Located on Belleview Road next door to the Iberville Parish Library’s main branch sits the ARC of Iberville, the local arm of the national association “for people with intellectual and developmental issu0es,” as the national organization’s website proclaims.
Interim Director Traci Parsons talked Friday about the programs the non-profit organization offers to its clients. She is temporarily filling the position after former executive director Elizabeth Fussell, Ed.E., CRC, left the Plaquemine office to manage the Ascension Parish branch of the organization.
Parsons, who has been at the local ARC for 10 years as its program manager for vocational and community living, said the programs include residential assistance, vocational training, day habitation financial management, a multitude of activities, including volunteer work at various places in Iberville Parish.
The residential program has nine participants who live by themselves on their own in their own apartments, she said.
“Some of them just need to have someone come to their apartment in the afternoons to help them cook and clean, taken them to the grocery store and things like that,” Parsons said.
Others in the residential program need a direct service worker provided by ARC because they are clients who live with family that needs help caring for their disabled family member, she continued. “It gives the parents a little break.”
Like with most of its clients, ARC of Iberville manages their finances, Parsons said, taking care of paying bills for them and providing their clients with spending money and money for groceries, Parsons said.
“We also have a day habitation program here for people who aren’t able to go out and work in the community,” she said. “They do activities here.”
Some of those activities include volunteering to do janitorial services at a number of local churches, frequent trips to the library next door and to the park on the grounds of the Carl F. Clark Civic Center.
“They also go to museums and even to Baton Rouge, for example, to go to the State Capitol” and some of the city’s other attractions, Parsons said.
There are 11 people in the day habitation program, she said, and “they love to go for a ride or to go shopping.”
ARC also helps the Iberville Parish Council with three men who volunteer to work on the parish’s roadsides.
“They go out throughout the parish and they pick up litter,” Parsons said. “Then they come back and do janitorial work here in our building.”
The ARC of Iberville is also involved with My Brother’s Keeper, a thrift store on Plaquemine Street, where 12 of the program’s clients volunteer.
“The owners pay us for the help and we use the money to buy food for the food bank,” Parsons said.
ARC of Iberville also helps with job placement for those clients who are employable and want to work, Parsons said, through a program headed by Terry Brady, the employment coordinator.
“The clients in that program don’t have to be developmentally disabled, it can be any disability,” she continued, like people who are blind or have other issues that would prevent them from being able to easily find suitable work on their own.
Parsons said ARC employees provide as much support as possible to those they’ve placed in jobs, she said.
“We go out and do job coaching with them,” she said. “we stay on the job with them showing them what they need to do and then we back off after a while.”
When problems arise with employees placed by ARC, the employers call the non-profit organization before approaching the employee/client.
“We find out what the problem is, how can we help and then we train them so more so they can stay on the job,” Parsons said.
The ARC of Iberville has numerous community partners, but the most important is the Iberville Parish Council, which provides the organization with its office and program space and maintains the building and its grounds, she continued.
A men’s Catholic organization, the International Order of Alhambra, contributes in special ways to the program, Parsons said.
“Every year at Christmas they buy our clients presents and they’re always sponsoring parties and things like that,” she said.
Parsons get a great deal of assistance from Brady, who searches all over a multi-parish region in search of suitable jobs for ARC clients, a registered nurse, Kelly Gorgues and Kasma Bosley, ,ARC’s community living coordinator.
Through the years, the ARC of Iberville has gained a solid relationship with the community and points beyond. So much so, at least one of the clients in its day program lives in Baton Rouge.
“Her parents meet us in Port Allen because their autistic daughter likes it over here better than anywhere else,” Parsons said. “I think it’s awesome that somebody says that about us.”