BY BEN VERDE
Direct service professionals in southern Brooklyn group homes received a rousing thank you from a caravan of supporters, who paraded in their cars through the streets of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights to show their appreciation on May 21.
Workers in group homes for people with developmental disabilities operated by the Guild for Exceptional Children have been working weeklong shifts since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to limit movement in and out of the homes, and were only recently offered bonuses after a fundraising effort by the guild.
The caravan served as a physical embodiment of thanks made up of board members, administrators, and residents’ family members, according to organizers.
“We wanted to show them our appreciation,” said Joe Riley, executive director of the Guild for Exceptional Children.
Group homes like the ones operated by GEC have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, due to their congregate settings and the intimate nature of the work direct service professionals are required to do.
The caravan, made up of 30 cars decked out with balloons and thankful signage, snaked through Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, stopping at each of the homes operated by the guild, where Riley thanked workers individually through a megaphone while maintaining a safe distance.
“I think the DSPs were very excited and felt appreciated,” Riley said. “And the residents got a kick out of it because it was a big parade.”
Residents who live near the group homes, which are oftentimes located on residential blocks, joined in on the display by cheering and banging pots and pans outside their homes as the caravan passed.
Riley said the outpouring of support from neighbors was an indicator of how far society has progressed in its acceptance of people with developmental disabilities, compared to years ago when opening a group home was a source of controversy in some neighborhoods.
“Now we are so much a part of the community of Bay Ridge,” Riley said. “They love us. It’s a sign of how far society has come.”
This story is part of an ongoing series about group homes on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, and the pandemic’s impact on those with developmental disabilities.
This story first appeared on brooklynpaper.com.