Thirty eight years ago we were blessed with our daughter Elizabeth. She was the youngest of our four children. Her brothers and sisters thought she was the most wonderful and beautiful baby they had ever seen, and by the way she has Down Syndrome. We agreed, we really did not know what to expect but… we were certain that the years ahead would difficult.
Two common concerns among parents who walk in our shoes are safety and opportunities for a meaningful life in the real world.
In September 2006, Elizabeth entered the Without Walls (WOW) program at GEC. Each day would be spent at a different job site, where she would learn new skills and meet many wonderful people. Through the caring help of GEC DSPs, she continues to come home every day with a sense of great accomplishment. She is very quick to tells us how hard she works and how much the people at each job site need her and appreciate her. There are still very kind people in the world!
We are also very fortunate because Elizabeth travels independently to and from GEC and some work sites via the city bus system. She even changes buses to come home from one of the WOW locations. Perhaps, this has been her greatest accomplishment, independence and freedom, time to travel without her parents, and time to yap with coworkers, and time be part of the real world.
Our entire family will always be indebted to GEC. The staff and administration are dedicated to all the participants. They have patience and kindness beyond what we could have ever imagined or hoped. Thank you to GEC for giving our daughter a future filled with possibilities.
My son Angelo Vela attends GEC’s preschool. My son is a very bright boy who struggles with behavior problems at times and requires a lot of attention. Josh, Margaret, and Noha have been more than a blessing to us. With a classroom of 15 children also needing attention I feel like my son is the onl…y child just because of the effort and determination that is put forth. Josh is always challenging my son's intelligence and giving him that push that he needs. Since my son has been attending this school he has been very happy and so have I. I see a lot of kindness, love, care and patience. My son has improved in many ways and they are always looking for new ways to snag his interest and I could not be more thankful for the entire GEC program.
For twenty-eight years, my Aunt Mildred, who is approaching 97, has been an active part of the wonderful community known as the Guild for Exceptional Children.
Mildred was developmentally disabled, not something she was born with, but happened during her early childhood. She had gro…wn up in a time when these things were not discussed, just hidden. She could read and write a little, complete tasks, but never lived on her own. For a while after her mother’s death, Mildred lived alternately with me and my sister in two separate apartments. While we took care of her basic needs, it was no life for Mildred and it wasn’t sustainable for us.
But then we discovered the Guild, which welcomed Mildred into their community. It took us several years and the help and guidance of Pat Romano and Barbara Torres for Mildred to become a founding member of Olga’s house. There she found friends, discovered painting, went to dances, went bowling (with her six-pound ball), went to Atlantic City, on vacation to Disney World and Cape May. Mildred blossomed into a life—a very good one—one she never had before. She was never alone, she was happy and well cared for. At the present time, Mildred is the oldest resident of the Guild. Everyone knows her and speaks of her fondly.
Although she no longer goes bowling and the pandemic has changed her—she is now content to stay in the house with her housemates, watch TV and participate in house activities playing assorted games including Bingo. Her mind is still as sharp as it ever was and her humor is wonderful – she even has pet names for the staff and her housemates. None of this would have been possible without the resources and support of the Guild for Exceptional Children. Thank you, GEC for giving her a new life, one full of happiness and caring.
Our sister, Marguerite Mistretta, had a wonderful life living with mom and dad, and after they passed in 2008 she lived with me for 9 years. Then my brother Jerry, sister Gloria and I began to think about the future. What would happen to Margie in the event that something happened to us and we coul…dn’t take care of her? We did not want her in a nursing home. We wanted to make sure she was in a home situation surrounded by friends and people who could take care of her. We began to look into finding the right place for Margie and we found The Guild for Exceptional Children, and the Santangelo Residence. At the time, I don’t think we understood what a stroke of luck this was. She moved into the residence in June 2017 and, at age 73. It took a little adjustment to get used to not living with family. But soon she was an integral part of the Santangelo family, going to a program every day, enjoying socialization with her housemates, going on day trips, bowling, movies, dinner out, visits to the mall, the zoo, the aquarium – you name it. Enough cannot be said about Santangelo and the staff that work there - Tina the Manager of the residence, Sandy the Assistant Manager and the numerous staff that truly care - not just about taking physical care of people, but about enriching their lives. When Marge began to have seizures and things began to decline, they encouraged her, doted over her. They made sure she had the best possible supervision and guidance every step of the way. They paid attention to every detail and made sure she maintained as much independence as possible after each new setback. In the end stage of her illness she was treated with love and respect. We could not have possibly done better ourselves. We will miss our sister greatly but are comforted knowing that we made the right decision when we moved her to the Santangelo Residence.
The people of Santangelo have our deepest gratitude and praise. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
We are writing to express our heartfelt appreciation for the incredible work that you do in supporting children with special needs, including our own child. As parents, it can be challenging to navigate the world of special needs education and support, but the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC) ha…s been a guiding light for us. From the moment we first walked through your doors, we knew that we had found a caring and compassionate community of professionals who truly understand the needs of our son.
The care and attention that your staff has provided to our child is truly remarkable. They have gone above and beyond to create a warm and welcoming environment where he feels comfortable and safe. They have worked tirelessly to help him develop new skills and overcome challenges, always with a kind and patient approach.
What impresses us most about the GEC is the dedication and commitment of the staff. They truly care about the well-being of our child and have shown us time and again that they are willing to do whatever it takes to help him succeed. We are so grateful to have found GEC and would recommend your services to any parent seeking support for their child with special needs. Thank you for all that you do to make a difference in the lives of our children.