Got a Friend in Me: Libraries and Communities Working Together
Janice Katz had difficulty finding a day habilitation program for her son Alex Katz, who is 24 years old and has autism.
Alex is mentally challenged on a 2-year-old level and has a rare autoimmune disorder. There are few small structured programs with adequate staff for disabled adults with greater challenges. Janice went to meetings and advocated, but she was having no luck finding an agency to help. She was actually told by one agency that she would never get a funded program for Alex and other people who were challenged since they were funding obstacles, liabilities and low functioning.
Low functioning implies no growth for opportunities; Janice refers to her son as more challenged or more uniquely challenged because that leads to opportunities for growth. She decided to call the state and write letters since she had four other families who felt the same way. The state connected her to Lifestyles for the Disabled Inc. director Scott Salindardi who is a true advocate and agreed to help her out. It took 2 years, but thanks to Mr. Salinardi they became a state-funded program with the help of the Family Advisory Committee from the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council.
The group is called Lifestyles You Got a Friend in Me Community Program and meets once a week. While Janice Katz advocated for the funding, she asked the four other families what their adult children wanted to do. They responded that they wanted to do a library program that was better structured to their needs.
The Huguenot Branch manager connected her to Mrs. Morales, the children’s librarian at Todt Hill Westerleigh who did programs for them once a month until she retired. Currently the programs are held at the Richmondtown Library. Since these participants were called a funding obstacle and liability, they started a vocational program called Lifestyles Friends Gone Green. They recycle to help others. The Lifestyles group wanted to thank the library for being supportive. This November, Lifestyles You Got a Friend in Me Community Program asked ShopRite, Michael's, the Richmondtown Library, Lifestyles SEA Group to go green and become community recycling partners.
They recycled $30 worth of materials which was donated to the NYPL to thank the library for being supportive to people with special needs. The group’s original goal was $20 in one month. Lifestyles You Got a Friend in Me Community Program is excited that the Todt Hill Westerleigh Library staff are their newest community recycling partners. Lifestyles Friends Gone Green has donated their recycling money to the Parks Department and Lifestyles for the Disabled Inc. which has 250 disabled adults. Janice and Lifestyles You Got a Friend in Me Community Program hope to inspire others with our story of empowerment and created our own much needed opportunities. While she was told that she would never have a program like Lifestyles You Got A Friend In Me, they are celebrating their third calendar year.