Involved In Independence

By Stephen Kula
Wednesday - April 20, 2005
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It could be Danny your nextdoor neighbor or Sally the girl who bags groceries at the neighborhood supermarket — people with developmental disabilities are both evident and indistinct in our community. Nonetheless, we should make it a point to see everyone in our lives, including those with developmental disabilities, as people — first and foremost.

The month of March marked National Mental Retardation Awareness Month, and May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Both are designations that hit close to home for The Arc in Hawaii. Founded in 1954 by parents of children with mental retardation, The Arc in Hawaii was incorporated as a private 501(c)(3) in 1955. Over time, as a result of federal legislation requiring mandatory public education for children, we have since changed from serving children to mainstreaming adults. For more than 50 years, The Arc in Hawaii has provided intensive and direct services to hundreds. Currently we service more than 270 people with developmental disabilities. Our services range from adult day education to residential programs tailored to the specific needs and abilities of the people we serve. At The Arc in Hawaii, we work with each person on an individual plan that will help them lead a full life. The plan may include developing daily living skills, recreation,work programs and social interaction.

The Arc in Hawaii crew from left (standing)
Nona Takasaki, Greg Volpone, Stephen Kula,
John Okihiro, Christine Faria and Patti Thomas,
(seated) Dennis Naito, Lorren Hee, Rina Fuller
and Jackie Sofear

We operate 17 homes, four apartment complexes and four day centers located in various communities on Oahu. We have reorganized and streamlined our operation to better utilize our resources, without significantly affecting the number and type of services we provide our clients. During the day, most clients volunteer, work part time or attend day programs located at Diamond Head, Kailua, Pearl City and Wahiawa. Clients who live in apartments are almost completely independent — an apartment manager is available onsite in case a need arises. It is always the client’s choice whether to take advantage of The Arc’s programs and services.

One of our most successful programs is the Legislative Internship Program. Over the past five years, we have placed 119 interns to assist staffs of the governor, lieutenant governor, representatives and senators in their daily office duties for a one-week period. The Legislative Internship Program benefits our clients enabling them to broaden their vocational skills, and our government officials by providing them with volunteer assistance. The program also creates a better understanding and awareness in the community by correcting any misconceptions regarding the abilities and capabilities of individuals with developmental disabilities.

At The Arc in Hawaii, it is our goal to advocate for people with developmental disabilities outside the scope of services we already provide. I urge you to become involved and see that individuals with developmental disabilities are capable of living and working alongside the rest of us within our community and Hawaii, the place we call home.

Next week: Alton Miyashiro, managing principal of Nishihama and Kishida CPAs Inc.

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