As Chair of the Education and Human Services Committee that has jurisdiction over initiatives that protect the welfare of Suffolk County citizens, Legislator Tom Donnelly (D-Huntington Station) invited and welcomed representatives of the not-for-profit Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. (FREE) to address the committee in Hauppauge on September 25.
In their presentation, Michelle Flood and Joe Jankowski from FREE provided information about the Speakers Bureau, a self-advocacy group comprised of men and women who receive services from the organization. The member presenters offer workshops and participate in panel discussions for school districts, colleges, day programs, families, and other groups on a variety of topics including advocacy, living with a disability, bullying, empowerment and employment.
FREE Peer Mentor Stefanie Russo shared her insight and experiences with the committee. In their community outreach presentations, speaker advocates highlight the challenges of working and having a disability including transportation challenges, retaining employment while managing medical appointments related to having a disability, and attaining a balance between benefits vs. full time employment.
“It was inspiring to witness firsthand what people in FREE accomplish every day,” said Legislator Donnelly. “Their programs provide a real service to those in need, and it was captivating to listen to Stefanie use her story to help others.”
In October, Legislator Donnelly toured FREE’s Bethpage offices and attended their monthly Speakers Bureau meeting where he presented Certificates to all of the peer mentors.
“We appreciate Legislator Donnelly’s role in enhancing community partnerships between government and the non-profit sector through his recognition of the individuals we are privileged to support from FREE’s Speaker’s Bureau,” said Robert S. Budd, CEO, FREE. “The smiles on their faces prove that advocacy for people of all abilities can have a lasting impact and we thank Legislator Donnelly for providing this inspiration.”
Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. (FREE), founded in 1977, benefits and supports more than 4,000 individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, mental illness and traumatic brain injury. FREE’s mission is to help individuals of all abilities realize their full potential.
FREE provides a diverse array of supports and services including: housing; recovery services; transition to work; employment; day, community and family services; respite; crisis services; education and after school support; specialty health services; and advocacy. FREE also collaborates with a variety of diverse 501(c)(3) nonprofit partners on educational, vocational, rehabilitative and a myriad of other creative initiatives to enhance the local communities and the lives of more than 25,000 people that reside within them. Each of the valued partners of the FREE Network has a unique mission, vision and strategic goals that are aligned in purpose, and embody the spirit of the meaningful work we do every day.
For more information, call 516-870-7000 or visit www.familyres.org
Suffolk Legislator Tom Donnelly welcomed representatives from Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, Inc. (FREE) to the September 25 Education & Human Services Committee Meeting in Hauppauge. Pictured from left: Leg. Rudy Sunderman, Deputy Presiding Officer Robert Calarco, Leg. Monica Martinez, Shannon McElroy, Doretta Waterman, Dana Welsby, Michelle Flood, Andrew Misita, Stefanie Russo, Joe Jankowski, Leg. Tom Donnelly and Leg. Steven Flotteron.