On entering the AHRC Nassau’s East Meadow location, Betty and Lenny Tucker, both of Merrick, were showered with cheers, claps and hugs from its participants. One of who, James Gelormino, read the couple a letter of gratitude. “Thank you for dedicating your life to make a difference in ours,” he said.
The Tuckers recently received the “Longevity Award” for over 20 years volunteer service with the organization, which is dedicated toward helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their pursuits with the AHRC began 21 years ago after Betty spotted its news brief in the Merrick Life asking for volunteers.
The Tuckers spend every Tuesday at the AHRC from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., “but we don’t really watch the clock, you know?” Betty said, adding that volunteering gives her as much joy as it does the participants.
The organization encourages volunteers to use their talents to help its participants learn various life skills. “We do not want [participants] to be this hidden, invisible population,” said Justin McDannell, a volunteer and intern coordinator at AHRC Nassau.
Lenny, a former high school physical education teacher and baseball coach, teaches participants exercise routines. Betty, a former designer at Delage Jewelers and avid knitter, teaches participants how to make jewelry and knit.
The foyer of the AHRC is decorated in artwork created by participants with and without the help of volunteers. Most of the pieces convey messages of diversity, from a painting composed of different religious symbols to one of a woman with a bi-racial face echoing the yin-yang symbol. All of the pieces are for sale and, the day Betty and Lenny were interviewed, the AHRC was bustling with interested buyers. “It’s a sign of progress toward the acceptance of people with disabilities,” McDannell said.