For many Ridgites, the Guild for Exceptional Children is the face of developmental disability in the community.
The organization -founded over half a century ago by a group of parents who wanted to make sure their special needs children were well-educated and well-cared-for – was in the spotlight at Community Board 10’s February meeting, with Guild President Anthony Santoro, the recipient of the board’s monthly Honor of the Pledge.
“Anthony has been totally dedicated to this organization for many, many years,” noted Joanne Seminara, the board’s chair, adding, “It’s a community of people who trulyprovides a home in so many different ways, for families in need, for children, for adults, for all types of consumers who find themselves in need of support in connection with developmental disabilities. It is truly a wholesome, complete service that this community is so privileged to have.”
When the Guild was founded, recalled Santoro, “There was really no place to go for our children. Learning disabilities were known, but you kept them in the closet or put them in institutions.”
The Bay Ridge parents, however, refused to accept such scenarios, opting instead to fill the gap, he went on. It took about two years, said Santoro, but they persisted.
“They knew there were many challenges but the community stood by the guild, and remarkably, it just started taking off,” he added, over time becoming the employer of over 600 people, who work in the Guild’s 13 group homes, with its clients in four supportive apartments, or in its various day programs for adults and for children between the ages of four and seven.
Today, the Guild is facing a new challenge, Santoro said – providing for an aging population.
“A lot of our population is now between 55 and 86, and our facilities were geared for them when they were younger, so now we have to take steps to renovate them and make life a little easier for our senior consumers,” he explained.