Creating Memorable Summer Vacations with The Arc

Jonathon and Mike sitting on the beach enjoying their summer vacation

The Arc is dedicated to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to live the lives they choose, and that includes empowering people to travel where and how they choose. With summer being a prime time for exploration and relaxation, people are enjoying making memories, from day trips to weekend getaways throughout the region.

Planning a trip can be a complex process as people research destinations, budget and manage money, and begin planning itineraries. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) provide support not just in planning the trips but also in empowering the people they support to make decisions and put their plans into action.

Planning the Perfect Getaway

Jonathan and Mike are close friends and roommates. In the Spring, Jonathan went on a cruise with his family. He had so much fun that when he returned, he and Mike immediately began planning a trip together for the summer.

With the support of their team, Helen and Joseph, Jonathan and Mike narrowed their destination to Ocean City, Md., and began researching everything the region had to offer. From local attractions to accommodations and dining options, Helen supported them in exploring it all. This thorough research helped Jonathan and Mike decide where they wanted to stay and what they wanted to do, ensuring the trip was exactly what they wanted.

Part of planning the perfect trip is thinking about finances and having a budget. Together, Jonathan, Mike, and their team discussed the costs of travel, lodging, meals, and entertainment. A sound budget ensured the trip was financially feasible and encouraged Jonathan and Mike to develop and practice essential money management skills.

Time to Getaway

Joseph joined Jonathan and Mike on their trip and ensured they accomplished their goals and had a great time. They both loved getting to spend time together, sharing a hotel room, spending time at the beach, and playing putt-putt golf. 

“Joseph and I are a great team. I help plan the logistics of the trip, and he joins the guys on their vacation and knows how to make it the most fun possible. Our intention is to help them make the most of whatever they want to do.” – Helen Ayomobi, Team Leader.

Empowerment Through Support

DSPs like Helen and Joseph play a key role in not just supporting people but empowering them. By guiding Jonathan and Mike through each step of the planning process, they were able to make their own choices and take control of their vacation.

Jonathan and Mike’s trip to Ocean City was a success, filled with joy and new experiences. Through a combination of careful planning and structured support, The Arc helped them create memories that will last a lifetime, all while fostering independence and confidence.

Wages Double for Direct Support Professionals in Seven Years

Direct Support Professional sitting at a table with a person he supports

Direct Support Professionals at The Arc went from making $9.88 per hour in 2017 to $20.00+ per hour in 2024.

Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, are the backbone of The Arc’s services. They provide the individualized and tailored support that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) need to live, work, and connect with their community. As DSPs support people to volunteer, connect with friends, manage daily living, and build their skills toward future employment, DSPs make mission-critical decisions every day that enrich the lives of the people they support and maintain The Arc’s reputation for innovative, high-quality services.

“When I began at The Arc in 2017, DSPs were making $9.88 per hour,” said Jonathon Rondeau, President & CEO. “It did not nearly reflect the importance of the work they do or the value they provide to the people they support, our organization, or the community. It has been my constant mission to increase wages for DSPs, and I am grateful to have had support from the board of directors and leadership every step of the way.” 

Since 2017, The Arc’s leadership has prioritized annual pay increases for DSPs. The most recent raise brought starting wages from $9.88 per hour to $20.00 per hour, officially doubling starting wages over the last seven years.

“I took a pay cut to come here. But I was willing to do that because of what I had heard about The Arc and that there was more opportunity here,” said Amber Banos, Community Coach. “And in the two years I’ve worked here I’ve had four pay raises. I love what I do, and I’m happy here.”

In addition to investing in regular wage increases for DSPs, Jonathon and The Arc’s leadership have advocated alongside the community to ensure increases in funding for home- and community-based service providers are reflected in the governor’s annual budget.

Investing in DSPs is about more than just an annual wage increase.

This recent wage increase comes after two additional pay increase incentives and initiatives for DSPs within the last 12 months: Weekend shift differentials for DSPs who work on weekends and the DSP Career Ladder program which offers pay increases aligned with professional development certifications.

“We have many DSPs who take advantage of our weekend differential rates and career ladder program, which allow for even greater wage mobility,” said Jonathon. “Officially doubling wages in seven years is an incredible accomplishment, but the other half of this story is how we invest in our employees – everything from their health and professional development to ensuring they have the tools and resources they need to do their work. Being a DSP is a career, and we want people to have the support they need to grow here.”

Working as a DSP is a long-term career with room for growth and advancement. The newly launched DSP Career ladder is one opportunity that provides professional development opportunities for DSPs to grow in their careers and earn more without having to leave the work they love. 

The effects of consistent, thoughtful investment in our employees is reflected in everything from The Arc’s recent Employee Satisfaction Survey to our vacancy rate. While national vacancy rates for DSP positions are still hovering around 44% (with Maryland averaging 26%), The Arc has maintained a vacancy rate of 10% or less over the last 12 months.

Work with us

Competitive pay is just one of the ways The Arc invests in employees while attracting and retaining top talent. As a result, DSPs are more likely to stay with The Arc long-term, reducing turnover and ensuring quality care for the people we support.  If you’d like to take your career to the next level and join a team constantly striving to do more for their employees, check out our Careers Page today! 

Celebrating Dedication: The Arc’s Annual Celebration Service Honors Longstanding Employees

Employees of The Arc sitting at tables under a tent for Celebration Service

“I came here because I needed a job out of school, and I’ve stayed because I love the people so much!”

At The Arc Central Chesapeake Region, we believe in the power of our people, and recognize that our incredible employees are who make everything we do possible. On Thursday, June 20, The Arc celebrated the dedication and commitment of employees who have been with the organization for five or more years with Celebration Service.

This celebration is a testament to the loyalty and longevity of our employees. This year, The Arc celebrated 115 people reaching this career milestone, the sheer number of which speaks to The Arc’s supportive and fulfilling work environment as well as their passion for The Arc’s mission, vision, and work in the community.

Celebration Service took place at our Severn office and was done in true Maryland style – with a celebratory crab feast. Guests arrived to freshly steamed crabs and shrimp served by senior leadership, showcasing their appreciation and dedication. Employees also enjoyed a full BBQ buffet, DJ, drinks, games, ice cream truck, and raffles.

“We have a diverse group of incredibly passionate professionals,” said Jonathon Rondeau, President & CEO of The Arc. “The fact that so many people are here after five years is a testament to their commitment to The Arc’s mission and vision as well as the resources and opportunities we pour into our employees.

This year, 115 people were celebrated as honorees at Celebration Service, which roughly equals 20% of our total workforce enterprise-wide. Of the 115 people recognized, 86 hold a role as a Direct Support Professional, and 21% of DSPs have stayed employed with The Arc for five years or longer, well above the industry average. Annually at Celebration Service, underscoring our reputation as an employer of choice for people seeking long-term career opportunities.

“I started as a Direct Support Professional, providing services for my brother-in-law. I’m still here after 26 years because I enjoy seeing the growth people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) achieve every day while in The Arc’s services, as well as the astronomical growth the organization has achieved over these last seven years.”

Angie, Director of Executive Operations

What motivates employees to stay with The Arc long-term? Our collective commitment to The Arc’s mission of empowering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is a powerful factor. Employees are deeply passionate about the work they do, knowing that their efforts directly impact people throughout the community and region. But it is also the culture, opportunity, and resources that makes The Arc a place where people want to stay and grow.

“I started with The Arc out of high school, working as an administrative assistant. I have honestly worked throughout the enterprise.  From corporate supports to Chesapeake Neighbors and even Finance. Now I’m the Director of 2Gen Initiatives and have loved the last 25 years I’ve spent with this organization.”

Jessica, Director of 2Gen Initiatives

The Arc prioritizes employee development and growth, offering ample opportunities for advancement and professional enrichment. Whether through specialized training programs, ongoing education assistance, or career advancement pathways, employees are continuously supported in their personal and professional development journey. This investment in employees’ growth not only fosters a sense of loyalty but also equips them with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in their roles and make a meaningful impact within the organization.

“They recognize our hard work and celebrate our successes, big and small. Not to mention, the benefits can’t be beat. I love how I don’t have to worry about the cost of healthcare since they have affordable premiums and pay for our deductible and haven’t raised the cost for the last three years.”

Edward Coker, Direct Support Professional

The Arc places a strong emphasis on cultivating a supportive and inclusive work culture characterized by trust, respect, and collaboration. Employees feel valued and appreciated for their contributions, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie within the organization. This positive work environment promotes employee morale and engagement, making it more likely for employees to remain committed to The Arc for the long term.

Celebration Service is not just a moment to honor employees’ years of service; it is a celebration of The Arc’s vibrant and dedicated workforce, united by a shared commitment to serve the community. As employees gather to commemorate their achievements and milestones, they are reminded of the profound impact of their work and the invaluable role they play in the growth and success of The Arc’s work throughout the region. Through their unwavering dedication and steadfast commitment, they embody the spirit of The Arc and inspire others to join in its mission of inclusion, advocacy, and empowerment.