As part of the Internship Program’s continuing international appeal, sixteen students from The University of Tokyo along with their professor and interpreters visited the Bronx Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) program, Howie Stone, and Styler Programs. The students were welcomed to the program by a sign written in Japanese and an assortment of teas.
Each program gave a brief presentation about the people they serve and the activities that the programs provide. The TBI program also showed a number of brief videos of events that occurred throughout the year. The students had many questions and were interested in learning about the field of disabilities and the range of services that AHRC New York City provides.
The high point of the visit was the students leading an origami activity while dressed in traditional Japanese dress. As a result, everyone at the program learned a bit about Japanese culture while developing a new talent.
Each week day, approximately 75,000 people commute from Staten Island to Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry. Some of these travelers are tourists enjoying a variety of exciting destinations in New York City. However, the vast majority of ferry riders are people who are traveling to their jobs.
On either side of the ferry route, passengers gather at the two ferry terminals: Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, and the St. George Terminal on the Staten Island side of the harbor. Ferry service operates 365 days per year, 24 hours a day. When passengers arrive at either terminal, they expect to find a clean environment. In each terminal, the workers of AHRC New York City’s Hudson River Services (HRS) help to make sure that floors are swept and mopped, windows and escalators are clean, and trash cans are emptied regularly.
“It’s a good job,” said HRS worker, Leonel Cortez.” There are good people to work with, and a good salary.” Among his daily duties at the Whitehall Terminal, he particularly enjoys working with the power washer. In order to prepare for his job, Leonel trained for 4 months, providing cleaning services at the headquarters of AHRC New York City (AHRC NYC). Hudson River Services’ mission is to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to build full lives as defined by each person, supported by dedicated families, staff, and community partners.
“I like working here,” says HRS worker, David Jackson. “I meet so many people from around the world. I also like to mop the floor and make sure things are clean.” He is proud to meet the maintenance needs of the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and thankful for the income it provides.
For over 20 years, Hudson River Services has provided commercial cleaning and building maintenance services for companies across the New York City metro area. The workers are employed at over 200 sites. In addition to the services they provide, they share one commonality: They happen to have a disability or other barriers to finding work in the community.
“The importance of work in our society is very clear, and obtaining a job is highly valued,” says Steve Towler, Assistant Executive Director of AHRC New York City. “In our [Employment and Business Services] department, we find creative solutions to help people to prepare for work, and to obtain and keep good jobs. It’s a major focus for all of us.”
Since its inception, HRS has secured numerous contracts with government customers, primarily in the janitorial field. Many of these contracts are achieved through AHRC NYC’s relationship with New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID). NYSID assisted HRS to secure the contract with the DOT for janitorial services with the ferry. The opportunities to work under these contracts are life-changing for the people who find jobs through AHRC New York City.
Meaningful employment has added value to the lives of each of the HRS employees, and they have proven their commitment to their work. In the days immediately following Super Storm Sandy in 2012, the HRS workers banded together to make difficult commutes to the work site possible so that they could ensure the proper cleaning of the storm-worn facility. Their efforts in the weeks following the storm helped the terminals to resume operations, enabling thousands of New Yorkers to get back to work.
“I don’t have to give much instruction,” says DOT Ferry Terminal Supervisor, Eugene Brady. “[The Hudson River Services workers] never take off or miss a day. They know their job, they do it well, and they are very dedicated. They take their job seriously and provide good service. I am very satisfied with the quality of [their] work.”
The northern shore of Staten Island is undergoing a redevelopment, which will transform the area surrounding the Staten Island ferry terminal into a dynamic destination with a high-end retail outlet, a hotel, and the tallest observation wheel in the Western Hemisphere. Construction of the wheel is scheduled for completion in 2017. Once the wheel is built, it will provide stunning views of the harbor and surrounding boroughs. Ferry services will eventually expand to include traffic from New Jersey, and each visitor arriving by ferry will be introduced to the neighborhood of St. George through its ferry terminal. By providing quality maintenance services for the DOT, the workers of Hudson River Services will be on call to make sure these commuters receive a good first impression.
Councilman, James Vacca paid a visit to AHRC New York City’s Howard Haber Early Learning Center on Wednesday July 29, 2015.
Councilman Vacca was very impressed by the Pre-K facility describing it as a positive and colorful atmosphere for children to learn and grow.
Howard Haber Principal, Francine Rykman and Associate Director of Educational Services, Madelin Rivera informed Councilman Vacca of the Pre-K site’s history for children with special needs throughout AHRC New York City and the Bronx.
They also expressed their concerns and aspirations to make the special education Pre-K facilities better for children and staff. Francine and Madelin emphasized the importance of their staff and how it has been a struggle to maintain staff members.
The Council visit was a success and the staff and students of Howard Haber ELC wish to thank Councilman Vacca for his interest in the the children’s well-being and education.
AHRC New York City is contracted through the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, to provide home and community-based services and supports to youth, (ages 3 to 21, with developmental disabilities) who are in foster care. The program, Bridges to Health (B2H), pairs AHRC NYC professionals with children in their homes and communities, working toward goals including:
– skills of daily living
– adaptive skills
– communication and socialization
– motor skills
– community safety
A great example of B2H success is Joey:
When he was only an infant, Joey was placed in a hospital setting as he was medically fragile; he ended up spending the first six years of his life within hospital walls. Joey was born with a genetic disorder called DiGeorge Syndrome. In Joey’s case, this disorder presented with a missing heart valve at birth, a poorly functioning immune system, low muscle tone, and other health issues; he was a very sick baby.
At the hospital, he had a special education teacher, Debbie, who developed a meaningful relationship with Joey. At the time, Debbie was told by professionals all the things he couldn’t do; walk, talk, or have his trachea removed. Debbie’s response was, “why not?” With no clear answer, Debbie advocated for him with his therapists to help him learn to walk, consulted with speech therapists to get his trachea removed, helped him learn to eat by mouth, and even bought him toys.
With Debbie’s love and connection, Joey began to blossom. In 2008, Joey was well enough to leave the hospital setting and Debbie decided to become his foster mother.
In May 2009, seven-years-old Joey entered the B2H Day Habilitation program at AHRC New York City. Joey’s diagnoses include Autism, Congenital Heart Disease, DiGeorge Syndrome, and asthma. He is also non-verbal due to severe Apraxia of speech, which is a motor speech disorder. Samantha Holloway was assigned to support him three days a week in his home. When Samantha met Joey, he was only able to communicate using a few basic signs. He seemed shy and did not make eye contact with people he didn’t know. Samantha quickly noted how intelligent Joey was and how much potential his future could hold. She worked with his family to establish goals such as communication, socialization, and self-care. Little did she know that she would remain supporting Joey and his family for almost six years.
In 2011, Joey was officially adopted by Debbie and he continues to blossom. Today, Joey is 13 and his progress is astounding. He loves going to Barnes and Noble, the movies, riding the subway, using the computer, and recording his favorite experiences. He enjoys expressing himself through his iPad especially to tell mom he loves her. Samantha and Joey spend their time doing yoga, socializing, bowling, going to museums, and exploring Joey’s sense of identity. He walks independently and now makes eye contact with people he engages with. We have every reason to believe that he will soon be independently making friends and holding conversations in his community.
Kids in our Bridges to Health Program have lives, journeys, and needs that are very unique. Most of our kids have faced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which makes building and maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships with adults a crucial part of their success. At B2H, we take the unique needs of our kids into consideration every step of the way. Our staff are not only providing day habilitation, but they are also letting each child know that they can rely on, trust, feel fulfilled, and get support from the people in their life.
Did this story resonate with you? We’re always looking for excellent staff throughout the five boroughs for our growing wait list of B2H kids. Contact us!