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Sen. Felder Secures “Access to Home” Program Funding for Hamaspik of Kings County

June 22, 2016

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Agency to Provide Critical Home Upgrades to Brooklyn Seniors with Disabilities

It may have been Friday, April 15, 2016: Tax Day for Americans and a week to Passover for Jewish Brooklynites.   But at the offices of State Sen. Simcha Felder (D-17th Dist.), things other than holiday preparations were cooking.

It was on that day that the good offices of the Senator, long a partner and supporter of Hamaspik and other worthy disability non-profits, completed an official New York State Senate initiative form. 

The form was among the first steps in requesting taxpayer funding for Hamaspik of Kings County’s Access to Home program.  Access to Home provides seniors with disabilities with critical home renovations that allow them to enter, exit and move about with customary ease.

Access to Home, as its name indicates, fits qualifying seniors’ homes with wheelchair ramps, widened doors, and restroom accommodations like walk-in tubs and showers and/or grab bars.

It was quite some time ago that Hamaspik of Kings County successfully spent a five-figure allotment of Access to Home funding on Brooklyn seniors who needed it most.

Though that funding run was completed years ago, the need never diminished.  Calls came.

And over time, Hamaspik of Kings County Executive Director Joel Freund, Director of Development Naftali “Tully” Tessler and their staff never gave up efforts to secure new funding—working with allies both in elected offices and positions within New York State’s several human-services agencies.

Most recently, “those allies” included, again, State Sen. Simcha Felder.

Via the initiative form, Sen. Felder’s office requested $65,000 in funding from the state’s fiscal-year 2016-2017 budget to reactivate Hamaspik’s dormant Access to Home program.

If all went well, Hamaspik would be working with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to bring the vital program once again to the Brooklyn communities it serves.

The state’s Bureau of Contract Management officially received the form on May 2—and on May 16, OCFS Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole sent a signed letter to Mr. Freund informing Hamaspik that “the New York State Legislature has established a Legislative Grant Award in the 2016-2017 State Budget for your Agency.”

The full requested amount had been approved.  Hamaspik’s Access to Home was back.

Director of Development Tessler lost no time e-mailing all necessary documentation with the OCFS, shortly receiving verbal approval from state-agency officials that “everything looks good,” as he later put it.  The original documents were then “snail-mailed” off.

According to the Director of Development, the renewed Access to Home program should be fully operational by the start of August, with publicity—and resulting requests—bringing in the first home-renovation projects for seniors in need just as the summer peaks.

Meyer Wertheimer, Hamaspik founder and Hamaspik of Kings County Board President, expressed thanks to Felder for the public servant’s efforts.  “Senator Felder has always been there to help us provide as many supports as possible to as many people in need as possible,” he said, “and always with the same genuine heart and passion.”

For the hundreds if not thousands of New York City’s wisest citizens that have benefited from it, Access to Home has made all the difference in being able to get in and out of the front door—or being relegated to the despair of shut-in status.

Just a few years ago, Hamaspik of Kings County was hard at work bringing Access to Home to those seniors in need—restoring crumbling outdoor front staircases, installing stair lifts, and otherwise empowering seniors with access to their own homes.

Thanks to Sen. Felder and the OFCS, Hamaspik of Kings County will be hard at work at it again.