“Traveling this journey together”:
11 years of membership at The Arc Prince George’s County
TjaMeika Davenport, a mother of three, parent advocate, and member of The Arc Prince George’s County, recently sat down with us to share her membership experience.
“I was attending a community meeting at The Arc [Administrative Office] and attendees were encouraged to become members of The Arc” says Ms. Davenport, whose daughter was an infant at the time. She connected with The Arc’s Membership & Outreach Coordinator Melonee Clark to learn about the benefits of membership.
What would you say has been the biggest membership benefit for you and your family?
“The importance of connecting with other families can’t be overstated; membership at The Arc gave us the opportunity to meet other families who are walking the same path. We’re traveling this journey together and our common ground is that we are caring for a loved one with a disability. Through membership we can connect with people we may never have met in our social circles, our civic groups, sororities, or churches. We not only encourage each other in difficulties, but we deepen our knowledge and ability to support our loved one.”
I’ve learned from other families about successes and challenges and it has helped me see the big picture for my child’s life. At workshops, there are often families at various life stages, supporting their teenager, or their spouse, or parent. The Arc cares for the whole person and we can stay connected with each other and build those lasting relationships for us as caregivers, as well as our loved ones.
Are there things you’ve learned through membership that have made an impact on your family?
“I’ve learned so many things, including pacing myself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve also learned from hearing and seeing other families I’ve connected with, that self-care is important, serious business. Our loved ones need us to be here.
In my early membership days The Arc facilitated a Parent Training that I attended. At the time I was an at-home mom, and when my daughter reached school age, I used what I’d learned in that workshop to make a career change. I was able to become a Parent Navigator at Children’s Hospital, thanks in part to the training I received through membership at The Arc.
I also learned that effective advocacy never ends, and that you don’t have to feel political to have a conversation with your representative about what your family needs. It is important to connect with our legislators, know their names, and make sure our voice is included.
Membership also provides us the opportunity to deepen our knowledge. The Arc is the first place I turn to for resources because there are so many free-to-members workshops and trainings on various topics throughout a person’s life span. I purposed early in my child’s life to get started early. Membership has introduced me to additional resources and I’ve been able to get on listservs and learn about transitioning to adult services, employment, etc. When it is time to re-engage as my daughter reaches those milestones in life we will have a base to start from.”
What advice would you give families who are just starting out?
“Well, first I would say Membership, Membership, Membership! It isn’t cost prohibitive for an individual or a family, and there are so many benefits. I continue to be a member because learning is life-long, no matter what age, gender, or ability, there is something to learn that can benefit your loved one. Not only are we learning as a family, but we are connected with people who genuinely care about us. There are people who ask about my child and how she is doing, they celebrate with her and we support each other. That’s invaluable.
Special thanks to the Davenport Family for their time and testimony. We are thrilled to be connected and supported by such wonderful families.
If you are interested in learning more about Membership at The Arc visit www.thearcofpgc.org/membership or contact Outreach & Membership Coordinator Melonee Clark at 301-925-7050