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Author: Caleb Case

Christmas Extravaganza Raises Nearly $92,000 for Children’s Autism Services

The Arc of the Ozarks was honored to host so many wonderful friends and supporters at the 28th Annual Christmas Extravaganza Gala. 

Festivities took place at the White River Conference Center on December 9, 2022. Thanks to the generous support of our community, we raised nearly $92,000 for The Arc’s children’s autism services, which include Rivendale Institute of Learning and Center for Autism, TheraCare, Mercy Branson Autism Clinic, and our newly announced Springfield Autism Center.

How Autism Impacts Our Community

Autism stats graphic

Did you know that only 41 percent of Missouri children on the autism spectrum had a comprehensive developmental evaluation by age 3? 

The Arc of the Ozarks autism services align with best practice standards and include a multi-disciplinary approach to diagnostics and therapies. We provide early-intervention therapies and strategies designed to assist the child and their family to excel at home and at school.

We are truly grateful to be able to expand access to autism services for families in Southwest Missouri. 

A Special Night Enjoyed by All

Table with silent auction items

Throughout the night of our Extravaganza, guests enjoyed the musical stylings of Kit Barley and the Creekside Bandits, which included throwback tunes from the 70s to today’s hits. While listening to the band, guests browsed our vast silent auction with over 140 items to choose from. Thanks to the generosity of our community, we raised nearly $20,000 from our silent and live auctions. We are so grateful to all business owners who donated items to make our auction the most successful it has ever been. 

Once dinner began, guests learned more about children’s autism services at The Arc courtesy of Ozarks Live host and emcee Cami Jenkins, along with videos highlighting our autism programs. Our client spotlight featured Mark, who is served by our CounterPoint program, teaching Cami the ins and outs of his candle-making business. 

The Arc CEO Powers Accepts Congressional Resolution from Former Congressman Long

We were honored to have the company of Missouri State Representatives Alex Riley and Melanie Stinnett, Missouri Senator Mike Moon, and Former U.S. Congressman Billy Long. To the surprise of our President/CEO Mike Powers, Former Congressman Long presented Mr. Powers with a Congressional Resolution for his outstanding work and commitment to the disability community in Southwest Missouri. 

Announcing a New Autism Clinic

During the Extravaganza, we were also thrilled to unveil the rendering of our newest autism clinic in Springfield Missouri, set to open Summer 2023. 

This collaboration between The Arc of the Ozarks, Missouri State University, and Mercy will increase access for families and children who experience developmental delays. The clinic will provide diagnostic evaluations, behavioral analysis, and psychological/psychiatric services, along with speech, occupational, physical, and specialty therapy services. The new autism clinic will work with families regardless of their ability to pay and will accept referrals from all network providers.

“We all know the importance of early diagnosis and intervention of individuals suspected of having autism,” says Mike Powers, President/CEO of The Arc. “We are incredibly excited about bringing innovative services to Southwest Missouri to support these individuals and their families.”

Live Auction Goes to the Dog (Literally!)

Live auction winner Reva with 12 week old goldendoodle puppy

While the excitement was high, we moved into the last portion of the evening: our live auction. 

This year’s live auction featured twelve items, including a deep freezer with a 150-pound beef bundle, an Australian Boulder Opal necklace, and a 0.35 carat Princess-cut diamond. However, we saved the best for last: a 12-week-old Standard Goldendoodle puppy. The winner, Reva McVay was beyond thrilled to take her brand-new furry friend home for Christmas.

We would like to extend a special thank you to our underwriting sponsor Alps Pharmacy, our presenting sponsor Central Bank of the Ozarks, and personal sponsor the Darr Family for their continued support of The Arc of the Ozarks. 

Don’t miss Christmas Extravaganza 2023! Mark your calendars for December 8, 2023.

Updated Pool Means More Summer Fun for No Limits Campers

With a newly remodeled pool, the Summer 2022 No Limits Summer Camp was better than ever at The Arc of the Ozarks. 

The smiles and fun kicked off on June 6. Each year, the camp welcomes young people ages 6 through 21 with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, chromosomal disorders, and other physical or developmental disabilities. 

According to Director of Education and Recreation Amy Holland and Assistant Director Liz Dressler, The Arc’s Timothy Grant Newport Activity Center pool officially reopened just in time for this summer’s camp. Staff and clients celebrated with a luau theme open house for everyone to swing by for a dip or grab a cupcake. 

A More Accessible Swimming Experience for All

Thanks to a generous gift of $10,000 from the Sutherland Foundation, The Arc was able to complete a variety of necessary renovations before the start of summer camp. 

Camper and counselor at the pool during no limits summer camp at The Arc of the Ozarks

The new remodel means our pool has been updated with a state of the art lift to improve accessibility for individuals with limited mobility in our community. That makes it easier for more people to enjoy the benefits of swimming and other water-based activities. 

Perhaps the best part of all is that our pool is open and accessible for clients of The Arc and anyone else in our community who is looking for a great indoor pool. Open swim takes place Monday through Friday between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Increased Attendance for No Limits Summer Camp

This past summer, everyone was excited to get back to the way camp was before Covid – no restrictions, no masks, just kids being kids. 

“This year we were able to increase our numbers to accommodate more campers and have more staff,” says Dressler. “We were able to do more indoor outings, fill our buses and hire bus drivers and have our end-of-session parties with a slideshow, food and families present.”

In July, campers enjoyed a visit from the friendly goats from Rafter C. Rodeo. Some of their favorite outings consisted of boat rides at Stockton Lake, Incredible Pizza, Republic’s Aquatic Center, and Wonders of Wildlife. Other activities included bowling and going to see a movie. 

Fun, Friends & Learning Experiences

Camper having fun outside during no limits summer camp at The Arc of the Ozarks

Our No Limits Summer Camp provides an enriching experience that promotes the educational and recreational interests of each camper. There are two 4-week camp sessions offered every summer from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Activities include field trips, games, arts, crafts, and of course swimming!

No Limit Summer Camp is more than just a chance to have some fun and make new friends. It also helps our campers stay on track toward their educational goals. Our staff helps each camper continue their Individualized Education Program (IEP) that was established during the school year, so that they can continue with the progress already made and keep them on track to have a successful start to the school year.  

Every camper has personalized goals, and staff members chart their progress every day throughout the session. Camp activities build important skills including social skills, coping, and greater independence. 

No Limits Summer Camp offers meaningful experiences for campers and staff alike. In fact, many of our campers have such a great time, they come back year after year for another summer of fun, memories, and growth. We begin accepting applications for the No Limits 2023 season on February 13, 2023. Space is limited, so apply early.
If you’d like to learn more about summer camp and other Education and Recreation programs at The Arc, contact us online or call 417-864-7887.

The Role of Direct Support Professionals at The Arc

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Being a DSP = A Career with Heart

“Direct Support Professional (DSP’s) are the heart of The Arc of the Ozarks.”

That’s how Outreach and Public Affairs Specialist Karen Burnell Ruff describes the role of direct support professionals in empowering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to direct their own lives as valued members of the community.

Because DSPs are essential to fulfilling our mission, The Arc provides the training and resources they need to be successful. 

Becoming a DSP is more than just another job. It’s a rewarding career that builds lasting relationships and offers numerous opportunities for advancement. In fact, many of our managers at The Arc began their journey with us as direct support professionals.

We encourage anyone interested in becoming a DSP to apply for one of our current job openings. So what is the job description of DSP’s? Let’s look at what you can expect when you join our team as a DSP at The Arc!

A Relationship-Centered Career 

DSP playing a game with an individual with disabilities

Ibby Fryman, who has worked at The Arc for six years, says her favorite thing about working in direct care is the relationships built with clients. Fryman currently serves as a Behavioral Tech Supervisor, after initially working as a DSP.

“DSPs are there for every birthday, every sports game, every class, every good and bad day,” she says. 

Supportive DSP relationships come out of helping someone with a disability become as independent as possible without doing things for them, Ruff explains. Clients and DSPs develop a sense of trust as they navigate challenges and celebrate important milestones.

What Are the Responsibilities of a DSP?

There are no typical days in the life of a DSP, Ruff says.

That’s because all activities follow the goals set by each client. This may include, but not be limited to, assisting with medication management, nutritional meal planning, cooking, housekeeping and hygiene. 

Every day is unique, and DSP job duties are individualized to the person receiving supports. Additional roles include skills coaching, behavioral supports and crisis intervention and prevention.

Practical Skills of a Direct Support Professional

The DSP’s role “can look like anything from teaching a client how to cook their favorite meal to connecting them with groups related to their interests,” Fryman says.

Activities may include helping clients read and understand the purpose of their medications. DSPs also assist clients with setting budgets and managing money. All activities are designed to enable someone with a disability to successfully participate in activities of daily living, both at home and in their community.

Helping with Social, Emotional, and Communication Skills 

There is also a focus on promoting socially and emotionally healthy activities and life skills. Behavioral supports help clients achieve community-based goals including occupational or volunteer activities.

The DSP will model strategies for regulating emotions and impulses without harmful behaviors. This helps individuals find communication tools to express their needs more effectively. 

The biggest challenge is working with someone with behavioral issues that are stressed, overwhelmed, and escalated, according to Sarah Olson, Residential Program Supervisor, and former DSP. 

“Thankfully, The Arc provides DSPs with the training, tools, resources, and techniques that are effective methods and best practices to de-escalate those situations,” she says.

How Is DSP Work Different from a Caregiver?

It’s also important to note that providing support for individuals with disabilities is different from caregiving.

While a caregiver will do things for someone, the duties of a direct support professional includes educating, empowering, and teaching individuals to do things on their own to the highest level possible.

Although DSPs and caregivers are both responsible for clients’ wellbeing and help with daily tasks, “our role is to promote independence and teach clients how to manage their own life in any way they’re able,” says Fryman.

DSP’s are Individual-Focused

Support provided by the DSP is specific to each person, based on what is necessary for them to achieve their highest level of health, well-being, and quality of life. 

For clients with significant medical needs and those who are unable to perform many activities of daily living on their own, DSPs provide the highest level of care they require to remain safe and healthy at home and in the community.

What Training & Skills Does a DSP Need?

“I think the most important qualifications for a DSP are the ability to see our individuals served as individuals instead of their behaviors or diagnoses, and the willingness to work every day towards their goals and independence,” Fryman observes.

The DSP position exists not only to help cook and clean, but to consistently teach, support, advocate for and learn from clients.

For those interested in becoming a DSP, Olson says they need to have a desire to help the people they support. It’s essential to be compassionate, understanding and patient. The ability to think outside the box is another must.

Consider Joining The Arc as a DSP!

The Arc is a great place to work because they make sure you have all the training you need and work with you to succeed,” she notes. “They offer opportunities for growth and advancement within for those that want to.”

For Olson, the most rewarding thing about being a DSP is “being able to see the accomplishments of the individuals you support from when you first started working with them over time and knowing that what you do makes a difference.”

Are you interested in joining The Arc of the Ozarks as a direct support professional? If so, we’d love to hear from you! We invite you to apply online at any time or call us at 417-864-7887 if you have questions.

Spring Events Engage the Community While Supporting Services at The Arc

The Arc of the Ozarks is proud of our long history of supporting individuals with disabilities.

To help fulfill our mission, The Arc provides a range of services to make sure the people we serve have the resources they need. Our programs empower clients to direct their own lives and participate fully in their communities. 

We also offer many opportunities for the whole community to get involved by hosting signature fundraising events throughout the year. These events provide fun for participants while raising much-needed funding for programs that support individuals and families served by The Arc.


Celebrating 15 Years of Service: Brian Rocks Supported Employment

“Brian loves Elvis.”

So says the mother of Brian Graham, who works as a shredder in the Employment Solutions program at The Arc of the Ozarks. 

He has been to Graceland twice, she continues. During a family visit to the Memphis landmark for Brian’s 40th birthday, one of the DJs invited him to come into the radio studio. That turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

When he isn’t rocking out to his favorite music legend, Brian can be found going to different offices around Springfield to pick up paper to be shredded. He loves seeing other people working in the various businesses, and he’s especially proud of how many bags he can shred in a single shift. Brian has been working as a shredder since he began his employment back in 2006. 

Employment First Means Opportunity

Brian is very proud of having his “own” office, according to his mom. 

Through his work in the Shred and Recycling area, Brian has met several people and built positive working relationships with them. He began with a small home shredder and over the years he has grown to be an Allegheny J-45 Shredder expert.

As an Employment First organization, The Arc provides job information and guidance to Brian and other people with developmental disabilities. This empowers them to make informed career choices and achieve desired life outcomes.  

The Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities adopted Employment First in partnership with community provider agencies like The Arc, along with individuals supported by the Division and other state and local funding agencies. Our Employment Solutions team encourages individuals to build job skills while earning a paycheck, both here at The Arc and in the community.

  • Our Shred and Recycling area employs 10 individuals, including Brian. They work hard both on location and in the community working at OTC. They spend time giving back to our community providing shred to the zoo and local pet stores.    
  • The Arc Detail Shop employs six individuals currently. Over the last year we had one individual who worked in our detail shop and moved on to work in another state! He built the confidence and skills to not only move to another state but to find competitive employment.
  • Our Food Truck is a popular supported employment opportunity. It currently employs two individuals and has had one individual move on to find his dream job here in Springfield. He learned and developed skills working on the Food Truck, and after six months was ready to find his dream job! 

The Arc also supports many individuals through Vocational Rehabilitation every year. Our Springfield, Monett, and Joplin divisions help over 100 people find jobs in their communities each year.  For example, one individual we supported through both Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Mental Health recently found his first job, with support from his home staff who went the extra mile to become a job coach. 

Over the past two years, Employment Solutions has worked hard to provide Supported Employment opportunities during what has been some challenging times. Our team hopes to continue to move forward and provide even greater opportunities to job seekers this year. 

Enrichment, Growth & Meaning

“We envision communities embracing those with developmental differences into their workforce and providing the opportunity to live a life they dream of,”  says Angela Johnson, Director of Community Connections and Employment Solutions. 

Employment brings enrichment, personal growth, and meaning to our lives. Those with disabilities are no different. Supported employment professionals and Employment First advocates are instrumental in breaking down barriers that may inhibit a person with a disability from achieving their employment goals and reaching their fullest potential.

Thanks to supported employment opportunities, Brian has set an example for the employment team by offering his many years of service and dedication to his job. He has one of those personalities that everyone wants to be around. He puts a smile on everyone’s faces by wiggling his eyebrows, calling his job coaches “grandmas” and, of course, through his jam sessions with Elvis.

Job coaches have even drawn straws to be able to work with him! 

During his down time, Brian spends time with his family, including his nieces and nephew. He loves going to the lake, where he enjoys boating and tubing on Table Rock and savoring a delicious slice of pizza.

At The Arc, we encourage every staff member to be an Employment First advocate. By  supporting individuals like Brian with obtaining their dream jobs, we empower more people with disabilities to direct their own lives and participate fully in our community.

Eligibility for Employment Solutions is determined by a referral from either the Department of Mental Health or Vocational Rehabilitation. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to call us at 417-864-7887 or reach out to us online.