By: Kim Dodson—
A year ago this week The Arc of Indiana opened its doors in the Muncie community for the first of its kind Training Institute and Teaching Hotel. We have had a year of wonderful success and memories and want to take a moment to thank all of the Muncie community for their support, patronage and vision in making our dream a reality.
When we started on this path in the winter of 2011, we were not sure who all of our partners would be and what our end project would look like. We started with the dream of a father who wanted more for his young son after high school. Jeff and Jan Steck Huffman planted their idea of training people with disabilities in hospitality services with The Arc of Indiana, knowing we had the vision, relationships and tenacity to do something with it. The Arc under the leadership of John Dickerson, then Executive Director, and our Board of Directors tasked myself and Jill Vaught, Executive Director of The Arc of Indiana Foundation, to deliver a business plan that would lead to success.
We set out on a path to learn why this had never been done before. We knew people with disabilities were working in the hotel sector. We knew there were some hotel brands wanting to hire people with disabilities. Why were we not seeing long term success and seeing our unemployment numbers for people with disabilities drop? Time and time again we heard about the importance of choosing the right partners. Choosing people who believed in the goals of the project, not just people who were expert in their fields. Once we embraced the importance of our partners and created OUR vision, the rest simply fell into place, though not as easily as that sounds.
The one partner that made sense to us from the very beginning was Mayor Dennis Tyler and the Muncie community. Once we met for that first time, I think Mayor Tyler saw the possibilities for his community even clearer than we did. Joann McKinney, President and CEO of the Horizon Convention Center and Vicki Veach, Executive Director of the Muncie Downtown Development Partnership, were diligent about answering our questions and leading us to the right people to make connections and convince us that Muncie was the spot to be.
The downtown community as a whole, especially the Chamber of Commerce, the Visitor’s Bureau and certainly the City Council and EDIT Board, all deserve a heartfelt thank you in embracing this project and taking a bold leap in creating opportunities for your community.
We also could not have done it without the generosity of the Ball Brothers Foundation, the Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Foundation and the Shafer Foundation. Their belief in our project launched our capital campaign.
As far as success. Yes we have seen it. We have had 38 graduates from the Erskine Green Training Institute. We have nearly 40 already signed up for classes in 2017. Graduates are getting jobs, moving out on their own and gaining the independence we dreamed of. We have seen an increase in business for the Horizon Convention Center and the hotel is performing above originally projected budget. The restaurant is gaining ground and we are hoping for a fantastic 2017.
We wanted to take this time to thank the entire Muncie community, especially Mayor Dennis Tyler. Without your partnership and leadership we would not have had the success we have enjoyed in 2016. We wish everyone a very happy and safe holiday season and look forward to a working with you in making 2017 a wonderful year for the community.
Kim Dodson is Executive Director, The Arc of Indiana
Related articles on Muncie Journal from 2015 and more.