Arc keeps family afloat in Swampscott

Lisa Rainer slides paper into the shredder as her sister Julie Cummings looks on.


The Rainer family has gone to great lengths to provide their daughter and sister, Lisa, with the best opportunities for a healthy and productive life, despite the challenges of a physical and developmental disability. And they would be the first to admit Northeast Arc has been a valued partner in that endeavor.

“We’ve been given supports we didn’t even know we needed,” said Julie (Rainer) Cummings, Lisa’s sister.

Lisa, 58, who is deaf and intellectually disabled, has been living in an Arc-supported house in Swampscott for the past 25 years. She loves her full-time job at Northeast Arc’s Heritage Shredding company in Danvers, and enjoys traveling. She also participates in Arc recreation programs.

“We love the supports she gets, the opportunities she’s had, and the unending love she receives from Northeast Arc,” Cummings said. “We couldn’t be happier with her program.”

When Lisa was a toddler and Ron and Carol Rainer were looking for play groups appropriate for her, they found Northeast Arc. Lisa would join other children with developmental disabilities in church halls and at local Elks Clubs, wherever space could be found. It turns out that she wasn’t the only one who benefited from the experience.

Ron and Carol got to meet other parents and share stories and frustrations faced by families in that situation. It brought into focus the challenges that lay ahead.

Lisa was enrolled in a school in Randolph but she was not progressing. At that time, Ron explained, deaf people were actually discouraged from learning sign language, and her inability to communicate led to frustration that at times manifested itself in physical behavior.

The Rainers looked far and wide for the right placement for Lisa, and their search resulted in Carol and Lisa moving to Wichita, Kan., when Lisa was 10 so she could attend the Institute of Logopedics.

Ron still remembers the first time his daughter communicated with them, using sign language to say, “Hi, mom. Hi, dad.”

“I could cry again just thinking about it,” Ron said.

After 10 years in Kansas, Lisa moved back to Swampscott and rejoined the Arc family. After she graduated from the Protestant Guild for the Multiply Handicapped in Watertown, the Rainers were looking for a residential placement that worked for her, but  at that time there were no residences for individuals with hearing impairment and developmental disabilities. They would change that.

Ron and Carol collaborated with Temple Israel in Swampscott to host a fundraiser, with half of the proceeds going toward a down payment for an Arc residence for the deaf and developmentally disabled. That led to the purchase of a Victorian on Wave Street in Lynn, where Lisa lived with seven other individuals facing the same challenges. It was the first residence of that type in the region, if not the country, according to Susan Ring Brown, chief development officer at Northeast Arc.

“We had to create a community experience for her,” Ron Rainer said.

Helping Arc open that residence was just one instance of the Rainers’ long-standing support for and involvement with the Arc. Everyone in the family has donated time and treasure to the organization. Carol, Julie, and Lisa’s brother, Rob, have all been board president, with Carol serving four terms. Julie is currently a board member. The Rainers have donated and raised money for the Arc over the years.

When health issues forced Carol to take a step back, she had a frank conversation with Julie. “My mom told me it was my turn to step in,” said Cummings, who embraced the mandate from mom. Julie is active on the Arc board, and she especially enjoys meeting and helping individuals who benefit from the services the Arc provides.

“I prefer the doer side and being hands-on,” said Cummings, who enjoys being on the board’s residential committee. “It gives us a chance to get out to houses and meet the staff and residents in a private setting.”

As if they needed more evidence of the profound effect of Northeast Arc in their lives, the Rainers were overwhelmed with the level of support provided to Lisa – and, by extension, the entire family – when Carol died last November.

“Lisa was so supported by her team,” Cummings said. “They were able to explain to her what happened. The support from the staff was unbelievable.”

That was simply the latest example of the Arc being there for Lisa as she continues her life journey as a happy, productive member of society who does not allow her disabilities to hold her back.

“We couldn’t be prouder of what she’s accomplished,” Ron Rainer said, and you can certainly understand why.

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