Business reps learn about The Arc September at Mason Dixon Business Association Meeting

About 30 members of Mason-Dixon Business Association heard about The Arc/Northern Chesapeake Region at the organization's Sept. 19 meeting.

Held at Enotria in Forest Hill, the event featured guest speaker for the event was Julie Chmura, who explained The Arc's work in aiding people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Harford County, as well as in Cecil and Kent counties.

Chmura said the organization began nearly 60 years ago in a church basement and worked then with 20 families.

Among its services today is family support offered to 400 families, aiding children from birth to age 21, said Chmura.

She said state and federal governments give money to individuals, but not to families, so that is where The Arc steps in.

Its services are geared to help its clients live independently and have relationships with others, she said.

The Arc provides foster care and adoptions for children with disabilities and also offers supportive living environments, with 24 homes in Harford County involved.

According to Chmura, the program's motto is "Work in the community, live in the community, be part of the community."

The Arc provides care for its clients on a 24/7, 365-day basis, ensuring that they are safe day and night, she said.

Other programs involve medical and legal support, employment and transportation to jobs and recreational sports, Chmura said.

The Arc has enabled 180 people with disabilities currently to find jobs, 30 of which were provided by Rite-Aid, she said. Along with that employment, is provision of 800,000 miles per year of transportation to jobs and recreation.

In the area of sports, Chmura described Special Olympics and inclusion athletics such as basketball and soccer.

She told the business owners and representatives various stories about The Arc's work with individuals, such as that of the boy who had a life goal of being in law enforcement. Today he is employed by Harford County Sheriff's Office by working to empty trash and perform other duties, thereby succeeding in that involvement.

Chmura described the legally-blind girl who works in a manufacturing firm and performs tasks more efficiently than machines do and the legally-blind man who picks up toner cartridges for income.

One individual had the dream of living independently and owning his own home, something The Arc made possible, and now he wishes to have a family, she said.

Chmura invited the Mason-Dixon business people to become members, to volunteer to aid the organization in its many fundraising activities and to help with tutoring or in other dimensions, sharing talents and skills. She said people can visit the website to learn about activities.

Gene Jones, new president of Mason-Dixon, said he was pleased that nearly 30 people attended the September meeting.

"We look forward to everyone coming back," he said, referring to the summer hiatus, and he urged members to bring friends to upcoming events.

Jones said the "Taste of Mason-Dixon" evening in June at Fiore Winery in Pylesville saw 106 people attend to sample area restaurants' fares. That event was a benefit for Mason-Dixon Community Services and the business organization.

The organization will meet Oct. 19 at Geneva Farms' Twin Silos restaurant and Nov. 16 at Delta Pizza & Ferranti's Italian Ristorante. Meetings begin with networking at 11:30 a.m., and the luncheon and speakers follow at noon.

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