The Point Arc & Zembrodt Education Center
My name is Jennifer Wells, and I am the VP of The Point Arc’s Zembrodt Education Center. I’m sharing this story on behalf of The Point Arc, a chapter of the national Arc. The Point was founded in 1972 by a group of parents fighting for the educational rights of their children, who were diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our mission is to help people with disabilities achieve their highest potential educationally, residentially, socially, and vocationally. More than this, The Point has always been an organization that identifies gaps in services and provides care and support to fill those gaps, even when funds are low.
Initially, this meant keeping people with disabilities out of institutions, and creating residential homes as alternatives. Six years ago, it meant creating a social communication program for children, teens, and adults with autism who were falling through the cracks because their IQ’s were too high for academic support or waivers, although they desperately needed help with communicating with others at school, home, and work. There are so many examples of the way we achieve our mission and vision and address unmet needs in our community.
Zembrodt Education Center
One of the most recent examples of filling in the gaps is the creation of the Zembrodt Education Center, located in Covington, KY and serving families from the Greater Cincinnati area. We served over 400 people in 2019 through the programs now offered under the umbrella of the center, and our goal is still to serve over 1,000 in 2020.
The center was created in order to grow existing programs and offer new support and connection to address additional needs for children, teens, and adults with disabilities, their families, and community partners. From the very beginning, we have been in conversation with anyone willing to talk to us (parents, students, counselors, teachers, other non-profits, etc.) about unmet needs and possible collaborations so that the center is a place created for the community, with the community.
We had our ribbon cutting last Wednesday after months of delays. It seems unbelievable that this took place just one week ago. We were so excited and hopeful about the new space and opportunities the center would allow us to share with families and the community at large. We’d been holding our education based classes for teens, adults, and caregivers in the small conference room of our oldest building and our coffee shop across the street, and other offerings in our existing offices. We were ready to launch additional programming for children, teens, and adults with disabilities, their caregivers, and professionals in the field. All of this was based on listening to families, participants, and others for more than three years about what was missing in our community (e.g., social skill building for people with autism, decreasing social isolation for people and families, having one place for families and others to get information that would help them support their loved ones and clients with disabilities, creating an inclusive community). We were scheduled to collaborate with The Calm Mind Foundation and Sage Yoga, which sit down the street from us, to bring accessible yoga, mindfulness practices, and self-care to children, teens, adults, and caregivers. We had plans for collaboration with the Covington Farmers Market, allowing teens and adults with disabilities to learn more about farming, food, and volunteering. We planned collaborations with Melodic Connections and Visionaries + Voices to bring music and art into the new space while supporting local artists. Our high school students were ready to learn about landscaping with Spring Grove Cemetery. 16 parents and 11 students in our social communication class (PEERS) were looking forward to being in a new, accessible classroom and continuing to learn how to make friends and navigate the world socially. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was scheduled to hold a parent workshop in the new space, and sponsorships were coming in for our first 5K event, scheduled for April 25th. The Down Syndrome Society of Greater Cincinnati was scheduled to tour the center with parents and students from the northern KY area. The new center, housed in the Covington community, would provide the space needed for all of this and more.
Today, I am writing you from an empty center. Most staff members are working from home. Everything has come to a stop, including revenue to help us pay bills connected to staffing and operations, our ability to hold our fundraising events, classes, programs, support, and collaborations.
Even if we could offer services at this time, at least 95% of the people we support don’t qualify for waivers or are unable to get them because the waitlists are years long. Again, The Point has always done what was needed, even when it didn’t necessary mean a steady funding stream things like waivers can provide. We need help more than ever to keep our doors open so that when we can finally, truly open this space, we will be ready for our families and our community.
The Point has four social enterprises that help to employee people with and without disabilities and provide some limited funding for our programs. These include our commercial laundry, which is closely tied to local hotels, our coffeehouse (Point Perk), a logo and design company, and a cleaning company. All of these businesses are struggling to stay open because they are connected to so many areas that are being hit hard by this pandemic. So, we’re trying to figure out how to keep people employed and keep doors open, while losing income that could help fund programming and overhead.
The Point provides 11 homes for 46 people with disabilities in the northern KY area. Of those 46 individuals, 27 are medically fragile. We have had to combine homes to manage the pandemic, with seven individuals being invited home with families who can support them for one to two weeks.
Loss of Income – Because seven people have gone home with families, we are losing revenue that helps keep the homes running, with a loss of $1, 190 per day.
24/7 Staffing – Because day programs are closing, there are no breaks in care at the residential homes, so staff must be available 24/7. Most programs can postpone or close. This is not an option for us. We are the last resort, and we don’t close.
Supplies and Food – Trying to find supplies needed to keep homes sanitized protective equipment like gloves and masks is an issue. It is also becoming a struggle to get groceries.
Staffing – Staff are getting sick. If they have symptoms they can’t come to work. Because testing is slow right now, people are being quarantined from work until they get tested. Results are taking a week to two weeks.
Hiring Freeze – We’re on a hiring freeze because the places that do fingerprinting and national background checks are closed. So, not only are we losing staff to illness, we’re losing new staff.
We need help now and we will need help in the future. Thank you for caring enough to read our story.