Allies, Inc. Nonprofit Helps Disabled be More Involved With the Community

Erin Pedrini
Web Production Assistant

Megan Miller selecting her dress for the 2014 Allies/Greensleeves Fashion Show. At age 10, Megan is the youngest model to walk the runway. Photo courtesy of Kelly Beach.

“Everyone deserves to have a home inside the community and to be able to engage in their community,” said Allies, Inc. Director of Project Development Kelly Beach.

Allies, Inc. is a state-wide nonprofit organization that has been helping people with disabilities be a part of their community for 15 years, with a headquarters in Hamilton. Allies serves 16 counties but hopes to be able to serve all 21 counties one day. Allies has a variety of different programs for the people that it serves, so that they can be supported to the highest level of independence, said Beach.

“Our goal is the help people with any type of disability live as independently in the community of their choice,” said Beach.

There are different types of settings that clients can be placed in to live within the community. Beach said that some people are placed in group homes, which look like regular homes in a regular community, but there is 24-hour staff care. She said that if the people that Allies serves have a medical need, they could have a specialized nursing staff. She said in the group homes, several individuals live as housemates and have support staff and access to their community.

Allies also offers independent living apartments and if it is a situation where someone has a higher level of independence, they would have their own apartment and they may or may not have a roommate. She said that those people may have staff but in more of a part-time capacity, checking in and making sure that they are doing well.

Another program that Allies offers is called Allies on the Move, which is a recreational program that takes the people they serve to do different types of community activities such as going out to dinner, to a concert or on a trip. Beach said that program is guided by an elected leadership of people that they serve and the leadership really works with the group to determine everyone’s interests.

Allies also provides a 21 and up adult day program for anyone who receives services through the Division of Developmental Disabilities. “We believe everybody has a skill, ability, interest and something to contribute. We look at our day program as a community base, being totally integrated into the community, and we have a variety of different day services,” said Beach. For the day program, Beach said that participants may perform a variety of different activities throughout the day. She said that in the morning someone could be in the Special Olympics gym, then they may be shopping for ingredients for lunch and preparing it with support, or they may be volunteering at a horse farm in the afternoon. She said the day program is really about being active.

Another part of the day program is the Greensleeves Boutique, which has locations in Somerville and Mount Holly. The people that Allies serves can work in the boutiques. They are gently worn clothing boutiques and clothing donations are set up in a boutique style. All proceeds from the sales benefit Allies programs. Some of Allies’ clients work in the stores as part of their programming services and they earn a paycheck, they are able to cycle into the store and receive vocational training and cycle into other activities which can include job preparation, talking about work appropriate dress, handling money, going out and volunteering in the community, music activity or therapeutic art activity.

Since Greensleeves is a green boutique, there is a lot of up cycling and re-purposing of items. Beach said that anyone can donate anything to Greensleeves, even if the item is not perfect, or has a rip or stain because everything is used and could be turned into something different, such as gloves made from a sweater. For anything that can’t be used, Greensleeves participates in Sustainable Jersey, doing textile recycling through Planet Aid, said Beach. So any part of the items that can’t be used is recycled. Beach said everything that comes in goes out in a good way.

Greensleeves is also branching out and is starting a farm to table cafe, which will still be green and do up cycling. This location will be in Flemington and the grand opening is set for July 9. Beach said that the cafe will offer green event planning for the green bride or for a special event, as well as green favors. She said it’s a full bake shop with a pastry chef, who will make wedding cakes and special event cakes. This location will also coincide with 10 to 12 New Jersey small businesses and sell their items. Beach said anytime you make a purchase in the store you simultaneously support Allies and a New Jersey small business.

Since Allies is a nonprofit organization, it hosts different fundraisers. “What fundraising dollars really do for Allies is add to that quality of life to make sure that people can get everything that they want and they are able to do what they want to do,” said Beach. Allies holds an Annual Taste of America event, in which people can do a sampling of 12 to 14 area restaurants. The event also has music and a silent auction. This year, the event will be held at the Nottingham Ballroom in Hamilton on Oct. 9.

Every other year, Allies also holds a community friend building event — the Greensleeves Fashion Show. This year is the second fashion show. “The idea of the fashion show is to do a few things. Our models are all people that we serve with different abilities, so it is important that they have a wonderful evening where they get to feel as beautiful as they truly are. They wear outfits from Greensleeves that they get to keep. It is just a really fun, special event that makes everyone feel really good and just get to know one another better,” said Beach. This year, the fashion show will be held on Thursday, June 26 at Mercer Oaks in West Windsor.

Beach said that her favorite part of working for Allies is the people that she serves. “I always feel like I get more out of it than I even give, if that is even possible. To see the people that we serve excel, to achieve their dreams, to be what they want to be, do what they want to do, to make the choices for their own lives is a beautiful thing. I feel lucky to be privy to that, to experience just a little bit of it. I feel excited and empowered every day by them. They are the best part of my day,” she said. “Allies is a reflection of the people that we serve. Our services are mirrored by what their hopes and dreams are, what they want for themselves, what they want to do, where they want to live, where they want to work. We exist because of them. It is an extremely rewarding field and I get to work alongside incredible people.”

The Greensleeves Fashion Show is sold out, but donations can still be made here.