Guest Column: Helping all be fully engaged in community

Published 8:31 pm Friday, August 24, 2018

Live United by Mary Goetz

Mary Goetz


The Arc of Freeborn County is proud to be a United Way partner agency. The United Way makes it possible for us to concentrate on the community inclusion for all our participants. This agency works for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be active, fully engaged participants in the community.  The Arc was started locally by caring parents 64 years ago when children with disabilities were denied access to a school education. From the beginning, parents were the driving force that made change possible — with the hiring of their first teacher to instruct their children in the basement of the courthouse. Change has only occurred because of the desire to make this world better. The Arc of Freeborn County continues to do just that, with fun, educational and empowering programs, seminars, social activities and Special Olympics programs. Our programs serve individuals from birth to 102 years of age and their families. Families often long for information on how to support their child with a disability, plan for the future or need an advocate for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) when meeting with school officials. The IEP process can seem foreign or complex — we are here to give reassurance and support to parents during this process.   

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We are researching and reaching out to other local communities here in Freeborn County to offer an after-school program this fall for Social Club, which encourages children to come together for social activities to bridge the gap on building and making friendships, while increasing community involvement and activities. In the words of participants, “It’s so much fun!”  We wish to share this great program.

The Autism Support Group has updated its meeting schedule for the coming year: First meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10 in Room 109 at Brookside Education Center. If you need child care or have questions, please call Stacie at 507-379-5047. Child care is free for students and siblings. Check out their Facebook link at

The Aktion Club, which is a branch of the local Kiwanis clubs, has been serving the region for over nine years. Monthly meetings are the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at The Arc office — all are welcome to join! In October, the meeting will focus on voting rights. It is marvelous to review all the service projects this group has been active in supporting, both locally and worldwide, including donations to the United Way for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, The Rock for snacks/meals for youth, and SCAW (Sleeping Children Around the World) for bedkits to protect children while they sleep from disease-carrying mosquitoes. Members have also created Christmas cards for those living in nursing homes, painted a wall mural for The Family Y, collected pop tabs and tied blankets for the Ronald McDonald House, stuffed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and many other projects.

Richard Olson is a member of The Aktion Club and current club president, where he receives the hands-on opportunities to develop leadership skills and to make a positive difference in his community. From participating in all these activities, his desire to continue his journey of learning and giving back to his community evolved into his acceptance into the Olmstead Academy in January. Richard attended training in St. Paul with 18 other self-advocates from across the state.  He was challenged with sharing his newly-acquired knowledge with the community and developed the project to have a booth at the Albert Lea fair titled: “It’s all about FAIRness.”    Richard organized community volunteers to help in manning the booth and sharing the message on community connections and awareness. It was a success! Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. sent a proclamation stating: “August is Advocacy Awareness/ Fairness Month” 

Richard was instrumental in offering a DET (Disability Equality Training) here in Freeborn County, where 10 other self-advocates were able to learn from Richard and follow a similar program to the Olmstead Academy. Every individual had an opportunity to experience and express themselves in different ways to increase effective communication styles. 

We welcome you to be a volunteer, committee member or donor in support of the work that The Arc of Freeborn County has been doing these last 64 years and will continue into the future.  It truly is your organization that cares about all individuals, young or old, to have the social connections and opportunities to a happy life, lived well in a caring community. Thank you for your support of The United Way of Freeborn County — together we are stronger.

Mary Goetz is executive director of The Arc of Freeborn County.