Rachel Baker is the development coordinator at The Arc of Midland, a nonprofit organization that promotes the general welfare of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Baker has been with The Arc of Midland since 2016, joining the staff officially after doing her fieldwork with the organization and obtaining her degree in social work. We caught up with Baker to discuss her work with the organization and how Midland can better help individuals with disabilities.
Q: Rachel, can you please tell us about what you do at The Arc of Midland?
A: Yes, absolutely. I began my position as the Development Coordinator at The Arc of Midland in May 2017. In my position, I assist the organization with member communications, marketing programs, event coordination, community outreach and sharing the stories and messaging of The Arc.
Q: That sounds very rewarding! What kind of activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
A: I would say I live a well-balanced life of an adventurer and homebody. While I do enjoy a low-key night in with friends, you can also find me at the local Roll Arena playing roller derby as a Chemical City Derby Girl. I am proud to be a member of Midland Civitan Club and Young Leaders United and I always enjoy the opportunities to serve in our community!
Q: Since starting your role with The Arc, has your perception of Midland shifted at all?
A: My perception of the Midland community has shifted significantly since I began my work at The Arc. I am originally from Standish, a small town that built my foundation around the meaning of community. My expectations were high when I made the move to Midland and in this role, they were entirely surpassed. The amount of people willing to support our mission is overwhelming at times and makes me very proud to be a part of this community.
Q: When it comes to accessibility and embracing individuals with special needs, how can community members be more caring and helpful?
A: Focusing on the value of each person has to come first. This is tied to the language we use. There is no doubt that the language we use to refer to people with disabilities shapes our beliefs and ideas about each person. Our words are more powerful than I think we realize, especially through social media.
Using People-First Language emphasizes the person, not the disability. When we place the person first, the disability is no longer the main, defining characteristic of an individual, but one of several characteristics of the whole person. My hope is that People-First Language will eventually become a standard for everyone to use.
Q: What is your favorite part of working for The Arc?
A: My favorite part of working for The Arc is every aspect of my job itself! I love that The Arc staff works endlessly and diligently alongside the people we serve to ensure they live an inclusive and fulfilled life in the community.
Q: What sort of volunteer needs does The Arc have?
A: Well, the Arc can always use volunteers! We have volunteer needs year-round, especially at our events. Currently, we are looking for volunteers to help at our iCan Bike-Midland which will be taking place May 6-10 at the Midland EV Free Church. This event is a rewarding week not only for the riders, but also the volunteers as they assist and encourage the riders to achieve their goal. If you are interested in signing up for a shift you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Do you have anything else you would like to share in regards to advocacy for the work of The Arc of Midland?
A: I want to add the importance of understanding the Direct Support Professional crisis that is occurring not only in our city, but our nation. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on Direct Support Professionals for daily help that enables them to live in their own community. The direct support workforce is one of the highest in demand in our country with an average wage of only $10.72 per hour.
Low wages, minimal benefits, inadequate training and limited career advancement opportunities have led us to this crisis. We must work together to seek solutions and advocate for positive changes in the direct support workforce.