In 1949, the mother of a special-needs child placed an advertisement in a local Long Island newspaper in an effort to find other families in Nassau County with special-needs children.
When the families came together, they formed a county chapter of the AHRC that had been modeled after the already-existing New York City chapter.
Today, the Brookville-based organization supports approximately 2,200 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to its official Web site, offering housing and recreational programs, as well as those for job placement and volunteer work.
“We were established as a family organization and will remain a family organization,” said Aimee Keegan, the organization’s assistant director of community resources.
AHRC’s residential services extend to 89 locations throughout Nassau County, including one home in Roslyn and four supported living apartments in both Roslyn and Mineola.
Keegan estimated that approximately 600 adults live in the organization’s apartment housing and said staff provide 24-hour support but try to enable residents to live as independently as possible.
“Whereas 60-something years ago, they would have been institutionalized, they’re living independently and contributing to their communities every day,” Keegan said.
The organization also has an adult day program in more than 30 locations in Nassau, in which adults with special needs do volunteer work for members of their communities.
On the North Shore, Keegan said AHRC’s adult day program has facilities on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck and on Bryant Avenue in Roslyn that serve as a home base for the volunteer work.
Keegan said the members deliver meals on wheels and are taught vocational skills in an effort to improve their socialization and “learn something that will translate into everyday life.”
AHRC’s vocational training program helps adults over the age of 21 become gainfully employed.
“Finding substantial employment for people with disabilities is a bit of a challenge,” Keegan said. “It always has been a challenge, but particularly in this economy to find a sustainable job that’s not going to just be temporary. It’s got to be something that allows for success into the future.”
The organization’s eWorks facilities, based in Freeport and modeled after similar programs in AHRC’s chapters in Suffolk and Westchester counties, help people with special needs recycle electronics parts, Keegan said.
Keegan said the program has been so successful that AHRC has partnered with other organizations to duplicate its model.
“Sometimes there are obstacles to employing people with disabilities but they often make the best workers because they’re dedicated,” Keegan said.
AHRC Nassau also offers a guardianship program, with more than 20 people who have identified the organization as their primary caregiver, to ensure their rights and interests are upheld in all aspects of life, Keegan said.
Keegan said the guardianship program provides family support and recreational resources, including dances, bowling, yoga, various leisure trips and a Special Olympics team called AHRC Starz that competes in basketball, softball and alpine skiing.
“What makes guardianship so important that often people don’t think about who’s going to care for their adult child if they are no longer here,” Keegan said. “They don’t start thinking about it until much later in life, but it’s important they think about guardianship as early as possible to think of the future of their care.”
AHRC also has a sleepaway camp program for children and adults with special needs at Camp Loyaltown at Hunter, N.Y.
Keegan said the camp allows those with special needs a traditional camp setting and gives their caregivers and loved ones a much-needed break from constantly assisting them.
AHRC Nassau has also partnered with the Brookville Center for Children’s services, which has North Shore locations at the Manhasset’s Leeds Child Development Center, Marcus Avenue at New Hyde Park and SUNY College at Old Westbury.
“We really provide a full continuum of care,” Keegan said.