All it takes is one visit to feel the love of a JARC home. Opening a world of possibilities and opportunities to those too often excluded, JARC continues to define and redefine what it means to live with a “disability” in a caring Jewish community.

Consider the Nusbaum Family Home — a spectacular new ranch in Farmington Hills. Talk about plenty of curb appeal (not to mention curbless entry), the house was custom-built ‘green’ by The Frankel Organization, LLC, from the ground up on a revitalized site where an outdated JARC group home was salvaged and literally recycled in 2009. A gift to the community from Barbara and Irving Nusbaum and their adult children, Arthur, Lori and Robert, the 3,200-square foot, four-bedroom home graciously accommodates the needs of the six women who now live there in dignity, each on their own level of independence, with the assistance of round-the-clock caregivers.

Barrier-free, a model of sustainability and efficiency, the Nusbaum home is a smart house with enviable amenities by any standards – subtle exterior ramping, geothermal HVAC, Energy-Star rated appliances, sleek bamboo flooring, wood composite decking, wheelchair access to showers and counter tops, extra-wide hallways and doorways. Given the vibrancy, humor, common purpose and individuality of the women who live there with the support of the JARC staff — the house is truly a happy home. And it is a Jewish home, where meals are kosher, Jewish holidays are observed, birthdays, mitzvahs and milestones are celebrated, and life goes on as in any other family.

Pictured above: the residents and staff of JARC’s Nusbaum Family Home in Farmington Hills, MI.

Though not a formal partner agency of Jewish Federation, JARC’s mission of inclusivity and advocacy closely aligns with many, including JVS, Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Senior Life and Federation’s Opening the Doors program, to name a few. What began 45 years ago as a “social club” of dedicated families raising children with disabilities has grown exponentially.

Today, JARC is nationally known for innovation in its field, leading the way to serve more than 200 adults in every aspect of living, 24/7 in 19 licensed group homes, as well as independent settings throughout Oakland County. Additionally, JARC provides support, community connections and advocacy for another 400 families raising children with disabilities living at home.

JARC is not a “program” that serves “clients.” JARC works just as a gentle, loving family would: to care for the people it serves, to address the needs, hopes and aspirations of each as an individual, and to plan for a secure future.

JARC . . . for a lifetime

“When a person comes to JARC, it’s for a lifetime,” explains Rick Loewenstein, Chief Executive Officer at JARC. “It’s not for a visit or episodic care or for a “cure.” People come to us to lead a full life — and for us that means a commitment for a lifetime. We serve families of all different means, and for those who can take the spectrum of care only so far, JARC fills the gap, providing services, regardless of ability to pay.”

“It’s an exciting time to be at JARC,” says Rick, “even so, our growing numbers can be daunting.” While JARC’s excellent services have improved the quality of life of those served, the agency is now increasingly challenged to meet the needs of residents as they age. Today, 61% of the individuals in JARC’s group homes and independent living services are over 50 years old and 13% are over the age of 70. Two people have been with the agency since it opened the doors of its first group home back in 1972. No one is counting, but in all likelihood, JARC holds the record in Michigan, and possibly in the country, for the oldest resident – at age 93.

A rising tide of community needs

With age comes multiple health issues, as is the case in all families. 50% of the adults under JARC’s care now face secondary impairments or illnesses such as diabetes, cancer or dementia, all requiring an unprecedented level of healthcare and staff training. JARC caregivers pass over a million medications a year to residents. Keeping doctors appointments in addition to social engagements and the busy calendars of residents, JARC vehicles now log over a million miles a year.

The need for JARC is growing on the other end of the spectrum, as well, particularly with the rising demand for services for children and adults with autism. “There’s an urgent need in the community to start planning for the future.” says Rena Friedberg, Chief Development Officer at JARC. “We are facing both the challenge and the opportunity to work with young people, starting at infancy, who are now entering the mental health system.”

Another growing segment of the JARC population is the middle. Young people living with their families are now coming of age and ready to leave home and move out on their own.

It takes a community

There is no single key that has unlocked the door to JARC’s phenomenal success, but certainly an essential factor has been its exemplary staff – 300 employees, each one with his or her own special gifts to nurture and care for members of the JARC family – as members of the family, themselves. “You fall in love,” says Rick. “It’s not a job, it’s a calling. No one is getting rich doing what they do, but the tenure of the staff is remarkable.” (50% of the employees have worked with JARC more than four years). JARC has been named a Top Work Place by The Detroit Free Press a number of times and listed among the “Best and Brightest” at least a dozen times.

Harold Folkoff
Thinking ahead to retirement after 36 years on staff at the Jewish Federation, Harold Folkoff plans to carry on his public speaking engagements with Toastmasters International as an advocate for people with disabilities. “You are never too old or too young to learn,” he says, “I want to continue my education.” Harold is a participant in JARC’S Independent Living Services program and the recipient of the Arc’s 2014 Sheldon Dunn Inspiration Award.

Add all the numbers together, and the total picture is still “really complicated” for JARC. With the influx of people served, funding is not necessarily keeping pace. Even as JARC’s direct support staff has increased 36% since 2004, the agency’s operational and technological resources have not been able to keep up with the breadth, depth and spectrum of services provided.

Reflecting on JARC’s achievement and the landscape ahead, Rick observes, “People’s abilities – and our limitations – are all just a part of life. Inclusion has been and always will be the core of our mission. We started as a family organization and we are all the stronger today because of our families and the thousands volunteers and supporters in our community who have embraced us and have been open and responsive to our changing needs. Because, when it all comes down to it, we all want the same things – to find our place in the world, to be part of a loving family and to live our lives to the fullest.”

JARC presents an exclusive, one-night performance with street magician and modern day Houdini, David Blaine. November 11, 2014 at the Max M Fisher Orchestra Hall. Click here to purchase tickets.