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Vacation Rentals, Water Parks, Plane Flights, Gluten-free Pizza and Macaroni (the Clown)

Individuals at Hamaspik Group Homes, Day Programs Enjoy Colorful, Diverse Summer

August 19, '15

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

What do New York City’s Roosevelt Island, Massachusetts’ Jiminy Peak, upstate’s Sullivan County International Airport and New Jersey’s Sahara Sam’s indoor water park have in common with shopping, swimming and gluten-free pizza?

Those were just some of the forms summer took this past season all across Hamaspik, of course—with a little Macaroni (the Clown) thrown in for good measure.

Across Hamaspik’s constellation of a dozen-plus group homes and several day programs in three counties, hundreds of individuals of all ages with intellectual and other disabilities spent summer the way most of us do: Going on vacations and trips, spending time with family and friends, and otherwise having good clean fun.

With a little help from the agency’s relentlessly caring managers and staff, naturally.

Hamaspik of Kings County’s 38th St. Shvesterheim Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA), that agency’s youngest group home, spent one summer Shabbos weekend up in “the Country”—the popular Catskills region.  Once there, they enjoyed a wonderful weekend from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon in the company of a beloved 38th staff member on the premises of a tranquil bungalow colony.  That visit, encircled by natural surroundings, was accentuated by several live ducks waddling by—a simple life experience that thrilled the girls to no end.

The Catskills weekend vacation was completed with a visit to Woodbourne, New York, where the young ladies enjoyed pizza, including a few gluten-free slices to accommodate an allergy.

But 38th St. had summer fun right at home in New York City, too, with a thrilling ride on the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway followed by a picnic on the East River island.

The home-based fun continued right in their own backyard, as the residents planted cauliflower and corn at the end of June, reports Assistant Manager Mrs. Yona Kasnett.

Come summer, a lot of people break out the grill for good-old-fashioned seasonal barbeques, backyard picnic tables, friends and family over and all.  (Don’t forget to grill everything thoroughly!  You don’t want the health woes of undercooked meat.)

That was the case at Hamaspik of Orange County’s Seven Springs Shvesterheim IRA under the longtime leadership of Home Manager Mrs. Miriam Heilbrun, where the group home rolled out its brand-new BBQ grill this summer, enjoying it several times thus far.

With one staff member getting engaged to be married and a resident marking a birthday, there’s been much to celebrate around Seven Springs of late, Mrs. Heilbrun reports.  That aforementioned birthday party was a big enough bash to be combined with a grand summer activity right on site for all the residents: A hands-on petting zoo!  The residents reacted beautifully to the animals, the Manager says.

Seven Springs joined its sister Hamaspik women’s residences, the Bakertown, Fosse, 38th and South 9th Shvesterheims, the evening of Wednesday, July 29 at a women-only community concert in Monticello, New York.

Following the concert, the young ladies and their staff joined together for a dinner outing.

As for Fosse itself, famed resident Breindy, who has been amply covered in the Gazette in issues past for her personal mission of inspiring the world to realize their own personal missions, has been bringing her message of inspiration to girls summer camps all across the Catskills all summer long.

Breindy also planned and executed her own self-directed extraordinary vacation extravaganza.

Marking the somber day of the Ninth of Av, the day on the Jewish calendar marking many cataclysmic events in ancient and modern Jewish history, the Fosse “Shvesterheimers” were treated to a visit by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, whose staff came to their Fosse Court home in Monsey to personally convey the story of Tisha B’Av, as it is known.

Family life is also alive and well, reports Fosse staff. Since summer’s start, some residents have been visiting their own biological parents and siblings every four weeks, going home because “they love being part of the family,” as Home Manager Mrs. Esty Landau puts it.

For the residents of the Dinev Inzerheim Intermediate Care Facility (ICF), the entire community is their family.

Small wonder that, come summer, the young ladies of Dinev “enjoy going out meeting big crowds of people,” a Dinev DSP tells the Gazette.

Several of those crowds came in the form of summer-long weekly Sunday visits to the upstate girls’ camps of the Kiryas Joel and New Square Chasidic communities, where campers warmly and excitedly embracing them all, making them feel like the guests of honor that they were.

Not to forget Macaroni (the Clown).

Tom Mayes, the popular Hudson Valley children’s entertainer otherwise known as “Macaroni,” has performed for Hamaspik many times in past years—and this summer was no different. Macaroni made another appearance on site for Dinev’s precious residents, providing face painting, balloon sculptures and more.

Other summer activities at Dinev included some local shopping, visiting ice cream parlors, going swimming and just getting out and about into nearby parks and other such pleasant public venues, thanks to the glorious weather.

Dinev’s nearest sister home, the Bakertown Shvesterheim IRA, highlighted its summer by enjoying a women-only community night out at the Sahara Sam’s indoor water park in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

Things were quite literally flying high this summer at Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Concord Briderheim IRA, where a handful of residents drove up to Sullivan County International Airport, which, despite its large-sounding name, primarily serves single-engine propeller craft.

Once there, residents were treated to 30-minute flights over the region, not just giving them spectacular views of the greater Hudson Valley and Catskills area but giving them the unique thrill of flying, several for the first time in their lives!

Needless to say, the experience—which would rightfully give anyone perhaps the thrill of their lives—gave the individuals with disabilities a high (pun very much intended) that reflected the quality lives given them by Hamaspik’s caring staff.

Four residents also traveled in groups of two to rural New Hampshire, where they rented a cabin for four days for a summer vacation of their own.  Others spent a day or two with biological family in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.

And at Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Fosse Shvesterheim IRA, Manager Landau and staff saw to it that every individual resident enjoyed an individualized summer experience.  Three said individuals embarked on personal vacations across the season: One to the upstate Raleigh Hotel for a weekend, a second to the Deal, New Jersey coastline and a third to the Poconos.

Another four traveled as a group to the Raleigh for a weekend, too.

On a far more somber but fortuitous note, one resident was suddenly insistent on paying a visit to her aging mother, who was under the care of a convalescent home due to various serious conditions.  Fosse staff obligingly accommodated her, arranging the loving visit.  Sadly, the family matriarch passed on the following week—but not without having gotten to see her special daughter one last time thanks to a visit arranged by Hamaspik.

Across Hamaspik’s several day programs in three counties, summer was the order of the day.

Hamaspik of Orange County’s Day Habilitation program had its hands full this season, including observing flying lessons at a local airport, visiting the venerated Nikolsberger Rebbe at Congregation Bnai Israel, his Woodbourne, New York synagogue and even putting on a play in-house.

“Every day is a highlight,” says Women’s Division Manager Mrs. Esty Schonfeld of Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Day Hab program, asked for the summer’s highlight.

For starters, the Day Hab program enjoyed geographically-themed days complete with matching colors, including China, Colorado and Amish country—“and a lot of fun in between!” says a staffer.

They also held an in-house carnival at which they hosted their Rockland County counterparts complete game booths, face painting and, sumptuous lunch.

Hamaspik of Kings County’s Day Hab programs, both Men’s and Women’s Divisions, visited Roosevelt Island by tram this summer.  They also engaged in arts and crafts activities, regularly went swimming and even running in the sprinklers, and “went to war” against one another in a grand two-team Color War competition. (Color War is a popular feature of Orthodox Jewish overnight camps in which entire camper/staff bodies are split in two and pitted against one another for up to three days of themed contents.)

As the summer wound down, there was plenty to look back at.

But given the track record of seasonal fun and games provided by Hamaspik staff, all against a background of rigorously professional care, there’s only more good stuff to look forward to.