Beginning today, Greater Richmond ARC is officially SOAR365.
“It has become clear that we need a name as big as our aspirations,” said John Walker, president and CEO of the organization providing pediatric therapies; children, youth and adult programs; and employment services for more than 1,300 people with disabilities annually.
The new moniker fully reflects “the potential we see in our clients. We believe with the right opportunities and support, they can soar every day,” he said.
Founded by families in 1954, the organization began doing business as the Greater Richmond ARC years ago, but retained its legal name, the Richmond Area Association for Retarded Citizens, with language that in today’s world is considered offensive.
“We wanted to spend less time explaining our outdated name and more time talking about the great things we are doing,” said Walker. Feedback from the nonprofit’s staff, families, board members and community partners also suggested it was time for a change.
“Our new name is one of which we can be proud. SOAR365 reflects who we are today, the potential we see in our clients, and families, and the value we place on their dignity,” he continued.
SOAR365’s logo includes a colorful origami crane, a bird symbolizing long life, happiness, and peace. Origami is the art of transforming a sheet of paper into a beautiful finished sculpture, and synchs nicely with organization’s mission to provide life-fulfilling opportunities. A new website (SOAR365.org) and animated video explaining the name change also debuts today.
“SOAR365 personifies how we provide unique solutions to help each person succeed and, yes, fly,” Walker said, recounting some examples of clients’ small, but mighty accomplishments: a teen attending SOAR365 who now selects and irons her school clothes; a nine-year-old who at first could barely hold a pencil but now writes his name; and a man who lost his hand to illness but found a new career in the nonprofit’s Business Solutions program, where he has been promoted multiple times.
“We provide a wide range of services and an environment where people with disabilities can have fun, socialize, and learn new skills, which ultimately empowers them and extends into their lives well beyond our operating hours,” he added.
In addition to SOAR365, several of the nonprofit’s programs have been renamed to better communicate their breadth and type of services. For instance, Infant and Child Development Services is now Pediatric Therapy, and ARC Employment Services became SOAR365 Business Solutions.
“It’s not just about providing care,” Walker continued. “It is about providing a better way of life. We are looking for ways to provide programs that go beyond the status quo.”
“SOAR365 tells our constituents that our commitment never takes a day off,’’ said Walker, pointing to ways the organization goes “above and beyond” what’s expected: opening last year in Henrico at what was A Grace Place and averting a crisis for families who needed care when that facility suddenly closed; providing the only overnight summer camp and respite programs for children and adults with disabilities in Greater Richmond; and overseeing the year-round, all-inclusive ARCpark, now called PARK365.
“Our organization offers individuals with disabilities a variety of choices, safe environments, and a sense of community. For decades, we have stayed flexible so we can provide services that our clients and families truly want and need. SOAR365 will continue this ongoing mission,” he said.
“Our new name has not changed what we do. It simply better expresses who we are,” Walker said.
SOAR365 Facts at Your Fingertips
• Approximately 11.7 percent of Virginians have disabilities.*
• SOAR365 was founded in 1954 by parents of children with disabilities who reached out to other families through an ad in the local newspaper. One of our earliest supporters and a longtime Board member, the late Geraldine Story, was an advocate for the first public school special education class in the city of Richmond in 1959. Our Saunders Avenue conference room is dedicated to her.
• Among our 450 employees, more than 200 have a disability.
• Currently our youngest client is a newborn in our Pediatric Therapy program and our oldest is 79 years young and enrolled in Adult Day Support.
• Our programs are designed to meet the needs of families at every life stage. A child who attends Pediatric Therapy may benefit over the years from our Children and Youth program, respite and summer camps, or Adult Day Programs. He or she may even work at SOAR365 one day.
• 15% of the infants and children served in Pediatric Therapy have a non-English speaking background; we provide a Spanish-speaking interpreter at no cost to these families.
• Nationwide the employment rate for people with disabilities is only 20.5 percent, as compared to 68.3 percent for people without disabilities** so it is important that we are able to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to work and earn a paycheck:
• Every day, we provide custodial services for more than 120 buildings and over 2,000,000 square feet of space.
• We maintain over 800 acres of grounds maintenance for government and commercial customers daily.
• Each month, we clean over 700 miles of roads for a local municipality.
• We scan over 4,400,000 document pages annually.
• We assemble, pack and ship more than 620,000 electronic components for home security systems manufacturers every year.
• Over the past year, we packed and shipped more than 91,000 packages of Fatwood for Plow & Hearth.
• SOAR365 also provides a wide range of weekly activities in our human service programs, including art and music; training in safety, money management, shopping and personal hygiene; meal preparation and cooking; exercise; recycling, and volunteering in the community for FeedMore’s Meals on Wheels and the YMCA.
• Weekly woodworking classes at our Saunders location may offer some of our clients their first chance ever to swing a hammer; exciting stuff.
• SOAR365 has been featured over the past year in two museums. The Virginia Museum of History & Culture sponsored a photo exhibit including Efren Calata, who overcame a physical disability and is now part of SOAR365’s Business Solutions, and the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design spotlighted PARK365 and its award-winning design.