The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


October 19, 2008

Arc an advocate for mentally disabled

Organization relies on United Way funds

SUNBURY — The Arc, located at 225 Market St., is a 2009 member agency funded by the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way.

The organization works to promote awareness and advocacy for people with mental developmental disabilities and their families.

According to Gail Leightley, executive director of The Arc, which serves Northumberland, Snyder, Union, Montour and Columbia counties, the organization’s funding from the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way totals about $7,000 a year. “We couldn’t exist if we didn’t get help from the United Way,” she said.

The money is used for personal advocacy, which at times, Leightley said, has been a matter of life or death. The funds are also used to provide training for those who help with The Arc programs and supports collective and individual advocacy. One-on-one help and training is provided for people with developmental needs so they can become better at self-advocacy. The hourly wages of the part-time office employees are also supplied by the United Way funding.

The Arc’s national program alerts the network of individual offices about pending state or national legislation that will affect the mental developmental disability community. The offices then work to call or write their elected representatives, and encourage others to do so as well. “We don’t take sides as far as parties, we don’t choose elected officials,” Leightley said. “We focus entirely on policies and laws that affect the community.”

According to Leightley, one of the biggest needs she anticipates for The Arc is for a possible hiring of another part-time employee at the Sunbury office. And then there is always the ongoing need to just exist. Fortunately, Leightley said, the Sunbury office is one of the more sustainable offices in the state. It has been in existence since 1952.

On the state level, Leightley said The Arc is working to get an adult protective services law for those suffering from mental developmental disabilities established in Pennsylvania.

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