Photo by Naeisha Rose
Family and friends gathered at the Queens Center for Progress to cheer on participants of the organization who reached major milestones despite their disabilities with the help of the nonprofit.
By Naeisha Rose

Queens Centers for Progress, a nonprofit that provides services for children and adults with disabilities, hosted its third annual “QCP Champions Awards” last week in Jamaica Hills for participants of its program with developmental disabilities who achieved significant milestones this year.

Pat Coulaz and Margaret MacPherson — board members of QCP with personal connections to the nonprofit — organized the Oct. 11 event, which celebrated 10 individuals who were honored for their success at school, finding their own residence and for their work in day programs, according to a spokesman for Queens Centers for Progress.

“We are on the board of directors, but we are also family members,” said Coulaz, whose daughter has special needs and has been at QCP for 30 years.

Despite losing her brother, who had an intellectual disability, two years ago, MacPherson is happy to still be involved with QCP.

“The staff here is so special,” said MacPherson. “The staff here is not only smart and knowledgeable in their field, they care and will absolutely take of [the participants] as though they were your own child.”

The center provides programs that teach individuals how to be independent, get jobs, socialize, travel, shop, self-care and how to join senior and geriatric organizations, according to Josie Davide, the director of day services at QCP, which is located at 81-15 164th St.

“We do this through a whole variety of settings and we have over 20 volunteer sites,” said Davide. “We do training in the community. In-house we do computer skills, recreation, we do art shows and we have a corner store, a green house and a kitchen to teach independent skills.”

When it comes to getting fund-raising for the programs, Wendy Phaff, the director of development at QCP, is never satisfied.

“Right now we raise $1.1 million a year,” said Phaff. “We are always looking to raise more. We are always looking for new partners in the community and to engage people.”

To help raise money for the program, Phaff and QCP host a golf outing. They also have volunteers that run in the New York City marathon (Nov. 4), as well as a food tasting event at Terrace on the Park in Flushing in February and a gala and a walk around the building that includes members of the community and surrounding schools, according to the director.

One of the honorees of the program was Gerald Turner, 26, of Hollis. He has autism and since joining the QCP, he has joined the Dream Street Theater Company in Brooklyn, sang in concerts and joined a singing group with the help of music therapist at the center’s day program and he cleans the cafeteria at PS 811 in Little Neck.

When he is not playing basketball or ice-skating, he volunteers to pack snacks for the elderly at SNAP centers.

“I like playing basketball at the YMCA,” said Turner. “I like singing with Janet.”

His mother, April Whitlock Turner, said she discovered that he had autism when he was 3 years old and he did not become verbal until he was 5 years old. He joined QCP when he was 21.

“QCP keeps him very busy,” said Whitlock Turner. “He really looks forward coming to QCP. It really keeps him on the go.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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