ARC HERKIMER: Building Up Our Community

It’s true: people are looking at life through a different lens. We all now appreciate things we once overlooked. Often unsung, the dedicated nonprofits that tirelessly lift this community up, especially during trying times, continue to provide essential services. Arc Herkimer, a multifaceted agency serving people with disabilities, knows all too well that during times of crisis nonprofits are the glue that holds the community together.

The impact of the pandemic has challenged Arc Herkimer’s several divisions—support services, an industrial sector, career connections and transportation services—all of which exist to help individuals with developmental, psychological and physical disabilities. Because of the nature of the work the organization does, remaining proactive in support of community needs and those it serves is now Arc Herkimer’s top priority.

“For agencies like ours, we’re all considered essential employees, including the administration, so we’re trying to operate business as usual, even though it’s not,” said Kevin Crosley, president/CEO of Arc Herkimer.

The organization’s industrial sector, Herkimer Industries, is in the process of looking at how it can utilize its sewing center to produce various types of personal protective equipment, items there will certainly be a market for long after the crisis subsides.

“There’s always opportunity in the throes of crisis,” said Crosley. “If you have the ability to take advantage of them, it can really do some great things for your company or organization.”

“At the same time, we’re trying to figure out how best to do this—keeping people in an area where they can congregate but is still separate and maintains social distancing, and doing all the things from a sanitation perspective that we need to do to keep everyone safe.”

Through the Mohawk Valley COVID-19 Response Fund, established by The Community Foundation and United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area, Arc Herkimer was awarded a $13,500 grant to purchase sanitation equipment to ensure the health and safety of its staff, volunteers and clients.

Aside from reacting to the stress points and challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic created, the agency has many exciting projects on the way that give hope for a bright future ahead. For example, it will bring more unique services to the individuals it supports in the community through a newly acquired property.

The MV Golf & Event Center, formerly known as the Mohawk Valley Country Club, is a 150-acre property with an 18-hole golf course, restaurant and bar. Located along Route 5 in Little Falls, the facility was recently donated to Arc Herkimer by the Castle/Bailey family. Under its ownership, new ventures and capital upgrades will bring the organization’s dream project to fruition. In addition to bringing more diversity and inclusion to the greater community, the facility will offer employment opportunities for the individuals that Arc Herkimer serves.

Crosley says a project of this nature is a wonderful opportunity for an agency that serves people with disabilities, one that “just doesn’t happen.”

“We’ve identified 24 part-time jobs for people that we support that can function in a variety of capacities. It just opens up a whole new world for us. Our industry is big on integration right now—people with and without disabilities working collaboratively in an inclusive setting. This is the perfect example of that type of fully integrated facility.”

Even as it looks to the future, Arc Herkimer’s current projects continue to meet with success. In 2017, the organization introduced Arc Park, an initiative supported by several Community Foundation fundholders. The $1.6 million recreational facility includes three age-focused playground areas for people of all abilities, a fitness trail, refurbished basketball court, band stand, family pavilion and more. Since opening three years ago, it has become a focal point for recreation in the region.

“Our tagline for the agency is ‘Building Community,’ and the result of Arc Park could not be more in line with that statement,” Crosley says. “It is 100% doing exactly that. It’s just incredibly fulfilling and why we do what we do. Not every business can say that at the end of the day, they’ve really truly made a difference in people’s lives and that’s what we do here every day.”

In 2018, M&T Bank/Partners Trust Bank Charitable Fund and the Mele Family Fund, both donor-advised funds of The Community Foundation, awarded Arc Herkimer $250,000 to support its Day Habilitation Program. The program provides services to a group of individuals daily, promoting learning in an environment conducive to their growth.

For Crosley, The Community Foundation’s support for these transformational projects has been phenomenal.

“It has been an unbelievable relationship,” he reflected. “We’ve been able to figure out a way to utilize The Community Foundation’s resources for some great projects that have turned into stories that we’ve been able to tell in various ways about how amazing the organization has been in helping us reach our goal of building community.”

For an organization like Arc Herkimer, the possibilities of its service and significance in the community are limitless. Better days are surely on the way, and Arc Herkimer is one of the organizations taking care of the community until it is whole again.