Since our founding in 1915, Goodwill NY-NJ has helped individuals with all types of disabilities find work. Back then, just like today, workers with disabilities worked at Goodwill alongside individuals with no disabilities.

Today, the term developmental disabilities has expanded to include individuals with intellectual disabilities (commonly referred in the past as “mentally retarded”, a term no longer in use), autism, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy.

In March, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of the individuals we serve with this type of disabilities. First proclaimed in 1987 by President Reagan during a significant time of social change and shortly before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the presidential proclamation called upon Americans to provide the “encouragement and opportunities” necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential.

Goodwill offers programs for individuals with developmental disabilities who wish to work. Project Discovery serves individuals with intellectual disabilities in two locations, Astoria and Jamaica in Queens. Bridges to Success serves individuals with intellectual disabilities who also have Autism Spectrum Disorders in Long Island City, Queens.

Goodwill also provides services for those individuals with developmental disabilities who want to participate in activities that will connect them with other members of the community. Possibilities serves individuals with intellectual disabilities who also have Autism Spectrum Disorders in three locations: Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Jamaica, Queens. As this population ages, we saw the need to start a program for older individuals with developmental disabilities. Two years ago, we launched the Senior Champions program to serve individuals with intellectual disabilities who are 50 or older. The program is located in Astoria, Queens.

Angel Nogue, a sixty-two year-old man with an intellectual disability, is a founder participant of the Senior Champions program. He first joined Goodwill’s Prevocational Services in April 2007. He worked at Goodwill’s Work Center where he engaged, came in contact, and became friendly with everyone.

When Goodwill refined and downsized the work center in 2013, some individuals expressed their desire to work in the community while others expressed their wish to retire. Angel wished to remain active and engaged in the community with his Goodwill peers but not work anymore.

In October 2013, Angel began a gradual transition from the Work Center to the retirement program. He showed eagerness to participate in all indoor and outdoor activities. He went to museums, libraries, and shopping in malls and shops in his community. He joined the cooking classes, coffee hour while reading and discussing current events, music, art, yoga, and low impact fitness classes. Angel became very involved in his new program and even helped come up with a new name for the program: Senior Champions.

Angel’s family notes that he has shown countless improvements in communication and has become more independent.

“I like spending my time here at Goodwill with my friends,” Angel says.

View photos of participants of Goodwill’s Senior Champions program during a recent music lesson.

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