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Building an Arc for Washington County

Staffers Miller, Funk helping families cope with developmental disabilities of loved ones

Staffers Miller, Funk helping families cope with developmental disabilities of loved ones

February 12, 2008|By JANET HEIM

Kelly Miller and Cathy Funk provide a lifeline for about 200 individuals and their families.

As director and program manager, respectively, for the Individual Family Support Services Department at The Arc of Washington County, they, along with program manager Joel Broadway and their 50 employees - in the main Hagerstown office and satellite office in Cumberland, Md. - assist those with developmental disabilities.

Their department is the largest program in the agency, serving the biggest number of individuals, they said.

They provide services such as case management, outreach, independent skills training and coordinate respite care for residents of Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.

"No matter the situation, they always have the best interest of the individual person with disability and their family in mind. They're warm and funny, and they never seem to lose that sense of humor. I think families appreciate that," said Phyllis Landry, executive director of The Arc of Washington County.

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Miller, 38, hadn't given much thought to working in this field, but a part-time summer job at The Arc 17 years ago led her to this career path. After earning an associate degree in psychology from Frederick Community College, she transferred to Frostburg State University.

While at Frostburg State, Miller worked at The Arc satellite office in Cumberland, then during college breaks, she worked in the main office in Hagerstown, then eventually moved to case management.

"It was a great way to earn money and gain experience. It was great to graduate with work experience," said Miller, who lives in Thurmont, Md.

Hood College offered a master's program combining psychology, gerontology and thanatology (grief counseling) that Miller completed. Miller, whose mother has multiple sclerosis, said she's always been around disabled people.

"I have a family member who is disabled. I got into the field to help people and to help them better themselves," Miller said.

Funk, 33, has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., and has worked for The Arc for three years. She started out as a caseworker and was promoted to program manager in July 2007. She reports to Miller, as does Broadway.

Caseworkers coordinate actual cases, linking individual Arc consumers to the community services they need. Outreach workers provide direct care with individuals, assisting in taking them to appointments for medical care and for services such as food stamps, as well as taking them on recreational outings, Funk said.

As a program manager, Funk supervises half of the outreach staff and is a caseworker for 23 Arc consumers. Most of the people they work with live with their families or in apartments in the community.

Funk finds reward in watching the individuals she works with learn about themselves.

"We're a positive part of their life. What they're doing is because of support and the agency," said Funk, who lives in Mercersburg, Pa.

"It's very rewarding. It's challenging. We continually strive to improve our services and never lose focus of the individual. That's what motivates us," Miller said.

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