NYSAC Adopts Molinaro’s Resolution to “Think DIFFERENTLY” Throughout New York
Poughkeepsie… At its board meeting in Skeneateles, NY, the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Board of Directors unanimously adopted Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro’s resolution to promote the “Think DIFFERENTLY” initiative, which provides a supportive and inclusive environment for individuals with special needs, in all 62 New York counties. County Executive Molinaro serves on NYSAC’s Board of Directors, originally appointed in December 2014.
County Executive Molinaro said, “I appreciate my colleagues on the NYSAC Board of Directors for the support of our ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ initiative, which has been successful since Dutchess County launched it last year. Residents, businesses and organizations throughout Dutchess County have accepted the challenge to look past our differences and embrace what makes us all human. This resolution seeks to expand that sense of inclusiveness throughout New York, and I encourage other counties to take up our call to action, so that from Long Island to Buffalo, New Yorkers can show the rest of the country how we ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ about our neighbors with special needs.”
NYSAC is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.
“Our Board of Directors is proud of County Executive Molinaro’s leadership and his willingness to ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ about New Yorkers with special abilities. His initiative is an innovative approach and can serve as a model for not just the rest of the state, but the nation as well. We look forward to working with County Executive Molinaro to expand the reach of his initiative and help every county ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ about residents of all abilities,” NYSAC President William E. Cherry said.
The father of two children, including a daughter who lives on the autism spectrum, County Executive Molinaro introduced his “Think DIFFERENTLY” initiative to Dutchess County in early 2015. Since then, Dutchess County has offered supportive training, encouraged community development to expand accessibility, and held events for children and families living with special needs.
Through its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, Dutchess County has funded numerous projects in local municipalities that improve access to facilities and resources. Projects have included Julie’s Jungle, a 4,000 sq. ft. regional handicapped accessible playground with specialized equipment such as ramps, a rubberized surface, short stair height, Braille play panels and sensory garden amps enabling children with physical, visual, hearing and cognitive disabilities and Wappinger Challenger Field, a handicapped accessible baseball field where disabled youth ages 5 to 18 can participate without obstacles, thanks to smaller, synthetic infield, as well as handicapped accessible dugouts, parking and restroom facility.
This past April, County Executive Molinaro hosted the latest in a series of movie days for special-need families and service providers, which included lowering the sound and raising the lights in the theater to accommodate children with sensory issues. On August 16th at Freedom Park in LaGrange, Dutchess County will hold its annual picnic for children with special needs, offering children and their families an afternoon of music, food and fun. These events are free of charge and open to all families living with special needs.
“For many families living with special needs, a trip to the theater or a day at the park can be stressful,” County Executive Molinaro said. “Events like our movie days and picnics provide these families enjoyable, quality time in a supportive environment, and Dutchess County is happy to offer events like this to show we ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ about our neighbors.”
As part of County Executive’s initiative, Dutchess County has partnered with Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg to offer “Autism Supportive Environment” training, teaching local businesses and organizations how to better serve, understand and support local residents with autism spectrum disorders; increasing the opportunities for them to enjoy local establishments; and raising awareness throughout Dutchess County.
Dutchess Tourism, Inc., has also worked with the Anderson Center for Autism to establish Dutchess County as an “Autism Supportive Tourist Destination,” encouraging and welcoming families with special needs to visit and enjoy the county’s sites and attractions.
County Executive Molinaro said, “By helping our community better welcome, communicate with and support those living on the autism spectrum, we demonstrate how we ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ in Dutchess County. Our county is a model for others around New York, and steps like these can easily be replicated throughout the state, as can the successes our ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ initiative has achieved.”
In response to the local community’s support of the “Think DIFFERENTLY” campaign, Dutchess County is developing the inaugural “Think DIFFERENTLY” Awards, which will honor the best efforts of community agencies, municipalities, businesses and individuals to embrace the philosophy later this year.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by Dutchess County’s eagerness to adopt our philosophy of inclusiveness, and I know all New Yorkers share that welcoming spirit,” County Executive Molinaro said. “With today’s action by the NYSAC Board of Directors, I’m sure counties throughout our state will ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ and embrace our initiative in their unique ways – all to benefit our friends with special needs.”