At the St. Louis Arc, the programs and services offered are designed to maximize choice and support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in building quality lives within the community. For Frank, who receives Arc residential support in his home, this focus on choice has provided an opportunity to build a connection within his community. Frank has found a community activity with welcoming members, a calming activity, and a place to be himself.
Finding the Right Activity
Roughly five years ago, Frank was trying out various activities in the community with the support of an Arc residential staff member. They would attend different community activities as a way to get out of the house and engage in new ways. Frank’s love of coffee brought about the suggestion to attend Coloring and Coffee at a local library. The free, casual event provided coloring pages, supplies, and refreshments to adults looking for a creative outlet. “From day one, people were super friendly,” shared an Arc staff member. “Frank went in, sat at a table, and told me I could go explore the library.”
Frank began attending the event regularly, and the other community members were excited for him to return. They talked while they colored and shared the same creative interest. “I love going there,” said Frank, “I get to meet different people.”
In 2020, when the pandemic hit, the program was halted, and Frank stopped attending. Since then, the library has updated the event, no longer providing refreshments for safety reasons but still providing a space for coloring. While coffee may have attracted Frank to the event in the beginning, it is the activity and the people that have him returning. Frank shares that this program is “a way to relax, and it calms me down.”
Continuing the Connection
When Frank recently returned to the program, he grabbed his karaoke microphone before leaving the house. A staff member mentioned that maybe singing at a coloring event wasn’t the best choice, but Frank responded, “no they’re gonna love it.” When Frank walked into the library, everyone shouted out, “Frank, you’re back!” The leader of the group turned on some music and asked Frank if he was ready to sing.
When returning to the program, Arc staff observed a room full of people’s faces lighting up as Frank came around the corner. Members asked Frank about his life, what he’d been up to, and how his roommates were. There was no magic formula; the group just organically was able to build a connection. Frank shared that he sees the same people each time he attends and “they just talk to me.” Building connections are sometimes just that easy.