During the holiday season, we celebrate all that allows us to live a good life. For so many of the families that we serve, like Melanie, this is knowing that their loved one with an intellectual and developmental difference is living a full and independent life.

As a child, Melanie watched her older brother, Jon Paul, have negative experiences in institutions and group homes. This prompted their mother, Jackie, to became an early advocate for deinstitutionalization and to work tirelessly to see institutions closed in Florida and better services for those with differences. Jackie then got Jon Paul involved with The Arc Jacksonville and he has now been attending our programs for over 30 years.

As a young adult, Jon Paul met Dale at an event for people with differences and the two quickly became good friends. Dale had lived in institutions and group homes since he was six months old, and when the home he was living in closed, he had no other housing. Jackie offered her home to Dale and eventually became his guardian. He has been a part of the family ever since.

After Jackie’s passing in 2018, Melanie became both Dale and Jon Paul’s guardian.

I can’t think of a part of my mom’s life or mine that The Arc didn’t help with; from guardianship, housing, day programs, employment and learning opportunities, to just getting out into the community.

I can sleep at night with Dale and Jon Paul at The Arc’s community homes. I don’t have to worry about them being taken care of.

Melanie, Dale and Jon Paul's Guardian

Today, Dale lives at our Kaden Place Community Home and Jon Paul resides at our Bert Road Community Home. They spend their weeks participating in our day programs, where they interact with friends, go on outings in the community, and engage in classes and activities. They both look forward to spending weekends visiting with Melanie and each other.

Looking ahead to 2023, we pledge to continue to help more individuals, like Dale and Jon Paul, experience inclusion, empowerment, and quality options on how they live, learn, work, and play.

Our programs exist because of the support of people who share our vision, like you. Together, we will continue to ensure bright futures for those with differences and their families.