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Initiative promotes opportunities for individuals across region

Posted 3/11/22

UTICA — Funding from the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) has enabled the Kelberman Center to partner with several community organizations to provide life-changing opportunities for …

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Initiative promotes opportunities for individuals across region


UTICA — Funding from the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) has enabled the Kelberman Center to partner with several community organizations to provide life-changing opportunities for social inclusion for those they serve.

The Social Inclusion Initiative, a partnership between Kelberman Center and DDPC, has promoted socially inclusive opportunities for individuals of all abilities in Oneida and Onondaga counties over the last three years. Programs are still running and will continue through June.

What is the Social Inclusion Initiative?

Representatives of the Kelberman Center said now more than ever, people are seeking social connections. Individuals with intellectual, developmental (ID/DD) and other disabilities face significant barriers participating in social opportunities within their communities. This lack of social engagement results in less robust social networks and increased social isolation.

Through the support of the DDPC, the Kelberman Center has created the Social Inclusion Initiative. The purpose of the initiative is to work with local community partners to build new socially inclusive programs and opportunities that break down barriers for those with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities.

The Kelberman Center will award a total $315,000 to partnering agencies over a three-year period to create inclusive opportunities and will work alongside these agencies by providing technical assistance, training and expert consultation.

“Inclusion is not one person’s job, it is everyone’s responsibility,” said Laura Mangano-Smith, coordinator of Social Inclusion. “The Social Inclusion Initiative helps provide our community with the tools and resources needed to build truly socially-inclusive environments, where every person can learn, grow and thrive.”

What happens to programs after June?

“After our formal partnership with DDPC ends in June, it is our expectation that the organizations involved will continue to provide inclusive opportunities to children, adults and families within the community,” said Kelberman Center Executive Director Tara Costello. “Through The Kelberman Center’s training and support, they are now equipped with the information, experience and mindset to foster inclusivity in all of their programs and opportunities.”

She said, “The Kelberman Center will always be available to assist any of the partnering organizations with guidance and support as they continue doing their great work within the community. We believe in the power of individuals, family, and community working together to maximize our collective potential.”

A video outlining the Social Inclusion Initiative, including interviews with leaders of the organizations that participate, can be found at

The video is a culmination of the work and positive partnerships that came out of the DDPC Social Inclusion Initiative. Leaders from the partnering organizations had an opportunity to speak about the programs that grew out of their organizations as a result of the partnership.

Several of them spoke about a change of mindset and how inclusivity is now an ingrained part of their organizational cultures. It was an opportunity to thank the DDPC and the Kelberman Center for this experience, while also showcasing photos from the actual classes and programs created through the initiative. “The Kelberman Center is thankful to have been a part of this life-changing program through the DDPC, helping to promote our collective vision of creating and fostering community-wide inclusion,” Costello said. “Through this initiative, we have established relationships with partners that are inclusivity-minded and we look forward to watching these organizations grow and thrive while providing services to people of all abilities within the community.”

The executive director said through the inclusion experience, the Kelberman Center hopes that other organizations can see how easy it is to provide inclusive opportunities to people in their area.

“The Kelberman Center is here to assist anyone interested in making more inclusive programming a reality for your organization,” she said.

To learn more, visit

Social Inclusion Initiative Mini Grant Model:

The mini grants will be available to organizations that are interested in creating socially-inclusive opportunities across Oneida, Onondaga and Otsego counties.

Year 1 Mini-Grant recipients (July to December 2020):

The Fitness Mill – volunteer and fitness programs

YMCA of CNY – after-school program

Delta Lake Conference Center – Camp Box program

Year 2 Mini-Grant recipients (January to June 2021):

Everson Museum of Arts


Eye Studio

Blessed Sacrament School

Year 3 Mini-Grant recipients (July 2021 - June 2022)  

Be, Life, Arts & Magic

In Bloom Yoga

The Root Farm

YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley

Who is eligible to apply?

• Organizations in Oneida County that are interested in reducing social isolation and developing social opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD).

• Programs that support development of social skills, soft skills or prevocational skills.

• Programs interested in exploring innovative transportation solutions to support community participation for people with ID/DD.

• Organizations that are interested in offering accessible social programming.

• Organizations that are interested in adapting social opportunities currently offered by the organization to become more socially inclusive.


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