People around the Arc are used to hearing the phrase “a lifetime of support,” but what does that really mean?
As a staff member, I know the St. Louis Arc’s high-quality supports and services exist because of an uncompromising commitment to equipping people for their best possible lives. Friendships, relationships, and community belonging are critical aspects of this commitment, if not the most universally valued definition of quality of life. Our lifetime of support is steeped in this philosophy – through relationships, we make a difference in each other’s lives in ways we may never have anticipated.
I got to experience the lifetime of support through the eyes of a wonderful young man – Alex Ott.
I recently had the opportunity and honor to spend quality time getting to know him as an advocate and supporter of the St. Louis Arc. Alex is not only a St. Louis Arc participant; he is also a St. Louis Arc employee and now a new friend. The Arc introduced Alex to our donors and supporters at the end of 2016 by sharing his story. I can think of no better way to define our lifetime of support than by bringing you up to speed on where Alex is now.
As some may know, Alex’s early years didn’t appear promising. He was born with a disorder that drastically weakened his facial muscles. Doctors encouraged his parents to put him on a feeding tube which meant he would not be able to eat traditionally, and he would not be able to speak. Fortunately, Alex and his family were connected with Belle Children’s Services which offered therapeutic support when he needed it the most. Those services helped Alex to eat, to speak and to become the independent young man he is today. Twenty-three years later we are proud to work alongside Alex, to promote inclusion and advocacy, and to strengthen the St. Louis community toward equal access to healthcare, education, and cultural/social/recreational opportunities.
A member of the Arc Advantage
Earlier this year, St. Louis Arc hired Alex to work the front desk of our Warson center. Throughout the week, he greets people warmly, directs and assists as needed, and will tell you firsthand how much he enjoys working on the front lines. It is his passion to help others. Shortly after he accepted the position, Alex let me know that he wanted to support St. Louis Arc’s advocacy efforts in any way he could. I asked if he would like to help make presentation to our community partners from time to time. The answer was an immediate, “yes.”
Alex’s support takes shape in his favorite activity – public speaking. While many of us shy away from the opportunity to stand before audiences and tell our stories, not Alex. He excels in public speaking, navigating networking events, presenting to corporate committees, and sharing his story with everyone who will listen. I have been in the development field for nearly 20 years and I am learning a great deal from this young man.
The first time I heard him present he posed a challenge to those in the room, “I am not so different from all of you,” he said. “Is anyone else here bad at math?” He tells us the story of a person who is good at some things and not so good at others. He shows us that St. Louis Arc’s lifetime of support is a two-way street grounded in a mutually beneficial relationship. Alex has presented to Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard, the Bussmann Gives Back Committee and at a variety of events where his networking skills are evident. He has also personally thanked our donors because he believes in St. Louis Arc as much as we do.
At the end of the day what we do at the St. Louis Arc, through a lifetime of support, is more than a series of generally accepted services. We are working to create a community where people of all abilities learn and grow together. That impact can be felt whether you are a participant, a staff member, a community partner or a financial supporter. Every day Alex reminds me of one thing – we’re in this together, and together we’re making a difference.
—This week’s blog post is from Jennifer Adams, Director of Development, St. Louis Arc