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“Who" Cares ? - Frank DiMaggio

frank dimaggio“Working at The Arc has helped rekindle my faith in humanity,” says Frank DiMaggio.

The 29-year-old started out his professional career with a degree in criminal justice. “My job was catching shoplifters. All I was seeing was the dark side.”

Then a friend suggested he try something different, something that would combine his empathetic nature with his desire to help others. “He recommended a job in San Diego as a Behavioral Interventionist for children on the autism spectrum. I’m very adaptable, so I left my home in Westchester and flew out. It took me a few months to adjust, and there were many challenges. But I realized that this was the direction I wanted to take.”

After two years in San Diego, that same friend told him of an opening at The Arc, Rockland, where he has been since August, 2016. “It is a perfect fit,” he notes with satisfaction.

At The Arc, Mr. DiMaggio is a Community Specialist based in Nyack, helping a group of adults, most of whom are on the autism spectrum, integrate into the community. “I am responsible for eight people, but they rotate through the week with about five men and women in the group at any one time.”

Together, they do volunteer work at various places including Meals on Wheels, the Children of Promise Stable (COPS Barn—a therapeutic riding center in Nanuet) and at Petco. “I encourage my group to help as much as they can in the volunteer work and then give them free reign to schedule the rest of the week’s activities,” Mr. DiMaggio explains. “I try to find new places that might interest them, providing several choices. The group likes video games, so I suggest some arcades. They also like anime, so we spend time drawing their favorite characters and role playing. We went to Nintendo World in New York City, we go to comic book stores in this area—all opportunities to meet people with common interests.”

“Frank does very well with this group because he has a great sense of humor, shares some of their interests, is able to think out of the box and encourage them to try new things,” says Jodi Taylor-Getz, The Arc’s Director of Day Habilitation. “For example, most of the group members didn’t want to participate in fitness activities, even though they know it’s good for them. Sensing that one of the group is more of a leader, Frank motivated that individual to try swimming. Pretty soon, the others followed. Now they play basketball and participate in other fitness activities on a regular basis.”

“Each member of the group is different, and helping them to reach their individual goals is something I find personally rewarding,” notes Mr. DiMaggio. “On Fridays the group attends a class at The Successful Learning Center at Mount Saint Mary College, and we eat lunch in their cafeteria. One individual who is shy wanted to meet new people. I started getting him involved in conversations with some of the college students. Now he initiates conversations himself. It’s a wonderful thing to see.”

 

Thank You to The Arc Rockland’s 2019 Corporate Sponsors: