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$1.9 million grant to cure Guild’s growing pains

Growing up is about to get a little easier for elderly residents at the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC).

With the help of a hefty check allocated from City Council funds, the Guild’s Bay Ridge headquarters plans to better serve developmentally disabled children as they cross over into adulthood.

“We must’ve done something right,” said GEC Executive Director and CEO Paul Cassone on the number of elderly residents that have been with the home for nearly 50 years, “but that brings new challenges.”

Members of City Council gathered in good spirits at the guild on September 27 to announce the approval of a $1.9 million grant in GEC’s name. That grant paves the way for an age-old floor-plan as GEC board members prepare for a major shift in the guild’s residency.

According to Cassone, the grant is a major stepping stone in redesigning the Bay Ridge location and will allow for much needed renovations. The executive director stressed the importance of moving clients from the second floor to the first.

The elevator is not enough, he said, urging the community to consider worst-case-scenarios like fires and other emergencies. The plan, 20 years in the making, has been stunted in the past by economic recession.

“Support backed away,” said Cassone, “but the need still exists.”

Councilmembers Vincent Gentile and Domenic Recchia were happy to help that need. Gentile called the guild “an anchor and an icon in this community,” but stressed that there is still more work to be done.

“Together we can make this a reality,” he said, encouraging the GEC to continue “moving forward, onward and upward.”

Recchia agreed.

“You look at the needs, the wants, the concerns of a community,” he said on his part as councilmember. Recchia serves as finance committee chairperson and noted that while he receives hundreds of non-profit funding requests a day, GEC “shines in comparison.”

“When it comes to programs like this, the money should be there,” Recchia said simply.

GEC hopes to mirror the recent renovation of their Marine Park location, now home to state-of-the-art smart-boards. The Bay Ridge center, currently serving 73 adults living with developmental disabilities on the second floor of the main building, hasn’t been touched since 1974.

Originally designed by parents of developmentally disabled children, the 68th Street location was centered on the healthcare needs of children and young adults. Today, the guild has grown to serve the entire community.

The GEC hopes to raise funds of their own for a cause project architect Barbara Maiello finds remarkable.

“This is an incredible project with an incredible benefit,” said Maiello of Ann Falutico Architects.

Board members agreed.

“You are helping the most vulnerable of society,” said Anthony Cetta, president of GEC’s board of directors to Gentile and Recchia. Cetta himself is a parent of a developmentally disabled adult.

“We know that many of these people are helpless,” he said, “but we don’t want them to be hopeless.”

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