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Spataro leads group to stay 'true to our mission'

ARC's executive director relishes serving disabled

Dec. 8, 2010

As a teenager, Vicki Spataro Wachniak witnessed firsthand how cruel kids can be, especially to kids with disabilities. It made her more determined to make them feel welcome, and throughout high school, she had friends whom others would label and mistreat.

"I've always said that that was when my field work started, with taking summer jobs as a counselor. I learned patience, and the people you work with are always so kind, so appreciative and themselves patient and understanding," Spataro said.

Her experience led her to seek a position with Wauwatosa-based ARC, which has always stood to serve developmentally and mentally disabled residents and their families, but under different names. (Currently "Advocacy Resources Commitment" are the cornerstones that support the acronym.) She started as a program coordinator for in-home services, and eventually took over as the services director.

She worked closely with the executive director for about six years, eventually taking over when she left. Spataro left the position to raise her son, but stayed in touch by writing grants for the organization. Once her son went to school, Spataro was offered the executive director position again by ARC's board of directors.

Spataro's commitment to ARC has been rewarded by the people she and their many volunteers have served. Clients are referred to as "consumers," and Spataro said they are the best part of the job.

"These individuals give so much back to the community, and many of them have come back to serve as volunteers as well," she said.

With her son now in school, Spataro's work has meant that he too is educated and aware of kids dealing with disabilities, and she said she has seen great progress in grade schools of integrating these students into the classroom.

Spataro described her best days as those where everything comes together.

"When we put the pieces together and see a positive change as a result, we know we're staying true to our mission," she said. "Those are the days that you know the founding families would be proud of what we're doing."

To recommend a person be featured in Someone You Should Know, send an e-mail to someone@cninow.com or call (262) 446-6643.

JUST THE FACTS

NAME: Vicki Spataro Wachniak

AGE: 44

NOTED FOR: Executive director, ARC of Greater Milwaukee

ONLINE: arcmilwaukee.org

PEARLS OF WISDOM: "We are a small but mighty organization - we pack a lot of power."

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