Guild for Exceptional Children hosts 60th anniversary celebration

March 28, 2018 Victoria Merlino
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It was all smiles at the Guild for Exceptional Children’s (GEC) Founder’s Day Celebration, as guild members and supporters gathered to honor the organization’s 60th anniversary.

The celebration — which marked 60 years since the signing of the nonprofit’s articles of incorporation — was held on March 19 at the GEC’s main building 260 68th Street.

“The 60th anniversary to me is really important, it marked the signing of those incorporation papers and I think in a lot of ways marked the beginning of the civil rights movement for people with developmental disabilities,” said Paul Cassone, executive director and CEO of the Guild. “I’m proud that 60 years later we’re still here.”

GEC began in 1958 as a community-led group of parents and friends of people with developmental disabilities, and grew outward to support children and adults alike with group homes, programming and other offerings. The goal of the GEC, as stated on its website, is to keep people with developmental disabilities out of institutions and make sure that they have dignified, safe and productive lives.

As part of the celebration, GEC offered tours of its main building and the opportunity to observe some of its programs that service nearly 1,000 individuals. Attendees were led through the greenhouse, where program participants help take care of plants that the GEC then sells to restaurants in the neighborhood. Another stop was the art studio where program participants make crafts and pottery, which the GEC then helps them sell.

Other spots on the tour included one of the GEC’s day programs, as well as one of its 17 group homes designed to support adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

After the tour, Founder’s Day attendees listened to speeches from Cassone, GEC Board President Arlene Rutuelo and other GEC executives.

Councilmember Justin Brannan was in attendance at the celebration, issuing his first proclamation in office to celebrate the GEC’s 60th anniversary.

“The Guild, it really has a very close place to my heart,” said Brannan, going on to describe how his uncle was developmentally disabled and how it was a challenge in the early years of his uncle’s life to care for him before the public knew more about developmentally disabled people. “The Guild is just such an amazing partner in this community,” said Brannan.

Representatives from the offices of Assemblymembers Nicole Malliotakis and Felix Ortiz and Congressmember Dan Donovan also gave their congratulations at the event. Donovan’s representative told the room that Donovan, who was in Washington that day, was reading his congratulations to the GEC into the congressional record.

State Senator Marty Golden, Councilmember Alan Maisel and Assemblymember Peter Abbate all sent citations honoring the GEC.

As the event concluded, Cassone and Rutuelo revealed the GEC’s new logo for its 60th anniversary.

“In Southwest Brooklyn there is this jewel, and that jewel is the Guild,” said GEC Executive Vice President Frank Sena. “Founders’ Day, we’re recalling people, who by their bootstraps, just organized this organization from nothing and created this jewel.”

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