The United Arc Hosts Annual Coffee & Conversation Event
TURNERS FALLS — On Feb. 23, the United Arc held its annual Coffee & Conversation event, an opportunity for legislators in Western Mass. to hear the stories of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
This year, the Coffee & Conversation event brought together experiences in seeking full community inclusion, from the joys of work to struggles against bullying and for full access to education, to the process of gaining acceptance at school and extracurricular activities.
One of the speakers was Tonya Lanpher, parent of a child with autism and a family support specialist at the United Arc. “I think the hardest thing is that people just don’t understand,” she said. “If we can help people understand, then we can create full community inclusion. People don’t understand each other if they don’t spend time together. That’s why full community inclusion is so important.”
Event attendees included U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern; state Sen. Stan Rosenberg; state Reps. Steve Kulik and Solomon Goldstein-Rose; Jon Gould, aide to state Sen. Adam Hinds, and Chris Cappucci, research director for state Rep. Paul Mark. They shared their thoughts on full community inclusion and the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The event was co-sponsored by the Greater Athol Area Advocates for Families with Special Needs, and First Light Power Resources was a supporting sponsor. Other sponsors included 2nd Street Baking Co., Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, and Greenfield Savings Bank. John Howland, CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank, and Linda Ackerman, assistant vice president and branch manager of the Greenfield Savings Bank Turners Falls branch, were also in attendance.
Founded in 1951, the United Arc provides services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, and Worcester counties, helping them achieve the universal goals of inclusion, choice, and independence.