Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 22 February 2013 00:00
The Albertson-based Henry Viscardi Center is legendary for assisting children with special needs in finding their way into adulthood. The center also owns several residential units near their property on I.U. Willets Road. One of them came in handy recently as it gave a Long Beach family devastated by Hurricane Sandy a real home to live in until their old one has been renovated.
When Hurricane Sandy wreaked its damage last fall, the Greengus family’s property suffered so much damage that the family of six was forced out of their house and into a hotel in Garden City, while they remained in negotiations with insurance companies. At the same time, the FEMA hotel assistance program was reaching its deadline and rentals were beyond the family’s means. Help came in the form of The Disability Opportunity Fund (DOF) and its president and CEO, Charlie Hammerman.
In December, the Greengus’s were invited to a Autism Speaks holiday party, where they came in contact with Hammerman. Aware that the Viscardi Center had unused residential property, Hammerman got in touch with John D. Kemp, president of the center. Kemp offered the property to the Greengus family, allowing them to continue their busy lives with some normalcy.
“When Charlie approached us, we agreed that it would be an excellent use of the house since we are already committed to helping people with disabilities and their families and actively assisting those affected by the storm through our Relief Fund.” Kemp said.
“Once again, the DOF proved the value of public private partnerships in helping our fellow citizens with disabilities and their families,” added Hammerman. In addition to a place to live, the Greengus family also needed furniture, as the majority of such belongings had also been lost in the storm. More generosity came in the form of Get Moving USA and Bob’s Discount Furniture, which helped to provide furnished items. Further, the Viscardi Relief Fund, allowed the family to purchase other basic necessities.
For Kim Greengus, who manages the house with her husband and their four children, the new home has both practical and emotional benefits.
“With three bedrooms, [the new home] is like a slumber party every night,” she said. “The boys now have a place to run around. I can cook dinner. You should have seen the smiles on everyone’s face when I made a pot roast. We are grateful just to have space to do homework.” Getting back into a normal routine, she added, was especially important for the couple’s 11-year-old son Bobby who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. “At our home, he knew where everything was. He could be more self sufficient.”
And so, Kim remains effusive in her praise of The Viscardi Center.
“They’ve been a guardian angel to my family,” she said. “They helped us along in a struggle I thought I’d never go through. They’ve been picking me up when the punches were taking us down, down, down.”
The Greengus family hopes to eventually return to their home in Long Beach, but they will always look at their Albertson residence with special affection.