This year has proven to be particularly difficult for adults with developmental disabilities, presenting unprecedented challenges as those who participate in programs like The New York Foundling adjust to living in isolation.
The New York Foundling, one of the city’s oldest social services organizations, provides health care, social-emotional support, entertainment and friendship for hundreds of adults, most of whom live in their group homes full time.
Desiree and Nancy, 37, two residents of The Foundling’s Laconia residence in the Bronx, have been friends for 25 years. They leaned on each other to get through the newly enforced safety measures and had to learn to remain patient as both became unemployed.
The pair adjusted to the times by finding new ways to entertain themselves, decorating masks and engaging in other safe activities in the confinement of their room. In honor of the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the duo sat down with the Bronx Times.
“We’ve been friends a very long time,” Desiree said. “It feels like we just met.”
Both women are originally from the Bronx and as children suffered severe emotional trauma, which caused them to be sent to a facility in Pennsylvania until they were 18.
Nancy moved to a Foundling residence in the Bronx in 2004 and then a few years later, was gifted with a surprise.
“I hear a doorbell one day and it was her [Desiree],” she recalled. “I was like what are you doing here?”
The home, which has eight people in it plus staff, allows residents to go places on their own, cook and helps many of them to move out on their own.
Prior to the pandemic, the women participated in activities like shopping, bowling, gambling at the casino, eating at restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory and even saw a concert in New Jersey.
But they explained how difficult it has been for them to be shuttered inside these past several months. The best friends passed the time by playing a lot of cards, watching TV and just relaxing. Nancy even made bracelets for women living in the homes that are pregnant.
Just recently as things began to open back up, the duo went to eat at a restaurant.
The ladies who described each other as “sisters,” share a room at the facility, which Desiree always makes sure is clean. But now, the pair is ready for the next chapter of their lives.
“We’re older, we want to move out of the nest,” Nancy said.
Today, both are looking forward to returning to a “normal” routine and to regaining their independence with new job prospects on the horizon. Both women have had previous experiences including seasonal volunteering at Burlington.
Nancy worked as a clerk at The Foundling’s office in Manhattan prior to the pandemic and is eager to return to her duties, while Desiree recently secured a job as cashier at Family Dollar on the Grand Concourse.
The ladies are so close that when Nancy’s father passed away, Desiree said it hurt a lot because he was like a dad to her.
“She’s funny and kind and sometimes we get on each other’s nerves,” Desiree said. “She’s like my baby.”