In the Mill Basin community of Brooklyn sits an unassuming house. This house is unique, though. While many communities sport one or several group homes for individuals with special needs, the OPWDD (Office for People With Developmental Disabilities) has very few homes that are exclusively servicing children. Around three years ago, HASC Center opened a special home for Jewish children with special needs, servicing an important niche in our community.
For the last few months, the residents and staff of this home were gearing up and planning for a special occasion. Yosef, one of the residents, was turning thirteen, and everyone was looking forward to celebrating his bar mitzvah with him. But for Yosef and many boys his age, the COVID-19 pandemic upended all previous plans for their momentous day. While this shift was unfortunate and difficult, HASC decided it would do whatever it could to make sure that Yosef would be able to celebrate and be celebrated, without compromising the safety of any of the residents or staff.
When the big day dawned, the staff of HASC made sure Yosef was dressed stylishly in his new bar mitzvah clothing. Passersby and guests, all wearing gloves and masks and keeping a safe distance, walked by a table on the sidewalk and picked up pre-wrapped pekelach. Each package was personalized with Yosef’s smiling face adorning its side.
Like many other kids, Yosef loves Hatzolah and fire engines. Luckily, HASC has always had a great relationship with Mill Basin Hatzolah. Mill Basin Hatzolah is always there for HASC, going above and beyond by taking care of the many group home residents. This time, instead of being there in a time of medical need and emergency, they were there for HASC in a time of joy and celebration. The local NYPD and fire station stepped up to the plate as well. Together, they coordinated a huge parade passing in front of Yosef’s group home. They had a procession of all the ambulances, volunteer cars, fire trucks, and police vehicles with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Additional vehicles came by popping confetti streamers, adding to the excitement.
The HASC school Yosef attends arranged additional entertainment for the day. Drive-by singers and musicians played live over speakers; the Tantzers danced on the back of flatbed trucks and in the streets in front of the house. The music was lively, and the atmosphere was festive — perfectly befitting such a pivotal event. Some regular cars joined the procession with personalized mazal tov signs plastered to the sides of their vehicles. The group home was decked out and decorated with gigantic mazal tov banners. Another sign thanked the heroes of the NYPD, FDNY, and Hatzolah, who have been working tirelessly to keep the community safe during COVID-19. The Hatzolah members, entertainers, residents, and staff enjoyed the refreshments and food that were provided.
But the simcha did not end there. Some of the Mill Basin Hatzolah members presented Yosef with his very own Hatzolah vest, hat, bag, and radio and made him an Honorary Member. Shmiel Kahn, director of HASC Center, personally came down to the residence to celebrate with the guests and wish mazal tov to Yosef and his family.
It was a beautiful simcha, with HASC staff members doing what they do best. But the most beautiful part? That was the brilliant smile that stayed on Yosef’s face all day.
HASC wants to specifically thank the group home coordinator, Roni Beer, the manager, Shua Lieber, and the development coordinator, Yehuda Meir Horowicz, for their efforts in making this event happen.