Disability Allies opens inclusion center in East Brunswick

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VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Music area VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Far left, Mayor Brad Cohen, middle, Founder Ross Yellin, right, Freeholder Deputy Director Charles Tomaro, far right, Freeholder Shanti Narra cutting the ribbon for the new center. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Mayor Brad Cohen (far left) Founder Ross Yellin cutting the ribbon officially opening the new Young Adult Community Inclusion Center. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Mayor Brad Cohen and Disability Allies Founder Ross Yellin during grand opening ceremony for new center. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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The center's kitchen area. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Disability Allies' Young Adult Community Inclusion Center's recreation area. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Residents and volunteers during the Young Adult Community Inclusion Center open house event. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Disability Allies Founder Ross Yellin speaks during ribbon cutting ceremony. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Music area VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Far left, Mayor Brad Cohen, middle, Founder Ross Yellin, right, Freeholder Deputy Director Charles Tomaro, far right, Freeholder Shanti Narra cutting the ribbon for the new center. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Mayor Brad Cohen (far left) Founder Ross Yellin cutting the ribbon officially opening the new Young Adult Community Inclusion Center. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Mayor Brad Cohen and Disability Allies Founder Ross Yellin during grand opening ceremony for new center. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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The center's kitchen area. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Disability Allies' Young Adult Community Inclusion Center's recreation area. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Residents and volunteers during the Young Adult Community Inclusion Center open house event. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF
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Disability Allies Founder Ross Yellin speaks during ribbon cutting ceremony. VASHTI HARRIS/STAFF

EAST BRUNSWICK – In a bid to create a place of fellowship for people with and without special needs, Disability Allies has opened its first Young Adult Community Inclusion Center in the Village Green shopping center, which is located at 415 Route 18, East Brunswick.

Disability Allies Inc. was founded in 2015 and is a nonprofit organization based in East Brunswick. Its primary objective is to bring together people with and without disabilities through team building, social activities and job skills development. Members build relationships and capitalize on the confidence that has been developed, according to Ross Yellin, the organization’s founder.

More than 250 people attended the inclusion center’s grand opening on April 28. Among the guests were Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director Charles Tomaro and Freeholder Shanti Narra.

Yellin, an East Brunswick native, said he always believed there needed to be a place where people with disabilities could go once they left the public school system.

“People who have disabilities, traditionally those who age out of the school system who are now turning 21 and getting older, they don’t have a place to go. They are either stuck at home playing video games, sitting around, and not doing much with their lives,” Yellin said.

Mayor Brad Cohen said East Brunswick has worked with students while they are in the school district, but he said the inclusion center is something new.

“This is the first real opportunity for them to have a social life, to have an opportunity to continue [using] the skills they learned and maybe to find some productive work. I think the thing I like the most about [the center] is that it continues with the theme we started with the schools, which is keeping kids in the district, because you want them to interact with the community,” Cohen said.

“This is a community center, so we are looking to not only bring in kids who have disabilities, but the rest of the community. We want them to continue to interact. It does not stop when they turn 21,” the mayor said.

The inclusion center will feature workshops in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as art and social and relationship management, according to Yellin. The facility has a recreation area, a music room and a tech/cooking area.

Disability Allies offers one-on-one pre-vocational and community based support by pairing direct support professionals (DSP) with consumers, he said.

“We have a lot of different activities that are going to be here. We are going to have a theater program, a music program, a technology program, creative writing, creative expression, arts and crafts [and] all kinds of other great things … that people with or without disabilities can come and participate in,” Yellin said.

DSPs will provide assistance with activities such as meal preparation and planning. DSPs will also offer assistance by helping individuals find a job. The organization provides job coaches for individuals who have special needs as they seek employment, according to Yellin.

Individuals who have special needs “need a place to go to [and] to be brought to. They don’t have the necessary skillsets to go out there on their own … so that is the reason for  creating the center,” he said.

The inclusion center will be open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 2:30-7:30 p.m.

Yellin said he has been dealing with Tourette syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder his entire life.

“I can feel [and] I can understand … people with disabilities, no matter what their challenges. I may not have the same challenges other people have, but I can relate to them because we are all going through the same universal struggle,” he said. “We are all trying to fit into society, we are all trying to be accepted for who we are. I know how that feels and people need to be accepted for who they are. People need a friend.”

Dances, barbecues, talent shows and karaoke nights may be planned. Activities at the facility will include table tennis, air hockey, foosball and video games. 

“The one thing I can say is the biggest disability someone has is not having a friend or not having someone who is there for them. When you don’t have a friend and you don’t have a sense of support, what is there to life? … They need a place where they can go to raise their support, to raise their moral support and to raise the quality of their life,” Yellin said.

“East Brunswick is a diverse town with a sense of inclusion, tolerance, acceptance and belonging for families. Disability Allies wanted to work with a municipality to further build on these qualities so all people can integrate socially, emotionally and in the work environments,” he said. “We aspire for the East Brunswick community to gain understanding and become informed and united in the diverse community we live in.” 

For more information, visit www.disabilityallies.com/about-us

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.