SCHENECTADY -- Even after 65 years, Schenectady ARC remains one of the area’s best kept secrets, said Director Kirk Lewis.
The organization, which has evolved to provide an array of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities countywide, is hoping to raise public awareness and funds through an event this weekend.
“We believe communities are better and stronger when they’re inclusive,” Lewis said. “We work to help maximize the ability of people to contribute to communities and make the community a more diverse and better place.”
Schenectady ARC will mark its 65th anniversary with its first-ever food truck event, titled “Electric City Trucks, Taps, Corks and Forks.” Participating vendors include Mad Jack Brewing Company, Slidin’ Dirty and Cheesy Does it. The event will be from noon to 5 p.m. on Sat. May 20, 2017 in the parking lot at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street.
A few employees at ARC’s Maple Ridge facility on Hamburg Street suggested the event, Lewis said. The organization hasn’t done much fundraising, but it’s looking to plan more events to raise money and public awareness, Lewis said.
Since the ARC was founded in 1952, it has operated on two basic levels, Lewis said. One is to advocate for changes in the law and for better treatment of people with disabilities, and the other is to provide those individuals with support and services that wouldn't otherwise exist.
In its first few decades, the organization offered recreational activities for people with disabilities. In the 1980s, it began offering a supported employment program, Lewis said.
Schenectady ARC’s services have continued to grow to the point where it now offers employment opportunities, a healthcare clinic, some recreational programs and residential support. In total, the organization supports 600 employees, 22 houses and several support programs throughout Schenectady County, Lewis said.
“We really serve a wide range of people with a wide range of abilities,” Lewis said. “But the goal behind it all is the same: helping people lead lives they want to lead and be part of their communities.”
The group’s most consistent challenge is funding, Lewis said. Proceeds from Saturday’s event will be used for renovations and improvements at ARC’s residential houses, but even with that, Lewis said the group is at the mercy of New York state.
State funding and reimbursements are critical to the agency's survival, Lewis said. That is why raising public awareness is so critical. ARC volunteers and employees were among the dozens of people who attended rallies for “BFair2DirectCare,” which advocated for a wage increase for those who work with individuals with disabilities.
The organization has been forced to find alternative streams of revenue, such as partnering with Rivers Casino & Resort to keep its bottle redemption program open, saving five jobs in the process.
Lewis said the group will continue to advocate, and ARC leaders are hopeful Saturday’s food truck event will become an annual occurrence.
“We want to create a great event that celebrates Schenectady,” Lewis said. “Part of what we do goes back to that theme of partnership and community.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Schenectady ARC food truck fundraiser
WHEN: Noon-5 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, 2017
WHERE: Parking lot at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street