If you look in the dictionary under “force of nature,” you’ll see Lucina Clarke, co-founder and Executive Director of the grassroots organization My Time Inc. In 2007, Lucina took a leap of faith and with her husband Wayne started this unique nonprofit to support the parents of children with autism and developmental disabilities. Stop & Shop has supported My Time Inc. through the Community Bag Program.
Tell us about My Time Inc.
Our mission is to support, educate, empower, enlighten and uplift parents of a child diagnosed with autism and developmental disabilities to live a life they deserve in their community.
My background is in education. I’ve been a teacher for about 25 years in special education behavior analysis. I started working within students’ homes and through that journey, I met some amazing parents. Although I was providing support to the children, I saw the need for parental support and their frustration in not receiving any.
You can connect with others who know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a parent of a child with disability.
I worked with one mom in particular who really affected my life; I was profoundly impacted by her struggles in advocating for her son with autism. Fifteen years ago, when she passed away unexpectedly, it led me to quit my job and work to create an environment where we could provide support for parents of autistic children. These parents are not relatable for parents of children without a disability. Who are they leaning on? They cannot have conversations with parents who can’t connect to what they are going through. They can even be ostracized by other parents. We wanted to create a space that when they come in, they feel it’s okay.
So, with the support of my husband Wayne, I opened my basement as a place of solace and support. I love to cook, so once a month I made a nice dinner and invited parents for a workshop. That’s how it started. And that’s how I met Denise, my executive assistant. She came over with her husband, who didn’t want to come at all. Their son Nicholas has autism. But afterward her husband said, “You know what? I’m not flying blind anymore.” That’s what this is all about. You can connect with others who know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a parent of a child with disability.
What sets your organization apart from others in your community?
We’re focused on the parents and caregivers. There are excellent organizations that provide support and services to children with autism and developmental disabilities, but the parents have been the forgotten ones. Parent support is not a new phenomenon, but My Time Inc. is bringing a new and dynamic perspective to it.
Here, they meet other parents that they can connect with; they are not judged. These parents have developed friendships. They have developed support systems. They are hanging out together. They are going out; they are learning. They’re empowering themselves and each other.
The most amazing aspect is they are building positive and healthy relationships and support from each other and finally understanding that they are not alone.
What are your most essential services?
My Time Inc. provides programs for parents and caregivers in advocacy, community awareness, me-time, emotional wellness and nutritional wellness.
As a parent of a child with autism, you are your child’s best advocate. It is ultimately your responsibility to assure your child is receiving the appropriate services. Parents are given strategies to become the best advocate for their child/ren. We work with parents in understanding their children’s rights and entitlement to the appropriate services needed.
How can they truly manage if they are not armed with knowledge? How can they know they are being an advocate or best parent for their child if they are not taught what an individual education plan is? If they are not taught the difference between a speech and language therapist and a pathologist? If they don’t understand what occupational therapy is and how it will benefit their child?
As a parent of a child with autism, you are your child’s best advocate.
As the community knows and becomes more aware about the disorder, there is a shift towards others being empathetic rather than sympathetic to the families in the community. Our continuing workshops strive to accomplish this task with the development disability population and the broader community.
Because they’re living and breathing this 24/7/365, we provide support with a quality and effective social and recreational program for parents, grandparents and/or caregivers of children with autism. We call this “Me Time.” The parents can meet each other, develop new friendships, go out together because they have lost the socialization with other parents too. We found that parents were frustrated because they could not find time for socialization and felt unable emotionally to cope with caring for their child. We wanted to find something that sustained them and could give them joy. These activities can range from bowling to a Broadway show. They’re better prepared to take care of their child.
At My Time Inc, we believe in providing positive and emotional support for our parents raising a child with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities. We provide monthly workshops giving parents strategies to manage emotions and stressors while raising their child/ren. Parents feel a sense of belonging, confidence and support during these workshops. Due to the pandemic, we created E-Circle of support so parents can be assured they are not alone.
During the pandemic, we’ve used Zoom, of course, for our programs. While I can feel the vibe of who you are through the computer, you can’t hug on Zoom!
Tell us a story that clearly illustrates the good work you are doing.
Denise is the executive assistant at My Time Inc. and mom to Nick, age 19, with autism:
“I’ve been involved with My Time Inc. for about 13 years, since Nick was six years old. The support I have received has been amazing, especially these last five years. When Nick turned 13, he became very aggressive, biting, scratching and fighting on a daily basis. If I didn’t have Lucina and Wayne and the support from the My Time Inc. parents, I would have gone mad.
I had to call 911 to come to my home so many times and Nick was repeatedly brought to the psychiatric ward. The other parents understand, they care, and they’re not judging.
Eventually, we made the decision to place Nick in a residence, and it was such a tough thing to do. With Covid restrictions, I could not see him for months.”
What is your greatest achievement or contribution to the community?
The major thing I love is that we’ve been able to bring some better level of understanding about autism and raised awareness.
Because when people look at children with autism or disabilities, they don’t think they can even sit with you. They can! I remember the first year we had the breakfast (Note: Breakfast with the Chef is an annual fundraising event for My Time Inc.), it was an eye opener for the community. When we saw the families sitting together, people from the community, the politicians, the neighbors, their friends, their family, when they were sitting together, you would have never known there was a child with a disability in that audience.
We’re also proud that we can give back to the community by supporting our local food pantry. Nutrition is so important to development, especially with an autistic child, and nutritional wellness is something we educate our parents about. It’s very meaningful to us that we can actively support the food pantry, especially when it provides for some of the parents we serve.
What do you want people to know about My Time Inc.?
They know My Time Inc. is a place that they can trust. They know My Time Inc. will provide the appropriate resources, and they know at My Time Inc., they will never be alone.
How will you use the funds raised from these programs?
Covid has greatly impacted our fundraising ability, as it has all nonprofits. With the funds we receive from the Stop and Shop programs, we can do the extra special things for our parents. We can treat them to something special, like dinner and a movie. The little becomes so much, because I believe when we receive these funds they are from your true heart and the community and because of that, it’s blessed.
Co-founders Executive Director Lucina Clarke and Creative Director Wayne Clarke built My Time Inc. on the belief that educating and empowering families can bring about societal change with positive attitudes, awareness, understanding and empathy of various disabilities in the community.