STAATSBURG – At a family festival in October, Anderson Center for Autism unveiled a new strategy to raise awareness, educate its residents, and generate funds: a food truck.
Underwritten in part by Debbie and Joel Levine of Long Island, whose son Jamie is a full-time resident at Anderson, with additional funding from a grant through North Shore Autism Circle, the truck will operate as any other food truck does – delivering treats to guests of festivals and events (having already appeared at the agency’s June golf outing and October gala event) – but it comes with a mission: optimizing the quality of life for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Donor Debbie Levine reflected, “Ever since our son was diagnosed 18 years ago, my husband and I have been active in running two fundraisers annually to help schools and agencies better the lives of both children and adults living with Autism. As we have learned through the years, there is no limit to the potential of what these Individuals can achieve. We have seen many wonderful programs, but unfortunately the money they receive from the State and Federal Government is not enough to grow and sustain them at the level we feel these individuals deserve.”
“And this food truck will be more than a funding platform; it will provide opportunities for children to practice customer service skills and learn the basics of owning a store: from making or purchasing of Inventory and developing organizational skills to understanding the exchange of money and learning how to interact with the community. The truck will not only be run by people with Autism but will be able to be taken out into the community where others can learn and see first-hand the capabilities that individuals with Autism have. Ultimately, it will be a teaching environment for both the students and the community,” Levine added.
Says Eliza Bozenski, director, Anderson Foundation for Autism, “The truck is a unique-to-Anderson opportunity to engage students and adults, families and staff at community events that Anderson hosts, as well as other events like Special Olympics and, at some point, food truck gatherings. Some adults from our program recently helped to hand out donuts to guests at Anderson’s Family BBQ/Harvest Festival and decided on their own to also ask for donations for Anderson while doing so. It is a fun, social, and vocational opportunity that seems to have more uses than we have even considered thus far.”
In addition to upcoming campus events, the truck will likely make its way to the Anderson Golf Classic again this June and is expected to be spotted throughout April at various community events in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
Bozenski added, “Our families are always finding creative ways to support our programs and services, and the new food truck is a wonderful example of the spirit of generosity we have among our community here at Anderson. Not only will this help us raise much-needed funds to bridge the gap between financial needs and resources, but it will help raise awareness about our mission and is an opportunity for Anderson students and residents to practice meaningful transactional skills which could potentially help them be successful as adults in an actual work situation.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 68 are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Levine said, “It is our hope that this will be a wonderful addition to further integrating and accepting these very capable individuals into society.”
For more information, call 845.889.9208 or visit andersoncenterforautism.org.