AHRC New York City

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AHRC NYC Celebrates Siblings

Having a sibling with a developmental disability is a uniquely challenging experience that few can understand. AHRC New York City‘s Sibling Services offer a variety of ways for brothers and sisters to connect and help each other through professional assistance and peer support. On March 9th, AHRC NYC staff, leadership, families, and siblings gathered at India House in Lower Manhattan to support programs for brothers and sisters of those with disabilities and provide professionally guided opportunities for peer support and education. The night included raffles, silent auctions, food, and speeches from siblings, board members, and professionals.

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When we were growing up, many of us felt very alone,” Ruth Pickholz, AHRC NYC Board Member and a sibling of a person with disabilities, said. “We felt that we were the only ones and had no one to talk to. But now there is a place.”

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Laura Kennedy, President of AHRC NYC and President of NYSARC, Inc., has a daughter with a developmental disability and stated that her first interactions with the agency were with the sibling committee. “I thought ‘Wow, this great agency really thinks about the siblings,'” she said. “When AHRC NYC was founded 65 years ago, siblings were home, siblings were not included. But over time siblings and family members are now part of the leadership and advocates for our loved ones.”

Three people supported by Sibling Services also shared their experiences. Patricia Wright has an older sister with autism. “What’s the number one question I get asked about my sister?” she said. “It’s ‘How do you live with a sibling with disabilities. It’s easy through the sibling support group.” Patricia has been attending the group since she was five years old. “I can honestly say that the sibling support group has become like family to me.” She said that she had raised money through her school for the event and that she plans to walk with friends at the upcoming Autism Speaks Walk NYC in May.

Siblings speaking

Gina and Donna Celentano also have a sister with autism, (whom is also Donna’s twin). Each of them mentioned their early struggles with coping with their sister’s disability. “I wasn’t upset at her,” Gina said, “I was upset that she had a disability and I couldn’t do anything to help her.” Donna expressed a similar, heart-wrenching sentiment. “When I was younger I used to cry to my mother because I thought I gave her a disability,” she said. “Once I came to SibShops I learned that it wasn’t my fault.” Donna said that she learned activities to help her connect with her sister. Gina also spoke on how SibShops help her cope. “They taught me ways to share my emotions and that what I was going through is completely normal.”

Artist Alex Torres Receives Art Award at Brooklyn Borough Hall

Alexander Torres, a longtime artist who receives services at Brooklyn Day Hab and is part of the art collective Artemoose, was recognized for his digital designs and paintings by the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC). Alex received a Community Arts Grant, which was made possible by BAC through the support of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

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Alex was nominated by Megan Hummel, a former Community Support Professional at Brooklyn Day Hab who now works at a shelter in Brooklyn. “[Alex] has been working so independently in a lot of his art projects and I thought he would make a great candidate,” she said.

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The grants ceremony was held on March 18 at Brooklyn Borough Hall and featured speeches by a number of distinguished guests, including Ella J. Weiss, President of BAC; Eric L. Adams, Brooklyn Borough President; and Edwin Torres, Deputy Commissioner of the Dept. of Cultural Affairs.

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The night also included performances by Truthworker Theater Company, a social justice oriented hip-hop and dance group, and Batala NYC, an all-female samba drumming group.

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I feel happy about this grant because I love my art,” Alex said. He thanked his parents; Raquel PinnockProgram Director of Brooklyn Day HabChad DeRoche, his friend and fellow Artemoose member; Megan, for her longstanding assistance and mentorship; and “everybody who supports and helps me achieve my goals in life.” He also passed along some inspiration for his peers. “I know that people like me with disabilities can always do art and win every day. I hope that winning this grant will inspire people like me. I promise one thing by getting this award – to get more goals and achieve more. I won’t stop doing my art any day.

Yankees Take Part in the 35th Annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner

Yankees Magazine created this great video about the 35th Annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner and the meaning behind it.

The AHRC New York City Foundation is a fund-raising and grant-making entity that supports programs for children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and who live in New York City.

The Foundation is the primary source of philanthropic support for AHRC New York City, which provides a wide array of social services for approximately 15,000 people with disabilities.

One-for-One Volunteer Program Begins

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A new volunteer program has gotten underway at AHRC New York City! Our One-for-One program pairs volunteers from both within the agency and in the community with a person with developmental disabilities. It is run by the Residential Services Department and funded by the AHRC New York City Foundation. On Wednesday, January 21, volunteers met up with people living at the Rupert Towers IRA on the Upper East Side at Uno’s Pizzeria on East 86th Street.

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The program was a suggestion form Sharyn VanReepinghen [AHRC New York City’s First Vice President],Craig Becker, Associate Director of Residential Services, said. “It is something we wanted to do for a long time, getting adults we serve matched up with people in the community.” Craig put together a proposal for the board of directors and for the AHRC New York City Foundation that took cues from Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a well-known organization pairing volunteers with at-risk youth. In May of 2014, the Foundation approved a grant for the program, which was used to bring on Stefanie Nelson, the One-for-One Volunteer Coordinator. While One-for-One was initially intended to focus on people living in AHRC New York City residences who were fairly independent already, (and potentially looking to move into the community), “we have broadened the idea to include people who aren’t as independent but would still like to build long-term relationships,” Craig said.

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At Uno’s, five pairs were matched up for the first time. Joseph Morocco, who works in real estate and is part of the Foundation’s Young Leadership Committee, was matched with Peter VanReepinghen (Sharyn’s son). “I found out about [One-for-One] through a mutual friend involved, and I always like to make new friends,” Joseph said. Peter works at the Disney store and said he enjoys video games and sports. “My favorite character is Mickey!” he exclaimed, and Joseph wholeheartedly agreed.

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Shanna Salmon, HR Cooridinator, volunteered for One-to-One for a very simple reason. “I just wanted to meet someone new and get involved in the community,” she said. “This program seemed like a great match.” Shanna said that while she briefly worked with people with developmental disabilities at a summer camp while in high school, she had not had much more experience with the population. She was paired with Diana Oquendo, a Rupert Towers resident who “wanted someone to talk to and everything.” Diana works at Metropolitan Hospital and enjoys cooking Spanish food, and much like Shanna, going shopping. They also both like films, and agreed to meet later in February to have dinner and see The Wedding Ringer.

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Stefanie has used many outlets to find volunteers, including sites such as VolunteerMatch and programs like the aforementioned Young Leadership Committee. There are currently 14 participants in One-for-One (seven pairs), with five more volunteers waiting for orientation. “Currently Rupert Towers and Fineson IRA in Manhattan are part of it, and I am now interviewing people in Queens and Staten Island,” Stefanie said. “It has reached out quicker than we thought it would. People from out of the blue have been calling.

Craig and Stefanie’s vision for One-for-One is to have 25 volunteers by the end of the year.

Next year they would like to expand to people who don’t live in AHRC New York City residences. They also expressed a desire for AHRC staff to join One-for-One. “Me and many of my colleagues have had long-term relationships with people we serve, but we are still viewed as employees of the agency,” Craig said. “We would love people who aren’t necessarily working directly with people we serve to get involved.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for the One-for-One program, contact Stefanie Nelson at Stefanie.Nelson@ahrcnyc.org.

A Day on the Job with Richard Ward

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Working in the cold, surrounded by mounds of dirty snow and wet asphalt, isn’t for everybody, but it doesn’t bother Richard Ward. With a smile yet intense focus, Richard goes to his job three times a week at Fairway in Douglaston, where he helps reorganize shopping carts and baskets for the customers. Wearing the classic green Fairway smock and a beanie, Richard moves quickly through the parking lot with purpose–maybe the cold does bother him a little.

The people here are very nice, the customers too,” Richard says. “I have a lot of friends here. My boss is very nice to me.

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Richard has been working at this Fairway for almost four years. He receives services at Far Rockaway Adult Day Center, and commutes to the supermarket either through Access-A-Ride or, like today, via a program vehicle accompanied by his support staff. Cassandra Sanchez, Community Support Professional, says that she is part of a rotating group of Far Rockaway staff who come with Richard.

Richard Montage

I really only need to remind Richard of the time so he can eat lunch and when to go home,” says Cassandra. “Otherwise he’ll just keep working! He’s very independent here. He knows exactly what he has to do and doesn’t want somebody following him around the store.

Richard’s colleagues at Fairway see and appreciate the work he does every day he is there. “Richard is an awesome worker,” Chad, a cashier, says. “I know he has a disability but he does the best he can and he’s great to work with.

Richard Ward

When asked why he chose to work at Fairway, Richard has a simple answer. “It’s a job! I like to save my money in my bank account.” He is always looking forward to his next day of work, even if it’s cold.