By CAROLINE MURRAY
At the Liberty Day Program in Amsterdam, its self-advocacy and academic groups helped organize and collect donations for military children whose moms and dads are deployed.
Working in conjunction with the American Legion Post #337 of Broadalbin, the groups collected coloring books, puzzles, stuffed animals and other kid-friendly items for young children all over the Capital Region.
The post's junior auxiliary packed the items in backpacks, and shipped them off to Albany, where they will be distributed.
"Sue came to us and asked if we would like to help with kids who don't get to see their parents," said self-advocacy group member Tiffany Macan. "We wanted to make them feel loved."
The Liberty Day Program is run by Montgomery County's Chapter of NYARC, a statewide advocacy organization serving people with disabilities. Sue Jones tutors the academic program at Liberty, and is the Broadalbin American Legion auxiliary president.
Jones asked the members of Liberty's groups to join forces, and help the post fill the "hero packs," as she referred to the backpacks.
She said both groups at the day program are always willing to lend a hand for any cause, person or personal belief, and she can count on them to complete the task.
"They are very community-minded," said Jones.
All 12 members began orchestrating the donations by passing out around 150 fliers to all the houses, departments and offices at Liberty.
They finished collecting on Thursday.
Jones' auxiliary is headed to the American Legion Department of New York Conference on Friday, where they will drop off the donations.
"The post is active in supporting homeless veterans and military children, it is one of the biggest things we focus on," said Jones.
Jones assists the academic group with their studies at the day program, from math to F-MCC college enrollment.
Andy Stegeland, an advisor to the self-advocacy group, said the members come up with ideas on their own. He likes to let the program run their own meetings.
Their initiative is to advocate for people who don't have a prominent voice in society.
Group members have lobbied at the state Capitol building in the past, for causes such as preventing cuts in the ARC budget, and rights for people with developmental disabilities.
"It's learning how to speak up for yourself and others who can't do it for themselves, and knowing your rights," said Colleen Irish, self-advocacy member.
Besides helping Jones' with American Legion fundraisers, both the academic and self-advocacy groups like to give back to those closest to them.
They hold luncheons for the staff at Liberty to show them how appreciative they are of their services.
"We have the right to a good staff," said Macan.