Autistic Adults Help Brighten the Holidays for Homeless Families

The Children's Institute-Group photo with Harmony House Residents and Thanksgiving Baskets, Nov. 2013Families at New Community Harmony House received all the fixings for a delicious holiday dinner, thanks to a group of young adults from the Center for Independence in Livingston. “We are all connected no matter how different we are. The idea of giving food really hit home for them,” said Kimberly Rushmore, director of the center, which is a day program for young adults with autism and related disabilities. The young men who delivered the boxes couldn’t have been happier being involved in the community outreach project. Everything from turkey and pasta to canned vegetables were included in the family’s packages, along with household essentials like laundry detergent and soap. “It’s good to give back to the community,” said Eric Helweil, 21, of Livingston, one of the center clients who helped deliver the food. The Harmony House project was initiated by Cassandra Flanagan, activities coordinator at the center, whose mother, Tracy Stapleton, works as a teacher’s assistant at Harmony House Early Learning Center. “We believe in a healthy community, everyone has to take care of each other,” said Flanagan, noting this philosophy is taught to the young, autistic adults at the Center for Independence, which is a program of the Children’s Institute, based in Verona. “We are very grateful for the help and support that’s out there for us,” said Harmony House resident, Monique Hedgespeth, a mother with five children ranging in age from 2 to 6. Agnes Alderman, another parent, also expressed gratitude for the holiday food donation. “I’m just thankful to them for thinking of us,” she said.

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