Before becoming a teacher at the intentionally inclusive preschool known as ODLC (Open Door Learning Center), Crystal was a regular volunteer for The Arc of Loudoun. Crystal explains,
“Four years ago, my daughter Autumn was getting bullied at school and didn’t have the best self-esteem, and then I heard volunteering was a good outlet.”
After searching online, and completing a survey with her daughter’s interests, Shocktober popped up online as a recommendation. Shocktober is The Arc’s biggest fundraiser of the year. The mansion on campus, Paxton Manor, is used as a haunted house where thousands of people come during weekends in October to walk through the house and get a good scare. All of the proceeds go towards one of The Arc’s programs: ALLY (A Life Like Yours) Advocacy Center. Crystal goes on to say,
“The volunteer program looked like it was also catered for adults, so I asked Autumn if I could do it too, and it became something we both got to do together.”
Both Crystal and Autumn would soon fall in love with acting as terrifying characters inside and outside of the haunted mansion where they dubbed it as “scare therapy.” One year after volunteering, they were both asked to join Shocktober’s creative side of the haunt. Crystal says,
“We jumped on board with it! We were then able to help with the behind the scenes stuff, like coming up with new ideas for the haunt.”
Soon, both Crystal and Autumn would start volunteering at more of The Arc’s community events,
“We then started doing face painting at the Spring Festival and Music at the Manor.”
Crystal, with a background in teaching preschool for the past 20 years, would also be asked to join the ODLC team in 2016.
Crystal explains that The Arc does a lot for people with disabilities, but it also helps out the community as a whole,
“I signed up to volunteer in order to help with Autumn’s self confidence and it did amazing things for her! She was having a hard time making friends and dealing with bullies, and coming here– that all went away. Everybody here accepted you no matter what.”
Without The Arc, Crystal doesn’t believe her relationship with her daughter would be as great as it is now saying,
“I wouldn’t be as happy and content. My daughter’s confidence wouldn’t be as strong as it is. And my family would still be struggling with a lot of issues. Volunteers give a lot, but get a lot back as well. I’ve gained so much from working and volunteering here–and so has my daughter.”
Crystal says her favorite thing about working and volunteering for The Arc is the outpouring positivity on campus.
“I love what they do for everybody, it’s such a positive experience! Whether you work here, volunteer here, or get services from here– everything is so positive.”
Furthermore, Crystal explains that she loves working as an instructor at ODLC, because she’s able to build the students up.
“At The Arc we say, ‘Yes you can do that.’ We help them meet their goals.” As for what she wishes more people knew about The Arc, Crystal exclaims, “I wish people knew how welcoming we are! It’s like coming home. I joke that this is my second home, because I’m here so much, but I’m here so much because I love it. This is one my favorite places in the world!”