A Friendship in the Making... 30+ Years with The Arc... A Story from the 13/14 Annual Report

April 13th, 2015

Carol Cox and Renee Pierce have been friends for more than 30 years and roommates for nearly as long.  They first met through The Arc of Essex County’s ARCompany program - a workshop-like program in Orange where participants learn and develop positive work habits and social skills while achieving
independence.

Carol and Renee both enjoy listening to music - James Brown and Motown are among their favorites.  They are involved in their local church and look forward to worship each week.  They are members of The Arc of Essex County’s self-advocacy program and are passionate about eliminating the use of the R-word.

When Renee first became involved in ARCompany, she was strong willed and had an edgy exterior from years in and out of institutions.  She was very sensitive and could easily become upset.  She was living with a sponsor, Marie Johnson, who treated her like family and she looked forward to the good contract work available to her through The Arc of Essex County’s ARCompany program.
 
By the time Renee met Carol, Carol had moved from her mother’s home in Montclair to a sponsor home nearby.  A very social person, Carol enjoyed spending time with her family and going out dancing with friends.  Carol and Renee knew many of the same people and Renee approached Marie to see if Carol could move in.  Marie eventually agreed.

Over the years, Carol and Renee’s friendship grew while living and working together.  The Arc of Essex County continued to provide vocational services to the pair through ARCompany, while also providing the necessary support and care Carol and Renee needed.
     
The Arc helped Renee work with therapists to learn to deal with situations that upset her.  “Before [The Arc helped], I couldn’t even talk about the things that upset me,” said Renee.  “Now, I can laugh about it...  Ingrid use to say, ‘Calm down Renee, don’t let anyone discourage you.’  She was right.  She worked in my room at ARCompany, but everyone [at The Arc] has helped.”

The support provided by The Arc of Essex County began more than 30 years ago, but support continues today.  When Marie got sick and could no longer sponsor Carol and Renee, The Arc made sure they had a place to call home.  Carol and Renee now live in one of The Arc of Essex County’s supervised apartments in Maplewood.  Carol and Renee tackle grocery shopping together while Carol is the resident cook.

The pair is also very health conscious.  With support and coordination from The Arc, Carol and Renee now attend physical therapy twice a week to help with arthritis.  “They say you only look as old as you feel,” joked Carol.  While Carol and Renee’s history with The Arc stretches back nearly 30 years, the two remain young at heart.  

To read the full 2013-2014 Annual Report, click here.

Renee Pierce (left) and Carol Cox (right)