At the Thomas S. Gulotta Wheatley Farms & Arts Center, AHRC Nassau opened a program catered to Nassau County adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It offers gardening and classes on how to care for horses and other animals.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

A new center in Brookville catering primarily to Nassau County adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities opens with a ribbon cutting Thursday. It will offer gardening as well as the chance to care for horses and other animals, and eventually classes in farm-to-table cooking, yoga, pottery, dance and music on days, evenings and weekends.

The Thomas S. Gulotta Wheatley Farms & Arts Center, at 211 Wheatley Rd., is a 3.5-acre property adjacent to the current AHRC Nassau administrative building; AHRC will run the campus-based program. In addition to providing activities, the center also aims to prepare adults with vocational skills to land jobs at restaurants, farms, nurseries and gardening centers, said Stanfort Perry, CEO of AHRC Nassau.

“It’s an expansion … to continually meet the needs of a growing population on Long Island,” Perry said. It plans to be open seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“I’m looking forward to working with all the animals,” said Alex Wiegmann, 20, who lives in a group home in Westbury and is part of a pilot program that began before the ribbon cutting. The farm has sheep, goats, ducks, rabbits and a pig named Caspien.

“I’m very excited about this. I think it will bring a new dimension for people with disabilities,” said Saundra Gumerove, of Jericho, president of the AHRC Board of Directors and parent of a 40-year-old daughter with disabilities who lives in a group home in Westbury and loves to grow strawberries. “This will expose her to a broader range of farming, of growing things. And there’s a social aspect to it; she’ll get to meet new people.”

This phase of the center, which cost close to $4 million, features a clubhouse, farm and stable that will initially house two horses as well other animals. Community volunteers will work alongside adults with disabilities. 

The next phase, for which AHRC is currently raising funds, will involve renovating the farmhouse on the grounds to offer a full range of classes. That phase should launch in 2023, Perry said.

Activities are free to adults who are registered through day programs in Nassau County; those not enrolled in a day program will pay a nominal fee to take classes, Perry said. People who do not have disabilities may also register for classes, Perry said. For more information, or to volunteer, call 516-626-1000 or visit ahrc.org/wheatleyfarms.