By Yocheved Mordkovitch
On January 24, HASC Center was honored to welcome Dr. Theodore Kastner, Commissioner of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), for a tour of their programs.
The day began at East 21st Street, one of the many Hasc Center residencies, where the Commissioner was greeted by Mr. ShmielKahn, Dr. Chaim Wakslak, and Mr. Abe Eisner. This is a unique home that cares for women with varied needs and levels of disability. At the residence, the Commissioner was welcomed by Liba, a young woman who resides on the second floor. Leah was assisting the residence chef prepare the Shabbos meals which represents her usual Erev Shabbos activity. During the other days of the week she is employed at a regular competitive job.
Leah is a true HASC Center success story. As Leah expressed to the Commissioner in her own words, “I came into HASC five years ago, a mess. I was in and out of hospitals, on many meds and thanks to both HASC Center and your agency; I have turned my life around.” Leah told the commissioner about all of her successes and of course her biggest accomplishment; Leah will be getting married in February. Leah said, “I could not have done this without the help of HASC.” There was not a dry eye in the room after Leah spoke from her heart.
The tour then moved to the E14th Streetsite where the “Works for Me” vocational program was participating in one of their many employment training programs. The group was practicing their work skills by assisting with a collating project for the HR department. Dovid, who is enrolled in the program, shared with the Commissioner, “I am growing in work readiness by gaining skills so I can work.” His personal sense of accomplishment and vision for his future were clear.
Next, the Commissioner was invited to see the day habilitation program in action. During music therapy, the group, led by Rivky Hertz, was excited to perform a welcome song for their guest. As the individuals sang and played instruments, the room was filled with beautiful music and a warmth felt by all. In the sensory room, individuals were able to come out of their wheelchairs and enjoy time in the sensory swing and on the mats in a soothing environment. In the art studio, under the guidance of Esther Horowitz, individuals enjoyed canvas painting as they made scenic landscapes slowly come to life. In another program room, individuals were making stuffed animals for hospitalized children as part of the “Project Bear” volunteer effort. Finally, in the kitchen, the weekly challah baking group was underway, filling the building with the delicious aroma of baking. The individuals were busy onto the next batch, braiding the precious loaves they enjoy taking home to enjoy as part of their Shabbos meals.
For the individuals in the programs, hosting the Commissioner was not only a privilege, but a wonderful opportunity to display their activities, talents and accomplishments all with a sense of pride and enjoyment.