BY KATHY KAHN
Rockland Independent Living Center rolled out its new name, BRiDGES, at a blow-out event at the new Hudson Valley Harley Davidson dealership in Nanuet on Saturday, October 22. A tri-wheel Harley entered the showroom waving the BRiDGES’ flag to begin the celebration.
“We changed the name because it really fits who we are,” said Dr. David Jacobsen, executive director. “We are truly ‘Building Relationships,’ ‘Investing in Diversity’ and ‘Genuinely Empowering’ the people we serve.”
Several elected officials attended the event, including Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann, who was recognized for his contribution to BRiDGES when he was executive director. “I hope to see the agency’s mission of helping people with disabilities lead independent and productive lives continue to grow and prosper,” said Hoehmann.
The day was really about BRiDGE’s clients and those who volunteer to help them, as well as the advocacy of the agency itself in making life more fulfilling for those who are physically or mentally disabled.
There were cheers for the tunes sung by the Rockland Choral Society, for both BRiDGES’ audience and the PFC Joseph Dwyer Vet-to-Vet Program. County Executive Ed Day was on hand and told the packed Harley showroom he’d just arrived from a visit with the family of Army Sgt. James Morrison of Wesley Hills, who had gone through three tours of Afghanistan and committed suicide on his base in Colorado last week.
“We have vets suffering from severe PTSD and who are also struggling with family problems, addiction and inability to find housing or jobs,” said Day. “The Dwyer Vet-to-Vet Program is there to help our armed forces members with support. We are losing two vets a day to suicide as a result of this war in the Middle East.”
BRiDGES, under the direction of Dr. David Jacobsen and his staff, hope to grow their services and attract new volunteers to better help people with disabilities, as well as offer mentoring for veterans.
The Harley showroom had been cleared to showcase dozens of non-profit agencies who offer a range of services to the people of Rockland County, including People to People, Rockland Community College Foundation, PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program, Center for Safety and Change (formerly Rockland Family Shelter), Rockland County Village Community, the District Attorney’s Office and many others offering services and suggestions for the disabled and their families.
Ever since a careless youth careened into Ella Hill’s lane of traffic, she’s needed a wheelchair to get around. Despite her physical limitations, Hill’s spirit is strong and she says BRiDGES has provided her an outlet to improve her life.
Hill had retired from her job in 2006 and was “living like a ‘regular person’ when this happened,” she said. “That was in 2013. I’m still independent, but I do need help at home.”
She told the Rockland County Times about the youth who lost control of her vehicle was texting and driving, a menace that now rivals drunk driving in damage caused on the roadways.
“Some young girl was texting in her car and lost control….I tried to avoid her, and that’s how I ended up in this contraption. Mostly, I hope these folks texting would realize the danger they are on the road to themselves and others. I’m just one example of how texting and driving do not mix.”
BRiDGES will also be taking part in a Career Day at the Haverstraw Career Center on November 1 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m along with other employers. All are welcome.