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Meet Billy Parker of Chandler Gilbert Arc in Chandler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Billy Parker.

Billy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Originally from Southern NJ, I went to High School at a Vocational/Technical School with the goal of becoming a machinist. I graduated in 1977 and worked in the trade for a couple of years, then left to go to Montana for a short vacation in about 1980.

Deciding (much to the chagrin of my parents) that I wanted to stay in Montana versus come home, I met my wife and fell into my career in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) quite by accident and out of necessity while raising a young family in Dixon, Montana (pop. 150) where there were very few jobs. I quickly found out that I/DD was a natural fit for me and the learning process started there in 1983. I worked my way up the service system ladder in Montana, Oregon, and now, Arizona, where along with many years of formalized training and volumes of practical experience, I completed my undergraduate degree through Western Illinois University in 2004 and Master of Administration at Northern AZ University in 2016. I have been with the same company, Chandler Gilbert Arc (www.cgarc.org), since 1994 and accepted the position of Executive Director with starting date of July 1, 2013. I see this opportunity as the apex of my career, and I am very motivated toward the everyday challenges the position brings.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Working in I/DD is like walking down a road that has numerous forks every 1/2 mile or so!! These forks can represents challenges, opportunities, and also great amount of worry for the interests of the people we serve. Among the greatest challenges are finding dedicated individuals who see the amazing potential that exists within a career in I/DD. Additionally, in working within governmental systems (our primary funding source is State of AZ), there has never been enough funding to attract the needed number of individuals who are willing to dedicate themselves to a career in the field. As a result, we struggle with staff turnover, and put a great amount of dedication into providing staff the practical resources (education, experience, opportunity) they need to advance their careers and dedicate themselves to the company.

Additionally, as a person who has worked in the field since 1983 and in 3 different states, I have found unique sets of struggles in how the service system is managed, many of which fall back to funding and education. The field of I/DD has changed dramatically in the 35 years I have been involved in it and contemporary practices are a moving target!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Chandler Gilbert Arc is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing teaching and support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Phoenix, AZ East Valley Region. First conceived in 1975 as “Chandler Arc”, by a group of parents who wanted to provide life options for their adult children with disabilities, we now proudly serves over 300 adults per year with specialized community-based employment, housing, transportation and adult day support services.

Our mission is to facilitate growth for people with disabilities through choice, experience, guidance, and respect. At the State & National level, we proudly partner with The Arc of Arizona and Arc of the United States. We are a member of the local Chambers of Commerce and are proud to be recipient of one of Chandler’s top 100 businesses. In addition to the vital services we provide to the individuals we serve, our community engagement and outreach is a strength we have that we are most proud of. This program’s mission is to develop and promote the vitality of the organization as a leader within the non-profit sector while supporting the people we serve as contributing members of their community. Our efforts in the past year alone have resulted in a team of at least 50 active volunteers and partnerships with the Cities of Chandler, Gilbert, and Phoenix and the Arc of AZ. We currently partner with Arc of AZ to bring the Sprout Film Festival ® www.sproutflix.org to the Phoenix area and we are entering into our 4th year of this national event which showcases individuals with I/DD as actors and sometimes producers of short films. Last year we sold over 700 tickets and the informative/outreach opportunities that go along with this event simply cannot be overstated.

What were you like growing up?
I was a curious kid who, although I had friends, I didn’t mind being alone. Growing up in Rural Southern NJ, I spent a lot of time outside and being next to last in a family of 5 children, I had a lot of older siblings to hang out with as a kid. My family often had picnics and parties, and I became interested in music at about age 12 after lying in bed one night listening to groups of people singing and playing music and deciding that I wanted to be a part of that. I still enjoy playing music and am an established part-time touring professional. www.mandobilly.com.

My personality has always represented that of a pleaser, and I feel that was instilled in me as a kid within a family that had 2 working parents and not a lot of money. That still resonates within me and is very likely what drew me toward the field of I/DD.

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