y & Children’s Center on enrichment programs for elementary age youth.

Offering inclusion support for youth with disabilities in parks and recreation activities.

Partnering with the Minnesota Extension Office to offer 4_H Club and the Albert Lea Figure Skating Club for opportunities for skating experience

Connecting teens with and without disabilities through TeenSeen. High school teens attend activities such as sporting events, social outings, school dances and community events with their peers.

Increasing independent living skills for transition age youth with hands-on learning, field trips and community speakers.