MaryAnn Dellova knew what her daughter needed, so raised her hand high. During a life-planning meeting with AHRC Nassau staff, Mrs. Dellova advocated for disability supports that Jennifer, who is nonverbal, wanted and needed to thrive—a welcoming space where she could connect with plants and animals, explore her interests, meet new people, and build a community.
“We needed something like this in Nassau County,” Dellova recalled. “I never thought that four years later Jennifer and I would be planning how we’ll be spending time at the farm together.”
Wheatley Farms & Arts Center welcomes people of all abilities to grow their interests in nature-inspired activities, including animal care, horticulture/gardening, art, music, and movement.
Located adjacent to AHRC Nassau’s Brookville campus, the 3.5-acre community center offers volunteer opportunities and activities open to all at its clubhouse, stables, and gardens.
AHRC Nassau, the organization that is leading this initiative, dedicated the Center on August 25 in honor of former Nassau County Executive Thomas “Tom” Gulotta. In attendance were our engaged community of self-advocates, families, staff, neighboring nonprofits, companies, volunteers and friends in government.
“The AHRC Board of Directors is pleased to dedicate this space to a public servant who supported the full inclusion of people with disabilities within the fabric of Nassau County,” said Saundra M. Gumerove, President of AHRC Nassau’s Board of Directors. “For 14 years, he was an active member of the AHRC Foundation Board and we expect that this Center will re-set the focus from what people can do to what brings people together.”
“We thank those who have supported this effort thus far including the Gladys Brooks Foundation, AHRC Foundation, The Long Island Wine and Liquor Sales Club and a generous anonymous donor. We also recognize the generosity of the Ike, Molly & Steven Elias Foundation and State Senator John Brooks (SD-8) for generously pledging their support today,” added Gumerove.
During the ribbon-cutting, Brooks shared, “I had a cousin who had developmental disabilities and her mother was very involved in the early stages of the AHRC. So, for me, this was a deeply personal honor to be able to give the organization a $10,000 grant to help in the expansion of their programs.”
To advance the Center’s development and community focus, volunteering will be essential in the care and upkeep of the farm as well as its animal residents. During weekday hours, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) will work side by side community volunteers to build new skills, relationships and self-esteem through nature-based projects and community service. People with I/DD and their families who are interested in including Wheatley Farms within their services/supports are welcome to connect with AHRC’s Central Enrollment Department.
“We are ensuring that this Center serves to anchor our mission—empowering people to live fulfilling lives, together with family, friends and community,” said Stanfort J. Perry, CEO of AHRC Nassau. “Our first phase focused on the development of a fresh and engaging pilot program for day services at the AHRC Greenhouse, next door to the Center, as well as equine-assisted activities at HorseAbility. Now, we’re working with an advisory committee to increase our compelling programming for all to enjoy for many years to come.”
- Interested in seeing a livestream of the dedication and ribbon-cutting? See the video here.
- Volunteer opportunities are currently available. For more information, visit ahrc.org/volunteer
- If you or a family member is interested in learning more about AHRC Nassau’s Day Services, please call (516) 644-4800 during business hours or email firstname.lastname@example.org