Written by Sylvia Fuerstenberg, former executive director, The Arc of King County
The Arc of King County has been around a long time, nearly 78 years now, and our supports and services have changed with the needs of the individuals and families we serve. We now focus on families and individuals living in the community and work together towards achieving full inclusion for all. In the beginning there were little to no options for individuals in the way of support, education, recreation and work available in the community. All available services were connected to state-run institutions, euphemistically called schools. And, indeed, they provided a semblance of an education and opportunities then not available outside their walls. However, as more and more families made the decision to care for their loved ones at home, families rallied to make that a possibility. They demanded support and opportunity, and slowly the community system we now have was created and carrying for a loved one with a disability at home became the social norm. The Arc of King County stood right alongside those families, organizing and supporting those efforts. We are still on the path from isolation to full inclusion together – YES! To this day we continue the journey from isolation to full inclusion that families in the Puget Sound began working toward all those years ago.
We have long memories and thankfully, some written history! Families remember the help and support and opportunities they were afforded through our work together.
From time to time, The Arc receives a legacy gift from the estate of a beloved person with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD). Once again, we have been gifted a legacy. During the 1950’s and 60’s the amazing staff of The Arc of King County supported the family of a young man with I/DD, providing necessary information and support needed to enable him to live, learn, work and play in his community. The O’Leary family remembered that support and more than half a century later gifted a portion of their estate to The Arc of King County “It is with gratitude and love that Marie, Michael and Tommy now ‘pay it forward’ with the remainder of their estate.”
For over 77 years we have been supporting our community and our community in turn has been supporting us to give the gift of support forward – what a legacy. A heartfelt thank you to the O’Leary family for being a part of The Arc family and for paying it forward to support families who, like them so many years ago, are just beginning their journey of raising a child with an intellectual or developmental disability. If you would like to learn more about leaving a legacy for individuals and their families through The Arc of King County, please contact us….
With much love and affection,