More than 150 members of the Northeast Arc community gathered at the Center for Linking Lives at Liberty Tree Mall on March 22 to celebrate the conclusion of the Campaign for Linking Lives. The three-year campaign raised more than $3.2 million to support the innovative and inclusive space that is home to all of Northeast Arc’s community-facing programs for people with disabilities or autism.
During a short ceremony, Josh Kraft, president of the New England Patriots Foundation, said the Center is a perfect representation of the impact Northeast Arc has on individuals with disabilities and their families.
“Northeast Arc has been serving our communities for nearly 70 years now, and the Center is really the heart and soul of their efforts,” said Kraft. “This is a place that not only promotes inclusion, but also gives hope and support to families.”
Jo Ann Simons, president and CEO of Northeast Arc, recognized the donors who helped make the Center a reality, noting the unique challenge of building the Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I want to recognize and thank our Campaign Committee who stuck by us when we decided to move forward with this project during the height of a global pandemic and financial uncertainty,” said Simons. “It was this committee, and all of you – our donors, supporters and staff that reaffirmed that this project was too important to wait.”
Campaign co-chairs Ralph James and Darcy Immerman spoke about the Center as an innovative model for the delivery of disability services.
“The Center is notable because of how Northeast Arc repurposed community space that was not being well used,” said Immerman. “Nowhere else in the country has a nonprofit organization had the creativity and drive to reimagine a vacant retail location during the height of a pandemic as a purpose-built community center that creates opportunities for people in their everyday lives.”
“I’ve known about Northeast Arc for a while, and they have a tradition of innovation and also execution – getting stuff done,” added James. “To see that they’ve taken something that was just an idea three years ago and turned it into this space with great impact and power is incredible.”
Attendees, including Northeast Arc participants, donors, staff, and local elected officials, had the chance to tour the Center and learn about the services delivered across more than 26,000 square feet of revitalized retail space. Members of NeArc’s Young Adult Leadership Training program served as tour guides, speaking about programs such as residential services, family support centers, Health Matters, assistive technology, day programs, supported employment, and recreation.
Attendees also visited parcels, Northeast Arc’s unique store selling products made by, or sold through companies owned by, people with disabilities or autism. The store represents more than 100 individual artists and social enterprises from around the globe, celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit of people who are launching innovative endeavors to create new employment pathways.
Today, the Center for Linking Lives supports hundreds of individuals each day. A main benefit is that it’s a centralized convening space for those supported by Northeast Arc. The Center’s location on public transportation routes and ample free parking help make NeArc’s programs more accessible than ever to the communities they serve.
The Center is designed as a space where individuals with autism or disabilities can live fully inclusive lives alongside their peers. Jackson Skane, a 17-year-old with autism, spoke about his experiences receiving services from the Northeast Arc starting at age 3. Today, Jackson is a student at Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School where he studies dental assisting.
“The Arc was a place where I felt I belonged. It had kids who had similar needs as me and it felt like a safe place. The activities helped me be able to learn how to communicate with others,” said Skane. “If I didn’t have the Arc as a guide in my journey, it would have been harder for me, and I might not have grown as much as I did.”
Major contributors to the Campaign for Linking Lives included the Ardis and Robert James Foundation, Janice and Ralph James, Steven P. Rosenthal, RoAnn Costin, the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, the Eastern Bank Foundation, the English Family, the Kraft Family Foundation, PLAN of MA & RI, the Yawkey Foundation, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Click here to see more photos from the event.