This Thanksgiving, as I reflect back on my time with INCLUDEnyc, I’m filled with so much pride and gratitude. I’ve been with INCLUDEnyc for 26 of its 35 years, witnessing the struggles and triumphs. I’ve watched us grow from fewer than 10 staff members to over 30 today, with every one of those individuals helping us to reach more families than I could have imagined when I first embarked on this journey.
In 1990, I was looking for a nonprofit activity that would resonate with me. I became focused on the extraordinary difficulties that families of kids with disabilities had in getting the resources that they needed to advocate effectively for their kids. I was introduced to the founders of INCLUDEnyc, then Resources for Children with Special Needs (RCSN). I joined the Board of Directors in 1992. I was elected Chair of the Board in 2008, and am honored to continue to serve in that role.
When RCSN first opened, the main scope of its work was creating a database of services and resources available for people with disabilities. This database was printed and distributed to schools, community centers, libraries, and other organizations. Over the years, as technology evolved, so too has our work. We now publish our resources online, provide all materials in English and Spanish (with over 200 language translations available upon request), offer a broad range of workshops and trainings, and distribute a weekly email aggregate of news, materials, and event information for the disability community -- all free of charge.
I am so grateful for the many passionate and dedicated individuals that made this success possible, from our founders and three Executive Directors who have guided the organization to our current and former staff and board members. Everyone has had a personal stake in this work, and an emotional connection that I find very powerful. Many have children with disabilities, so they personally understand the challenges that families in NYC experience. When you call our Help Line, you’re speaking with someone who was once in your position. They are patient and compassionate as they guide parents and young adults with disabilities. It has been a privilege to be part of this group.
I am especially thankful to the thousands of friends and supporters who continue to make our work possible. Because of their generosity, last year INCLUDEnyc reached more individuals than ever before -- over 100,000 in a single year. Another first for our organization!
Clearly, as much as we’ve been able to accomplish, there are still many more families who need our support. This Giving Tuesday, please consider making a donation to INCLUDEnyc, and joining us in the next chapter of our story.
-Written by Ellen Miller-Wachtel