PEABODY – Northeast Arc has received $100,000 to upgrade its facilities under a new state social enterprise capital grant.
The grant was awarded to the Arc and eight other nonprofits at the organization’s ArcWorks site on Foster Street in Peabody on Wednesday morning.
The $3 million in grants have been awarded to nonprofit organizations that create economic growth in low-income communities by employing underserved populations, and will be used by these organizations to purchase or renovate buildings and purchase new equipment for their programs.
The Arc will use its share of the money to upgrade and repair parts of the Foster Street building, including replacing its wheelchair ramp and a kiln used in the Arc’s pottery workshop. This will expand the Arc’s product lines, as will a screen print that will also be purchased with the grant.
Mike Kennealy, secretary of state for housing and economic development, said Wednesday the grants will help create a more equitable and accessible economy.
“What this job will do is give everyone a chance to compete,” Kennealy said. “Through these programs, this money, a lot of people are going to get into this field and compete in a way that you probably couldn’t before.”
The Arc provides professional and employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, as well as other forms of support to help them and their families thrive. Participants can create works of art for sale through the Arc’s painting business, Shine Jewelry Studio, a small product production business, a pottery studio and a chair caning studio, and participate in other skills-based workshops.
“Social enterprise offers people the opportunity to earn a living, while improving their skills and doing what they love,” said Jo Ann Simons, CEO and President of Northeast Arc. “Paul, one of our jewelers in Shine, is now working at a local jewelry store. Over 30 people from our Breaking Grounds Cafe have found employment in the food and hospitality businesses.
She said funding like this and partnerships between communities and state leaders have made the world a better place for people like her 43-year-old son, who has Down syndrome.
“He lives and works on Cape Cod. He lives in his own house, he has no roommates or staff,” Simons said. “But it’s no longer unusual because government, philanthropy and our communities have seen that people with disabilities have potential and see them as individuals.”
Gloucester resident Elizabeth Chaisson takes part in the Arc’s painting and pottery programs and sold her first work – three pink paintings of flowers – to a woman who hung them in her young daughter’s bedroom.
“I like hanging out with my friends here and getting to know them,” Chaisson said.
She urged people to support organizations like the Arc.
“People with disabilities need to work more than they earn,” she said.
Craig Welton, development manager for Councilman Arc and Ward 1 in Peabody, said these opportunities are valuable for people with disabilities and the communities in which they live and work.
“Historically, people haven’t really fully realized the potential of people with disabilities,” Welton said. “So by having these social enterprises, by having places where we can welcome the community, they can really understand and fully appreciate that anyone with a disability has a lot to contribute.”
Other nonprofits that have received grants include Boston-based Level Ground Mixed Martial Arts, More Than Words, and College Bound Dorchester, as well as Roca in Chelsea, GAAMHA Inc. in Gardner, ServiceNet in Hatfield, UTEC in Lowell and Building Audacity in Lynn. .