Jeffery Fox, executive director of Abilities First, and Serene Morrero, director of development, describe this Dutchess-County-based program that serves all developmentally disabled children and adults. The organization has thirty different facilities in Dutchess County, which began with its original “Little Red Schoolhouse” in Poughkeepsie, and now goes from preschool to adult services. Since then, the emphasis in helping the developmentally disabled–who may be on the autism spectrum, have down syndrome , or suffer other forms of intellectual disability–has often been on “mainstreaming” students into regular classrooms, but Abilities First helps handle students not able to be integrated into ordinary schoolrooms. At the adult level, Abilities First provides help with ways to use community resources and currently aids sixty who have regular employment as well as those who are not able to work.
Elian Trumpetto, Executive Director of the Council on Addiction Prevention of Dutchess County, and Mike Hill director of the Drinking Driver Program at Dutchess Community College, discuss the program “Alive at 25,” which is sponsored by the National Safety Council. Alive at 25 is a 4-hour educational program aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds to heighten their awareness of the hazards of driving drunk, drugged, or distracted. New York State has rules for young drivers about who the other occupants of a car may be, since research has shown that other young people are a principle distraction.
Center of Compassion volunteers Julie Gregory, Executive Coordinator, and Karen Finnerty, Community Outreach Coordinator, discuss this complex of humanitarian activities that has been located in Dover Plains for the past eleven years. Founded by Sister Maureen of the Westchester’s Sisters of the Divine Compassion, The Center of Compassion runs a food bank, a weekly community lunch, a backpack program of food for school children, emergency meals for the home-bound, and a thrift store at 7 Market Street in Dover Plains. All the meals they provide are homemade by volunteers. The backpack program, one of their newer outreaches, provides about 50 to 80 children identified by the school system as in need with a Friday backpack filled with six well-balanced meals; the children return the empty backpack to the school on Monday. Mostly funded by local donors, The Center of Compassion also operated with a grant from the Regional Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.
Norah Merritt (Executive Director of Educational Programs), Barbara Cesario (Coordinator of Related Services), and Leah Pollack (Administrator of the PEACCE program) about the scope of BOCES and its special services. BOCES supplies “solutions, services, and savings” for K-12 students and beyond through three main centers in Poughkeepsie as well as itinerant teachers who work as visitors in all of the County’s school districts. Although many local residents think primarily of BOCES Career and Technical Institute or the Adult Learning Institute, this program focuses mainly on programs for the deaf and hearing impaired and for the autism spectrum disorder, especially the PEACCE (Providing an Education for Autistic and Communication-Impaired Children Effectively) program.