The mission of The ARC of San Francisco is to serve people with developmental disabilities, individuals with similar needs, and their families by providing access to a full range of services that advance self-determination, dignity and quality of life.
The ARC of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA 94103
Check out The ARC of San Francisco’s opportunities on VolunteerMatch.
By Carol M. Karimi
If you ask Stacy Trager how she found her way to working with developmentally disabled adults at the ARC of San Francisco, she'll tell you it was both family values and an experience or two that reminded her what was truly important.
Growing up with a doctor father and a teacher mother, Trager was always encouraged to give back – which translated into lots of volunteering. Her parents, first generation Americans, taught her a simple but powerful concept: Everything that we do effects other people; none of us are isolated. And she learned about tzedakah, the Jewish tradition of charity and social justice.
But the path to meaning and purpose wasn't always clear. "I always saw how important it was to give back, but I had no idea where I was going," she explained.
After college, Trager was living in Michigan trying to figure out what to do next. There was a woman she knew with whom she'd sit for hours, talking about her life, goals and what responsibilities – if any – we share to other people. And time passed.
A few years later, Trager reconnected with the woman. This time her friend thanked her.
"She told me that our conversations had a big impact on her," recalled Trager. "I was so surprised."
She got another lesson in a very direct way when her aunt became ill with lung cancer. The family asked Trager if she could spend part of each week caring for her, and the two became very close.
The relationship left such a deep impact that when Trager moved to San Francisco she looked for jobs as a caregiver. She was hired as one of The ARC of San Francisco's one-to-one instructors in their Seniors program and 18 months later was promoted to educational services manager for chapter's Skills program.
The ARC, part of a national nonprofit, serves adults with developmental disabilities and their families by offering assistance with day-to-day needs like housing and employment. The organization believes its clients deserve dignity, value and a good quality of life – and helping them to live independently is its chief goal.
In her new role, one of Trager's biggest responsibilities is recruiting her own volunteers.
"Volunteers play a supporting role to our staff. I try to find people with a specialty or niche… and pair them up with the right program and clients," she said. "VolunteerMatch has brought so much to my program in so many areas. I've gotten really good quality people."
After she became a manager, she made a real effort to energize the classroom with volunteers who could teach or share something with the clients in areas like art, jewelry design or other craft and hobby areas. Some of the ARC’s clients participate in a program whereby their artwork is exhibited locally and sold with proceeds coming back to the artist and the school.
In fact, one of her proudest accomplishments was a play she helped produce with some 40 client actors and ten volunteers.
"Seeing the actors smile and take their final bow will stay with me forever," she said.
The truth is, we can all use a little tzedakah in our lives – and there are many talented individuals looking for a chance to give back. Why not help them find it at your nonprofit’s volunteer program? Update your listings!