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Fancy FREE to raise funds for autism

A view of downtown Farmingdale, which boasts more

A view of downtown Farmingdale, which boasts more than 125 stores and dozens of restaurants. It is also the location of the village's post office, Village Hall and several banks. (July 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Alexi Knock

A business uniquely designed to produce works by, and raise funds for, individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other disabilities Monday opened its doors on Farmingdale’s downtown stretch.

The Fancy FREE gift shop and artisan center, run by Old Bethpage nonprofit Family Residences and Essential Enterprises Inc., joined other storefronts on Main Street, an area that Farmingdale leaders have long sought to revitalize.

The boutique sells artwork, glassware, totes, jewelry and other crafts designed by young adults with disabilities, with proceeds going toward store operations and the agency’s programs.

Kimberly Stetler, 37, of Patchogue, was among the dozen or so “artisans” who demonstrated crafts. She was braiding ropelike dog toys from strips of felt; the dog toys are sold for $8 each, and she said she learned to make them at camp.

Her grandmother, Dee Terrasi, also of Patchogue, hailed Fancy FREE as a good opportunity for Stetler to socialize. “It’s great for these kids,” Terrasi said. “It keeps them busy and they learn a lot.”

Farmingdale Mayor George Starkie, Trustee Ralph Ekstrand, Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa), Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos and County Clerk Maureen O’Connell were among the officials attending Monday’s grand opening.

Farmingdale’s downtown district, which village officials last month voted to rezone for mixed-use, higher-density development, is the ideal setting for new retailers such as Fancy FREE, Starkie said.

“I think you hit it out of the park with this project,” he told FREE directors.

Store manager Jeannine Corsini said she welcomed “the opportunity to be further involved with the community.”

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