Livability means inclusivity in the Fulton-Montgomery Region, where local agencies Lexington and Liberty help developmentally disabled individuals find fulfillment as full-fledged members of the community.
Both agencies are chapters of NYSARC Inc., a statewide organization founded in 1949.
“Post-World War II, a lot of parents of disabled children decided they were not going to accept the status quo of either keeping their children at home behind closed doors or institutionalizing them,” says Barbara Wool, Liberty's director of public relations and development. “They were willing to advocate to make sure there were programs for their children.”
Lexington joined NYSARC in 1955, and Liberty was founded as a NYSARC affiliate in 1957. Both chapters provide what Wool calls core programs. These include daytime care for disabled adults; residential support for disabled adults who live on their own or in small group settings, and in-home assistance and respite care for families with disabled children.
Citizenship through Volunteerism
At Liberty, which is located in Montgomery County, volunteerism is a major initiative: in 2013, Liberty individuals donated 34,000 hours to serving the homeless, home-bound senior citizens and firefighters.
“It's a win-win: the individuals get time with other people, but they're also giving back. They feel like a member of the community instead of just being isolated,” Wool says.
Other Liberty programs include a dental clinic serving disabled and low-income individuals, day programs for disabled children who are on school break and art classes for supported individuals.
Fulfillment Through Work and the Arts
In Fulton County, Lexington serves more than 1,000 individuals and is the county's largest employer. The agency, which is accredited by the prestigious Council on Quality and Leadership, was named a Times Union Top Workplace for 2013 and 2014.
One of Lexington's hallmark initiatives is its Employment Resources Program. In addition to job partnerships with 69 local businesses, the agency runs an events center where supported individuals handle everything from greeting and hosting to food prep, setup and cleanup.
Lexington is also developing the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts, which will serve as permanent home to Flame, a Lexington-based internationally known rock band.
“Through the band, we have realized that artistic expression makes a world of difference to the individuals we support, so we've been forming relationships to develop a community center that offers everyone opportunities to develop their artistic talent,” Executive Director Shaloni Winston says.
Both Wool and Winston agree that the welcoming nature of the Fulton-Montgomery Region contributes to the success of these important programs.
“This is a very open and caring community for those we support,” Winston says. “That makes it not just a place where these individuals live, but a place where they feel safe and at home.”