A woman standing in front of a house.


12,844 steps. Thats how many steps Chakeeta Thomas has taken today. And its a light day, laughs Chakeeta. If I work a banquet, its always more. Chakeeta is determined, resilient, with indefatigable energy. And, as her friends will say: she steps up.

A caseworker connected Chakeeta with St. Louis Arc when she was still a teenager, wanting to stabilize her living situation. Through Arc, she found a roommate and an apartment, with Arc staff providing several hours of support each week.

She went to work right out of high school, completing a vocational training program and working in childcare several years. A job transfer moved her position to far West County, making getting to work more of a challenge. Chakeeta relied on public transportation, rides from friends, and yes, even walking to get to work.

Thats when I started thinking I needed a place closer, she explained. But the new area was expensive, with few rental openings. A property owner had coincidentally contacted St. Louis Arc with a small home for rent would Arc know anyone who might be interested? The home was nearly adjacent to Chakeetas workplace. Everything fell into place.

Thats how I got my little house, said Chakeeta. Its tiny but perfect for one person. For Chakeeta, its always felt like home. She pays the rent and takes care of it herself.

In the years since shes lived there, Chakeeta changed jobs, and she is now a full-time employee of Doubletree Hotels, working in housekeeping and the hotels childcare. I also work banquets, front desk, the bar, said Chakeeta. I take on the role that is needed. She regularly works 40 hours and often picks up extra shifts, because she likes having extra money.

Shes been recognized by her employers many times with awards and raises, for working hard, and for superb customer service. She does what she can to help people, her customers and coworkers, and she likes to pay it forward with good deeds.

In her job, Chakeeta receives retention support from a St. Louis Arc job coach. She helps me if I need to do paperwork or learn anything new for my job, said Chakeeta. She checks in regularly and she knows me. We work together well.

The job coach also helps Chakeeta with making decisions about her job and benefits, and advocating for what she might need. Right now, she is trying to get me to put more in my retirement plan, said Chakeeta. I will, hopefully when I get my next raise.

Chakeeta also continues to receive support from Arc so that she can live independently and maintain her social network. Through Arcs Connect program, she receives 10 hours of individualized, flexible assistance each week.

I pretty much take care of everything in my house, but get help with grocery shopping, and laundry because I have to take it out, she explains. Support staff are also critical to helping Chakeeta manage her health, including a potentially life-threatening allergy. Staff help her make medical appointments, provide transportation to them, and also assist Chakeeta to understand and follow up with instructions her doctors provide so she can keep herself safe and healthy.

Even though shes busy, Chakeeta enjoys many local activities, often going to Cardinals games, shows and museums with friends. When my bills are paid, if I have something leftover, Im like lets go! she said. Chakeeta enjoys painting and occasionally joins in a friendly pinball league. Through Arc Escapes, a travel program of St. Louis Arc, Chakeeta has traveled to Holiday World in Indiana, and the Trout Lodge in Missouri. She recently traveled to Florida to visit a former staff member and close friend who had moved there, flying for the first time and visiting Disney World.

Chakeeta is proud of her accomplishments. Shes grateful, too, for all those who have stepped up for her in the past case managers, landlords, coaches, supervisors, co-workers and friends.

If I never did this program with the Arc, I dont know where I wouldve been, said Chakeeta. As it is now, its perfect. Im pretty settled and if I need something, my friends are there.

If youd like to support the programs and services of the Arc, and the people who strive to live, work, and play in their community, make a donation today!