The Arc of Western Wayne County was founded by parents
in 1954 as the Western Wayne Association for Retarded Children. Almost no educational, employment or recreational opportunities
were available in the late 1950’s for people with mental retardation living in southwestern Wayne County, and families were commonly encouraged to institutionalize their children.
Small groups of parents chose to seek alternative solutions for their children, and began to band together with other parents across the state of Michigan with a common goal and commitment to “promote the general welfare of people with mental retardation.”
In the beginning, The Arc of Western Wayne County chose to channel its efforts to meeting the immediate needs through direct service.
In 1954, a Day Care Center for children with mental and physical disabilities was started. This program remained in existence until September of 1971 when, after much political involvement and lobbying by parents, Michigan Public Act 198 was passed. Under this act, the local and intermediate school districts were mandated to establish classes for all students with disabilities under the age of twenty-five. The Arc was able to phase out the Day Care Center at this time.
In 1964, a Work Activity Center for adults with developmental disabilities opened its doors and was operated by The Arc until September of 1973. The Arcs in Wayne County coalesced to create a separate agency, The Wayne County Associations for the Retarded, now Services to Enhance Potential, to operate the work activity programs.
Today, as we continue to keep in step with the social and political climate, our mission has not wavered. We realize that the success
of our founders was their simplicity. Their mission remains close to our hearts, grounded in values and beliefs that demand a better life for children and adults with disabilities.
The Arc of Western Wayne County Staff
Cheryl S. Polite
Diann Geran Dudash
Directory of Advocacy
Diann holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education from Eastern Michigan University. She has over 20 years of experience working for people with disabilities with a focus on facilitating Person Centered Plans. Diann provides information, referral and direct advocacy to people with disabilities in Western Wayne County. She manages the After I’m Gone project and the Take Charge Helpline. She also acts as Supports Coordinator for three families in Oakland County.
Darlene Heard Thomas
Darlene has been our Community Advocate since 2002. Her experience working with people with disabilities is personal,
as she has navigated systems and advocated on behalf of her 18-year old daughter, who has cerebral palsy. Darlene has worked continuously to help people with disabilities to be included in the community and to be able to have active, productive lives. Darlene feels, "this work truly is my passion
and my mission."
Christy Jane Courtney
A graduate of Adrian College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology, Christy has spent many years working with people with disabilities. She has been in her current role since 2007 helping people navigate the Social Security, Medicaid and Mental Health systems. She also acts as Supports Coordinator for several families in Oakland County and is heading up a new People First Network here at The Arc.
Aishah heads up Administrative Services. She joined the
team in 2005. In addition to acting as personal assistant to the
Executive Director, Aishah also works closely with the Fiscal Intermediary program and manages membership at The Arc. Aishah is working towards her Associate Degree in Business Administration at Oakland Community College.
Kristine holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Education. After working in teaching and business administration, she took time off to raise a family. Kristine became part of The Arc family in 2005. Kristine maintains accounts payables and accounts receivables for our consumers and is responsible for calculating and verifying monthly staffing invoices. Kristine is also responsible for federal tax payments and state withholding,
and she files the mandatory quarterly reports to the state and federal government.
Thanks to the efforts of The Arc and other advocacy organizations, people with disabilities are now an accepted, active part of their communities. Whether it’s a question about I.E.P.’s, training local safety personnel about the special needs of people with disabilities, or meeting with local, state or federal legislators, The Arc has always faced every challenge and will continue to do so
Therapeutic Program Supervisor
Westland Therapeutic Recreation Program