Some of the artwork at the AHRC East Meadow Art...

Some of the artwork at the AHRC East Meadow Art Gallery in East Meadow. Credit: Reece T. Williams

Douglas painted a tree with leaves made from glued-on multicolored buttons.

Andrew, wearing a Knicks shirt and hat, painted yellow flowers. "I made this one with watercolors," he said, showing his work proudly. "I used watercolors."

In one corner, Yonah, in her Minnie Mouse shirt, colors in a book with red crayon.

Richard stands at the entrance to the East Meadow art gallery, painting a sign and flowers on the glass door as a welcome message to visitors.

Douglas Walcott of Baldwin, Andrew Deeley of Valley Stream, Yonah Piedagnel of Westbury and Richard Infante of Roosevelt all are participants at the AHRC East Meadow Art Gallery, one of 42 day habilitation — or, day hab — programs run at more than 30 sites countywide by AHRC Nassau, the nonprofit organization whose mission is helping those with intellectual and other developmental disabilities "build full lives."

These artists have spent months preparing for a June exhibition called "Flowers! A Garden of Dreams."

Past exhibitions include a Vincent van Gogh-inspired "Starry Night" theme, while this year's topic was selected from thematic choices including outer space, sports and the circus.

The AHRC East Meadow Art Gallery in East Meadow, provides a creative space for artists with developmental disabilities as they prepare to show their artwork in an exhibition. Credit: Newsday/Reece T. Williams

The day hab programs work with members 21 and older weekdays from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Each location focuses on a specialty — art, volunteer work with senior centers and libraries, for instance — and staff helps members develop daily life skills, including basic finances, communication and socialization.

The Brookville-based AHRC serves about 2,000 adults in Nassau funded by the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) through the state Medicaid program. Come April, which is both Autism Awareness Month and Developmental Disabilities Month, the organization is seeking an 11% cost of living adjustment in the new state budget. That would help offset what AHRC called "significant costs" and help increase direct care wages needed to maintain and extend services countywide.

"Many of our front line workers," AHRC Nassau Board President Saundra (Sandy) Gumerove said, "could make more money flipping burgers at McDonalds or Burger King than they do in developmental services helping people. It's hard to find staff when they have to work a second job."

Gumerove first became acquainted with AHRC three decades ago after her daughter, Lauren, who has disabilities and was expelled from elementary school for acting out — at age 6.

Born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, which causes an abnormal growth of blood vessels, Lauren, now 40, has seizures, as well as intellectual and vision impairments, Gumerove said.

Gumerove said it wasn't until a friend mentioned a youth program in the AHRC family of affiliates that everything changed.

"Within six months her behavior changed, her demeanor changed," Gumerove said. "I think it was the way she was treated … It saved her life — and it saved mine."

Art gallery director Lisa Moosmueller, of Elmont, managed a string of tanning salons before joining AHRC more than 30 years ago. "I have friends who make lots of money and they're absolutely miserable. I'm happy and that's because you can see in these [adult members] a sense of self-worth that comes out. They have friends here, they have a sense of purpose here."

"It's fun," Jody Gallagher of Seaford said of being in the art class. "It's fun."

With Reese T. Williams

Special art programs

  • AHRC Nassau has 42 day habilitation programs at 21 places, including multiple locations in Oceanside, Freeport, Farmingdale, Jericho, East Meadow and Massapequa, as well as 15 other sites.
  •  The East Meadow art gallery, located at 198 East Meadow Ave., features not only an exhibition space but a storefront gallery where artists with disabilities can sell their work for nominal fees. There's an art show each June, though the group has had off-site exhibits like an Art in the Park show last October in Wantagh.
  • There's also a One Stop Gift Shop in Hicksville, where members with disabilities create and craft handmade items, answer phones, take online orders, package and help deliver merchandise.
  •  Any Long Islander approved for services through the state OPWDD may be considered for day services. A care manager assists in finding the program that best fits needs, and support and transportation are provided by the state. For more info visit
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