On Wednesday evening, December 11, a large gathering of mothers and grandmothers from Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Boro Park, and Flatbush, from every walk of life—Sephardic, Litvish, Chassidish, Lubavitch—came together to enjoy a post-Chanukah event entitled “Lightening Your Load” at the HASC Center 63rd Street location in Boro Park. They all had one thing in common—children or grandchildren with special needs.
In “The Joy of Chocolate,” Mrs. Raizy Weingarten demonstrated and created masterpieces out of melted chocolate. Makeup artist Mrs. Chaya Rosenberg showed the ladies how to apply makeup, and some happy ladies walked away with new makeovers! Mrs. Blimi Frank demonstrated the art of needlepoint, and the ladies all created matchbox covers. Participants joined in the mystery raffle, with four happy winners! One of the raffles—a silver and diamond necklace—was donated by Rochi Silver, of Silver Sensations.
The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. Everyone participated in the three joint sessions, enjoying a varied assortment of refreshments and partaking in an interesting lecture. Mrs. Tzippy Reifer, who lectures and works for Project Inspire, spoke about how, through their children, the parents and grandparents of special-needs children are given the opportunity to be mekarev professionals who are Jewish but nonaffiliated.
Over the past five decades, the HASC Center has developed a sterling reputation of providing a vast array of services for adults and children with developmental disabilities, autism, and multiple handicaps. The agency has been providing all of the assorted direct services which are administered and funded under the aegis of the New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The agency has been exceptionally proud of its trailblazing and continued commitment to administering these services to the frum community with adherence to the highest halachic standards and cultural sensitivities.
Over the past several years, the HASC Center administration has made a commitment to enhancing the lives of the families with special-needs members. The agency has come to realize that while most of the services focus on the person with special needs, mothers, fathers, and siblings are very much in need of support, respite, and social outlets in which they can relieve their immense stress, their daily struggles, and the unrelenting demand for their vigilance. As a result, they have established the Family Support Network, under the leadership of Mrs. Bracha Lavrinoff, as an independent department with a mandate to go beyond the scope of OPWDD services and funding, to create a spectrum of initiatives designed to relieve some of the burden experienced by the family members.
The post-Chanukah gathering was the culmination of a year filled with monthly support groups, informational lectures, and ongoing opportunities for networking. This past year also saw the establishment of “sis-shops” in Williamsburg and Boro Park, where siblings of those with special needs spend enjoyable hours in recreational pursuits while receiving therapeutic support in a fun-filled venue. v