WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The non-profit that has been a safe haven for folks with special needs for more than 50 years is struggling to provide those services since the pandemic has halted activities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Here’s how you can help the Arc of Wichita County in this week’s Helping the Helpers.
“My son has a very rich social life, and that is something he would not have without this organization,” Traci Roy said.
For 11 years, The Arc of Wichita County has been a place where Roy’s son, who has autism and is nonverbal, has been given an opportunity to improve his social development.
“He’s benefited tremendously from, particularly, the after-school program,” Roy said. “Once he started high school, the bridge program at the hero house – that was extremely beneficial to him; he has best friends, and he goes camping.”
Executive Director Anthony Watkins said the social programs are a big part of what they do at the nonprofit.
“We probably had anywhere from 15 to 20 a month,” Watkins said. “Donations, everything was going up every year, due to probably Texoma Gives and some things that were implemented the year before that, but COVID changed all of that.”
Like most nonprofits at the beginning of the pandemic, Watkins said they had to shut down all their programs except for child care.
“It was programs that helped these individuals live a healthy lifestyle and have the community inclusion, so when we shut our programs down, it’s the people we serve that had the biggest impact,” Watkins said.
Additionally, they had to cancel all their fundraisers, and, though they didn’t have as many individual donations coming in the door, they had to get creative with the programs they did have and start new ones.
“A lot of these people started creating behaviors they never had before,” Wakins said. “We began a transportation program. We found that that was a need, affordable and safe transportation they weren’t getting; we started an independent living program that we didn’t have before, but, due to COVID, where we now have to go visit the homes, so they don’t have to get out.”
Watkins and Roy said a lot of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities were forgotten about during isolation, and it takes a lot of effort and assistance from the community to get these people back into the community.