The gift of canned goods. It doesn’t seem like a lot to some but let me explain what it did for us.

Ridge Area Arc operates five group homes across Highlands County. As with many other individuals, businesses and non-profits, COVID-19 has affected our bottom line and our mental health. My management team has been thinking outside the box to ensure that Arc doesn’t have a single lay-off and that our consumers continue to have everything they want in spite of COVID. This means finding creative ways to reduce our expenses.

Our food budget each month in each group home, for example, is approximately $750. When you multiply this by five group homes and 12 months in the year, the grocery bills do add up.

Our development director saw this great idea for a reverse advent calendar. The goal was that people in the community could give items of non-perishable food from the list, many of which are typically put on buy-one, get-one free sales at the grocery stores this time of year. We had no idea the response we would get.

People from all over Highlands County brought us reverse advent boxes. All three local chambers of commerce agreed to be drop-off points for food and boy were they inundated. It became so much more than donated food.

My heart swelled. I’m not saying it was tiny like the Grinch, but I felt myself getting mentally tired and these little visits to drop off canned goods changed that. Not only were people paying attention to the needs around them, listening for an outlet to do good deeds, but they were caring for the community. The amount of love and support was absolutely uplifting.

From every corner of the county they came, to say keep going, to say our consumers mattered to them, to say keep up the good work and boy did it make a difference. So, thank you Highlands County, for being the best place on Earth to run a non-profit that cares for people with disabilities.

Kathleen Border

CEO, Ridge Area Arc