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Cardinal Hayes provides a safe haven

MILLBROOK — Cardinal Hayes Home for Children (CHHC) celebrated its 70-year anniversary this year with many events. Each residential house recently created stepping stones, enjoyed a luncheon and a bonfire and hosted an art show with work by the young residents, which was open to the public. “Our theme this year is 70 years of growing together,’” said Fred Apers, executive director at CHHC. “Working together is expected. But to grow together is really the premium, and the staff take on a real psychological ownership of the place.” The nonprofit agency, which provides residential care and treatment for young people who are developmentally disabled, strives to keep growing as an organization. For CHHC, when it comes to celebrating this milestone, they acknowledge their most valuable players.“The most valuable and greatest asset to us are our employees,” said Apers. “So we take these milestone events and really turn toward them as a statement of appreciation. We keep it family-style.”CHHC began as a convalescent care home run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in 1941. Apers said that the philosophy of the sisters who ran CHHC in the early days is still essential to the way the agency is run today. “We started serving children who couldn’t be away from their parents,” said Apers. “We never strayed from that mission to be as responsive as we can to the pressing needs of our children. It’s often a heavy burden for parents to take care of their children 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”Cardinal Hayes offers a variety of programs designed to help children with these disabilities and their families. CHHC offers residential care seven days a week, 24 hours a day for children and young people in their residential houses. There are six such houses in Millbrook. The residential care program currently houses 110 clients. CHHC also offers an in-home respite program in Dutchess County. The respite program provides service for up to 40 families as well as children and young adults who are developmentally disabled and living at home.“It gives the mom or the family a break from everyday care,” said Apers. “We set up a worker and the parents get involved with training. They go in and provide one-on-one care. She might go upstairs and read a book, or she might decide to go out to a movie with her husband. It’s a nice program.”A family may receive respite service from CHHC for a few hours a day once a week. In addition, for families with children in school, CHHC has a special education school in Millbrook. Cardinal Hayes School for Special Children has 60 day students from throughout Dutchess County. Some students who attend come from Putnam and Westchester counties, said Apers. When school is not in session during the holidays and vacation, the staff at CHHC understands that it can be tough for the children to be away from their friends. Group Activities Program (GAP) are available free of charge; they provide recreational activities for children during the day. For young adults who have graduated from school yet still need support, there is a Work Activities Training Program (WATCH). WATCH provides training in various work activities for young people who are developmentally disabled.“We really try and pick up loose ends; that’s what we try to do here at CHHC,” said Apers.Apers first came to Cardinal Hayes 38 years ago. During his time he has seen CHHC evolve and become more self-sufficient, developing a greater relationship with the government and increasing the longevity of their relationships with their employees. “A charitable dollar alone is not going to care for the needs of these special-needs kids,” he said. “So we have grown in our relationship with the government, and that means we are a volunteer agency with the government. We are not state workers, we are not in the state system, but we provide services to children here in the region. And we do receive funding through the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.”The government has helped fund many of the programs Cardinal Hayes has developed throughout the years, which has given the agency the confidence to continue expanding their work, according to Apers. He said he looks forward to what the future brings and continues to appreciate the fact the organization gets so many enthusiastic young people to work at CHHC. They often become leaders or start their own organizations in a similar line of work.“We see people grow from this experience and become significant professionals in the field,” said Apers. “You really feel better about yourself and your own problems seem minimal when you realize the depth and the difficulty of the problems these children have. These are not the kinds of kids that harbor anger or hatred, they are just here to be cared for and to be loved. They want to have friends and interactions and these are simple things but they are the best gifts you can give to people. If they don’t have that available they are not people anymore. So the children and young adults receive that from our staff. You really feel good when you give that to your staff. That’s the key to our success.”

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