Years ago, Ian Keith befriended the developmentally disabled son of a co-worker.
“I watched him grow from a child into a young man, and seeing his progress was amazing,” said Keith, vice president of Keith Insurance in Fort Myers, Florida.
“But that’s when I realized there is a huge support gap for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
It wasn’t long after this realization that Keith was offered a tour of LARC—which educates and empowers disabled individuals ages 14 and up.
‘I was blown away’
“I was first greeted by a client who is blind, but still holds a job overseeing the bundling of wood stakes LARC sells to construction companies,” Keith said. “I was blown away.” Then he turned the corner and saw an engraving machine, which LARC clients use for other paying jobs.
“I quickly began to understand that the mission and impact of this organization was much larger than I knew,” he said.
LARC has been providing a variety of services for nearly 70 years, but all have a common aim: allowing individuals to maximize their abilities while living as independently as possible, according to Angela Katz, director of development and communications.
Learn, Achieve, Become
The nonprofit’s most comprehensive program is “Learn, Achieve, Become,” which helps people develop skills as they work through various “labs.” The Lab for Living features a mock studio apartment where individuals learn about self-sufficiency. A Wellness Lab provides education on health, nutrition, and more. In the Smart Living Lab, participants get familiar with technology. Finally, the Collaboration Lab and Vocational Exploration Lab prepare people for employment with community partners—last year, participants earned 45,000 hours of wages.
And that’s just one of the programs LARC offers.
It’s no wonder Keith was so amazed at its breadth and impact. He became a member of the board almost immediately, and participates in multiple events both for and with LARC clients. Additionally, through his role as president of the local Rotary club, he helped facilitate a grant to purchase a van for the organization’s transportation needs.
Society too often focuses on the disabilities of individuals like these. But they have abilities far greater than I ever could have imagined.
—Ian Keith, Vice President, Keith Insurance
Dedicated to community
That’s just a small part of Keith’s overall giving—in 2018, he was named a “Community Hero” by AARP after performing more than 350 hours of volunteer work.
Now, he has earned a 2020 Make More Happen Award as well. The honor typically includes a donation of $5,000 and the opportunity to win another $5,000 through engagement on social media—but in light of current health and economic challenges across the country, Liberty Mutual and Safeco are donating the full $10,000 immediately to LARC on behalf of Keith Insurance.
“Ian and Keith Insurance are a blessing to LARC and our community,” Katz said. “He is the kind of board member every organization wants—he is always looking for ways to support our mission.”
Keith also is making new friendships every step of the way. “This work is so rewarding because of the time I spend with LARC clients. I consider them all friends,” he said.
“Society too often focuses on the disabilities of individuals like these. But they have abilities far greater than I ever could have imagined.”