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LETTER: ARC Industries parent says the service needs to stay

The parent of an ARC Industries client says the day program was an essential part of her daughter's life
Photo by jules a. on Unsplash

GuelphToday received the following letter form Deloris Yaskowich, whose daughter has long used the day program at ARC Industries.

Dear editor:

The plan to permanently close the doors of ARC Industries and change the day services structure is a huge error. I know many families in our community will agree. I am sickened, disappointed, saddened and angry that the day programs are now in isolation and unplanned.

Granted, the day programs have been closed since March 16th because of the pandemic. The people have been home with parents or caregivers, in group homes or their own apartments, biding their time until the COVID crisis is over and they could resume their regular routines of going to ARC to see their friends and interact with their peers. This is their community.

I am told that part of the reason for closing the central Guelph ARC building is because CLGW wants to ensure that the clients are not “segregated” from society, but fully integrated into the community. But why does ARC need to close? The ARC programs are no more segregated than the Italian Canadian Club, the German Canadian Club, and the Evergreen Senior Center.

During the past eight months, the people who regularly access the services at ARC have missed the structure and the purpose that ARC gives them. It was a hub of their community, a destination each day where they were welcomed, safe, productive, and surrounded by their friends and co-workers. Permanently closing the doors of ARC will only continue the isolation that they have experienced over the past 8 months.

When the contracts and work components of ARC were terminated in 2017, we were given firm assurances that ARC would continue to be there for our people for group activities, like friendship club, sports, sing-alongs, exercise in the gym, and volunteerism such as making milk bag sleeping mats for developing countries (Note – this also kept thousands of plastic milk bags out of the land-fill!) Our team of individuals also helped to clean parks and walk dogs at the Humane Society.

The plan to close the day programs at ARC is a betrayal. We were promised one thing, and now it is to be changed. The proposed plan takes away the day-to-day contact with their peers and friends upon whom our children depend.

The annual fund-raising fashion show gave them the chance to learn modeling - walking down the runway certainly built self-confidence. Their love of music was enhanced by the musical productions they put on, such as Mamma Mia, Mary Poppins and Grease. The annual ARC Christmas dinner, a highlight of their year, is also to be cancelled.

I think you will agree that ARC plays an important role in the lives of the clients. They need it, the families need it, and the community of Guelph needs it. Furthermore, since 2017, the denial of admissions of recent graduates from high school has been devastating! Some parents have had to quit their jobs to care for their children once they leave the school environment. Parents have been left to cope with their children, seeking meaningful and safe daily activities, without the benefit of ARC industries.

The so-called “strategic plan,” recently released, is an utter travesty of justice, being forced on parents and caregivers, without recourse. If it is a “cost saving effort” on the part of the provincial government, it is being done on the backs of the most vulnerable of our community, who are unable to even protest.

I urge CLGW to continue the day programs at ARC and ADPS, individualize the programs, yes, but keep the ARC building open to allow their community to flourish.

Deloris Yaskowich

90 years old, mother of Margaret who has been at ARC for 33 years