AHRC Far Rockaway Spreads Breast Cancer Awareness

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Something very special is taking place on Healy Avenue in Far Rockaway. Each week at AHRC New York City’s Far Rockaway Center, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism are receiving support to live self-determined, meaningful, full lives. The facility has been serving the community for more than 20 years, but on Friday, October 5, the Center opened its doors to everyone to bring awareness to an issue that could affect anyone—breast cancer. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Center hosted its first ever Breast Cancer Awareness Day to give back to the community.

On Friday morning, the community was welcomed to the AHRC NYC Far Rockaway Center (23-55 Healy Avenue) with open arms as some of the members, decked out in pink for the occasion, handed out buttons and handmade breast cancer awareness ribbons. Guests were then treated to breakfast before the program began.

AHRC Far Rockaway’s new facility director, Renika Jeffrey, kicked off the program by explaining what AHRC does and how it began. “AHRC is a family-governed organization that services people with developmental disabilities. Our whole purpose is to help people live richer lives, healthy, full lives, and this is all based on that person’s needs and hopes and desires. At this facility, we do a lot of volunteer activities, we help to find individuals jobs, and plenty of other things,” she explained. According to Jeffrey, AHRC NYC began with a woman named Anne Greenberg, who placed an ad in the New York Post, asking if any mothers of “retarded” children, age four through eight, were interested in starting a nursery school. The ad caught the attention of about 10 people that met at a friend’s home in the Bronx. However when another ad was placed, targeting the whole city, the response was greater. The group planned to hold a meeting with 50 people who were invited by letters, but 300 parents showed up, seeking help and support from families going through the same thing.

In 1949, AHRC, then known as the Association for the Help of Retarded Children, began. As the “R” word is now frowned upon, the acronym no longer stands for anything and the organization is simply known as AHRC NYC, and it has been doing wonderful things for many years at facilities across the city, including in Far Rockaway.

Jeffrey later explained more about the Far Rockaway Center, which offers Adult Day Services. The adults with developmental disabilities that utilize the center participate in activities daily from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. What they do is dependent on what the individual wants to do. “They tell us what their hopes and dreams are. The whole thing is for them to have a richer life, not to let their disability be something that we focus on, because we’re here to focus on their abilities,” Jeffrey said. For many, this includes individuals volunteering with other community organizations like JASA Senior Center and other places. “They love to give back to the community and feel that they’re doing something for someone else and it’s not just everyone doing something for them because they have a disability,” Jeffrey explained.

This concept is how the First Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day came about. With Jeffrey at the helm as the new facility director, and a great team of staff members working with her, AHRC NYC Far Rockaway decided to give back to the community by providing everyone with information about breast cancer. Fellow community organizations were invited and flyers were handed out at train stations to let people know about the event.

To make the program a success, the individuals at the center helped by creating art pieces and decorations to decorate the walls of the center, creating awareness ribbons and gift bags for guests, and even helping prepare food for the event. They also invited guests to make the day special, such as representatives from the Joseph P. Addabbo Health Center, who spoke and provided blood pressure screenings, and Bonnie Federman from the American Cancer Society, who provided valuable information such as statistics and symptoms of breast cancer, and explained different screenings and treatment options, before answering questions from the group, which was eager to participate. AHRC NYC individuals, Jessie Perkins and Milagros Rotger, participated by reciting words of encouragement and poems. Breast cancer survivor Olive Moses told her personal story and encouraged people to get their regular check-ups. There was then an intermission for lunch, and the afternoon concluded with more guests speaking about topics like nutrition and more.

Jeffrey believes the First Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day event was a success and hopes to do similar programs in the future. “We wanted to invite our community into our program for a good cause, to bring awareness to breast cancer, signs, prevention and to give people access to this information. I’m the new director of the facility and this hadn’t been done here before, but we have a great team that’s really passionate about the community. They did paintings, decorations, food…everyone played a major role in making this event a success and we plan on doing more. We hope to be more of a community site where the community can utilize our services and space like so many other organizations have allowed us to do,” Jeffrey said.

To learn more about AHRC NYC, head to https://www.ahrcnyc.org or call 212-780-4491. To reach the Far Rockaway Center, which offers Adult Day Services, call 718-327-2809.

Photos by AHRC New York City and Katie McFadden.

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