Guest editorial by Connie S. Brown
Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara
An estimated four million Americans - representing all ages, races and without regard to gender or degree of wealth - live with a developmental disability. Organizations such as Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara help provide these individuals the ability to live, work, learn and recreate without prejudice or barriers.
We take time each March to join with other organizations across the state, and country, to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of citizens with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Once isolated and ignored, people with developmental disabilities now enjoy greater educational, vocational and social opportunities. Today, these adults hold responsible jobs, serve as dedicated volunteers for nursing homes, day cares, and delivering meals to shut-ins to name a few, participate in recreational activities, shop, vote and live productive lives in their communities. They are good people to know as neighbors and friends.
Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, the Niagara County Chapter of NYSARC, Inc., embarked on a month-long special project this year to celebrate Developmental Disability Awareness Month. Under the banner of "NYSARC Gives Back" our program participants and employees joined together, with the leadership of our two self-advocacy groups, to collect non-perishable food donations for the Niagara Community Action Program of the Food Bank of Western New York.
Through Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, a member agency of the United Way, more than 800 individuals and their families are provided with the resources needed to reach their greatest potential. This is accomplished each year by the more than 500 employees who work around the clock to understand the hopes and dreams of each participant and assist them in "growing success."
As a not-for-profit, Opportunities Unlimited receives critical funding from Medicaid and other government sources enabling us to provide children, teens, adults and seniors in Niagara County a future that will bring them the equality and fulfillment as full citizens in their own right. Additionally, we are grateful to the area businesses, service/fraternal organizations and individuals who contribute gifts of volunteer time and financial resources enabling us to offer results-oriented programs and services.
In an effort to educate families on proposed state changes to programs, services and funding, we will host an informational gathering in conjunction with the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York on March 28, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., at 2510 Niagara Falls Blvd., Wheatfield. All are welcome.
For nearly 60 years, we have celebrated the courage, perseverance, and abilities of individuals with disabilities. Thank you for trusting us to serve your family members. We look forward to many exciting years working with the local community to provide innovative and quality supports for people of all ages and their families.