By Laurie Miedema
For The Recorder
In 2017, Liberty ARC is celebrating 60 years of providing quality programs to individuals with disabilities in our community. This is the third installment of articles relating some of the high points of Liberty’s history including anecdotes about the people and places that played a role in the agency’s development.
The mid to late 1970s was a period of tremendous growth for Liberty. The number of people served at Liberty House and the size and variety of contracts from local business continued to expand. In 1973, the school district, needing the space on Liberty Street for their administrative offices, and offered a former school building at Fort Johnson for the Liberty House program. At the new location, the program and staff continued to grow. Although fulfilling an immediate need, the old building was not designed to accommodate a production operation, nor was it accessible to individuals using wheelchairs.
In 1974, the ARC hired Frank Capone as executive director. One of his first assignments was to investigate the possibility of constructing a new facility that would be barrier-free and large enough to accommodate the ever-growing program. Again, the community responded. A building fund was created and donations came in from a number of benefit dances, sponsored by loyal organizations. In 1977, the City of Amsterdam transferred their allocation of $274,000 in Economic Development Grant funding to the ARC for the purpose of constructing a new facility. With the addition of $350,000 of federal public works money for the County of Montgomery, and a state grant of approximately $3,000,000, the new facility was well on its way to becoming a reality.
The enactment of the Willowbrook Consent Decree by the State of New York opened the way for establishing residences in the community for individuals with developmental disabilities who had formerly been housed in state institutions. In 1975, Liberty established its first community residence at 92 Market St. in the City of Amsterdam. The following year, the chapter expanded its residential program to include semi-supervised apartments for individuals who could function in a less structured program. In 1977, the residential component was expanded even further with the addition of 24-hour supervised apartments, known as intermediate care facilities.
In February, 1978, a day training program, which evolved into the day treatment component, started in the former elementary school in the Village of Tribes Hill. This program was geared toward individuals with severe and profound developmental disabilities and provided activities of daily living training and intensive clinical services.
A year later, in February, 1979, after years of planning and anticipation, the chapter opened the doors of its new 28,000 square foot vocational training center, now known as Liberty Enterprises. The center was serving over 100 individuals in a variety of training programs, including sub assembly, wood working, janitorial training, light construction and food service.
Day, vocational and residential programs continued to grow throughout the 80s and 90s, marking the most substantial period of growth and expansion of Liberty’s services in Montgomery County.
For more information about Liberty’s history as well as the present-day services, visit www.libertyarc.org or call our PR and Development Office at 518-954-3203.
Laurie Miedema is the Liberty director of Public Relations.