Margaret Puddington, a parent of a child with a disability and a longtime advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who has worked closely with AHRC New York City for decades, was among four honorees at the annual Friends of Asha Niketan luncheon. The event was held at Gargiulo’s in Coney Island.

Friends of Asha Niketan is a not-for-profit that for the last seventeen years has been raising funds to assist people with (I/DD) in India. With residences in five of India’s major sprawling cities, the organization founded by Usha Venkataraghavan, a former OPWDD Brooklyn Developmental Center Director known to many in the New York City I/DD community, has annually tapped the generosity of the people in our field to help those in developing nations with far fewer resources.

The luncheon honored three additional people who have dedicated their careers to the I/DD field:

  • Robert S. BuddChief Executive Officer for Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. (FREE), a not-for-profit agency that supports individuals of all abilities with community living opportunities, employment, day services, clinical, crisis, education, and after-school support and other supports. He joined FREE in 1985 and has served as CEO since 2008.
  • Kerry DelaneyCEO of Partners Health Plan, New York State’s only fully integrated duals advantage plan dedicated to serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Prior to joining PHP, Kerry was the Acting Commissioner at OPWDD.
  • Fredda Rosen, Executive Director at Job Path, an organization that supports people with developmental disabilities as they make choices about their lives and play valued roles in their communities. Fredda has been instrumental in securing meaningful employment for countless people with disabilities.

Helena Nichols Brown, a Direct Support Professional, opened the proceedings with a stirring rendition of the gospel hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” Jivan Ramesh, a prodigy on the cello, entertained guests with his interpretations of some classical cello solo works. Marco DamianiCEO of AHRC NYC, read a message from Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, recognizing the great work Friends of Asha Niketan does. Finally, Usha made sure to point out traditional Indian crafts and clothing accessories that were made by people living in homes sponsored by Friends of Asha Niketan that were available for purchase, with proceeds continuing to support the organization.