The Foundation for the Handicapped was founded in 1966 by the Wayne, New Jersey Rotary Club. Its mission was to provide long-term, meaningful employment services for adults with developmental disabilities. Similarly to the workshop operated by Abilities First until 2019, the Foundation for the Handicapped became more than a place to acquire skills. Dedicated volunteers and a few paid staff have ensured the opportunity for meaningful and paid work would remain available for these individuals.
Since its inception, Sondra and Leonard Pine have nurtured the Foundation, supported the individuals who depended on it, and appreciated the customers who chose the Foundation for the Handicapped for the assembly of their products. The workshop was more than an employment opportunity. It became a place for individuals to grow skills, foster friendships, and find an extended family. “The kids,” as Sondra fondly referred to the individuals who attended, “were like family.”
There were some individuals who even attended the workshop for over 30 years. The program was unique in its ability to be self-sustaining without financial aid from the government. It was primarily funded from contract work and the generosity of its donors. Dr. Leonard Pine – a retired optometrist, councilman, and Rotarian – was instrumental in establishing its initial funding from the Rotary Club and securing a building for its use from the Town of Wayne. Leonard Pine served as its President and his wife Sondra, a retired schoolteacher, was equally involved and committed to the mission. Together, they built a legacy of compassion and commitment to individuals with disabilities.
Their legacy and goodwill to those with disabilities continues: In 2019, the Pines were introduced to Abilities First through their son Michael, a Board member for the Foundation for Abilities First NY. They were endeared to find an organization so closely aligned with what they have put their passion and commitment toward for decades.
As with many businesses, the pandemic brought about great operational challenges for the Foundation for the Handicapped. With much sadness from the community and most significantly its long-time supporters, advocates, and volunteer leaders — Sondra & Leonard Pine decided to officially close the doors to the Foundation in 2020.
But… just as the Foundation for the Handicapped was sunsetting, the Pines received a letter. Inspired by the mission and purpose of the Foundation, a woman from the state of Washington left a bequest to the foundation. With the imminent closing of the Foundation, the Pines sought advice for what to do with the funds from the donor’s lawyer. They were asked to perpetuate the purpose of the bequest to a similar mission, and that is how in Fall of 2020, Sondra & Leonard Pine perpetuated the bequest and the legacy of the Foundation for the Handicapped with a $20,000 gift to Abilities First. Their wish is that the funds continue to impact the lives of individuals just as the Foundation for the Handicapped had for over 54 years.
Abilities First and the Foundation for Abilities First NY are most grateful for the shared commitment to those with disabilities and their generosity to continue through this mission.