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Community is at the heart of what we do. Whether you’re a person we support, a staff member, or a family member, you belong at YAI. You are the reason we can provide opportunities for people with I/DD to grow, engage, and flourish in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Donna sits outside by a brick wall

“I just do it from my heart”

“I see you.” That’s what Donna Freckleton often tells the people she supports. For more than 20 years, she has empowered people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to thrive in her programs. When Freckleton started at YAI’s Cobble Hill residence, she taught the residents how to make lasagna. Today, the housemates take turns cooking for each other. She also organized a chorus and, most recently, helped residents put on an adaptation of the musical Annie which they performed at an ice cream party for people from five other YAI residences.

“This job is helping the people we support go above and beyond. It’s helping them live better,” said Freckleton. Whatever someone wants to do, Freckleton finds a way to make it happen. “I don’t like the word ‘no.’ I like ‘we’ll try,’ because we can do this. I just do it from my heart.”

Angelo wears all white as he sits on a bench and looks at the camera

“Just keep going and hope for the best”

Four years ago, Angelo Polanco suffered an on-the-job injury while working in a factory. Then, as he says, “Everything else came falling apart.” Today, Polanco is healed and has his dream job working in event security. He had his first gig on New Year’s Eve 2023 and hasn’t looked back.

“My job is very interesting, every event is my favorite,” Polanco said. “The best part is when I meet a lot of celebrities.” A particular favorite was meeting New York City’s Mayor, Eric Adams.

Polanco has been in YAI’s supported employment program for more than 10 years. He advises other job seekers with I/DD to “Just keep going and hope for the best because YAI will help you get a job. That’s what they’re here for.” He also reminds prospective employers who are considering candidates with disabilities, “Just help them out. Instead of judging them, just help them out.”

Diane crouches next to and looks up to her daughter, Sarah

“Everyone deserves to have people”

Diane Barnhart and her husband Colin share a belief that “Everyone deserves to have people.” That belief helped guide their decision to seek out more support for their daughter Sarah. Ever since Sarah moved in to a YAI residence in Hudson Valley more than three years ago, collaboration with YAI has been transformative for their family. “We have open communication with the staff at Sarah’s house,” said Barnhart. “They don’t cut us out, and that’s been immensely helpful.”

Barnhart says that their family’s involvement with YAI has helped Sarah progress. “With all my interactions with staff, there’s no judgment. They don’t make assumptions. It’s baked into YAI’s training to treat every individual like an individual. They want to know about Sarah...Somebody there will be looking out for her the way I would.”