Helping the disabled Non-profit organization comes to Hudson County, will hold fundraiser

The Arc of New Jersey in Hudson County, a new chapter of the statewide non-profit organization for people with mental retardation and other disabilities, is asking residents to “Step up for the Arc” on June 9. “Step up for the Arc,” a walk-a-thon taking place in Hudson County Park in North Bergen from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., will raise money for the organization.

The Arc of New Jersey, a state-wide non-profit organization, opened a branch in Union City last year. The organization was founded in 1947 by a group of parents in Bergen and Passaic counties who had children with developmental disabilities.

Located on 36th Street in Union City, between Bergenline Avenue and New York Avenue, the Arc is expanding its day program for mentally disabled Hudson County residents that is already in existence.

The Arc currently has chapters in each county in the state and is affiliated with the Arc of the United States, a national organization.

The organization began working in Hudson County only eight months ago.

“We don’t have enough agencies like this in Hudson County,” said Sandra Vasquez, the Director of the Hudson County chapter of the Arc, explaining that the organization is designed to train the participants how to be more independent.

The Arc is funded primarily by the state Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). The walk-a-thon, which will be taking place in other locations across the state as well as North Bergen, will be sponsored by M&Ms. In Hudson County, J&R trucking and Moving will be sponsoring the event.

About the organization

Since Sandra Vasquez has been working in Union City, the center has added services such as a family support group, recreational activities for children and young adults, and information and referral services.

“Every day, I go home and I feel happy because I know that I made a difference,” said Vasquez who worked in a bank before joining The Arc eight months ago.

More than 40 families in the county have already taken advantage of the family support group meetings that began in January. According to Vasquez, these meetings provide information for family members of people who have developmental disabilities. Vasquez also brings in speakers from other agencies that can provide services and information for the families.

Stephen J. Thompson, a Hackensack-based neuro-oncologist, will be speaking at the next meeting, on June 14.

Vasquez also organizes recreational activities for young people with developmental disabilities once a month. Vasquez brings these children to the area’s parks, malls and other places in the community.

Vasquez said that many high school students volunteer to help with this program.

“It is difficult to find places to bring our participants in the community,” said Vasquez. “A lot of businesses do not want them there.”

Vasquez said that the purpose of these activities is to teach the participants to become more independent.

“When we take them to the mall, we let them pay for things,” said Vasquez, explaining that this gives them a sense of independence as well as teaching them to count money.

Vasquez also is available to provide family members with information and referral services to other agencies that can provide assistance to the families.

“There are so many opportunities for people with developmental disabilities,” said Vasquez adding that DDD offers many services to these families. “But a lot of times the families don’t know about them or where to look.”

The day-program provides 25 adults with developmental disabilities with community activities. The organization has also found jobs for some of the participants. Each of these participants was referred to the program through DDD. However, the organization is currently not accepting applications for this program.

In the future

Vasquez is in the process of applying for a grant from JP Morgan. If approved, Vasquez plans to open an after-school program for younger children with disabilities. Vasquez also plans to use the money to hire additional staff to work with the after-school program and the recreational activities.

To participate in the walk-a-thon or for additional information, call Vasquez at (201) 319-9229.


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