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Lending a hand for the holidays

The Schenectady ARC (Advocacy, Resources, Choices) serves more than 1,000 individuals with developmental disabilities in the Schenectady area.

"It's been extremely successful," said Viera of community day. "The folks I work with here really look forward to it. I can't say enough for the kids."

Preparation for community day starts in October, when students indicate with what type of agency they'd like to spend their time: children, elderly, homeless or community agencies like libraries. Teachers and parents serve as chaperones to the groups.

The program was recently recognized by the Character Education Partnership, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to fostering character education in K-12 programs schools across the nation.

Community day will also see kids going to area nursing homes like Maplewood Manor in Ballston Spa, which has participated in the program for several years. According to Activities Director Laura Vigneau, community day is a favorite for Maplewood's 277 residents.

"Anything with kids is a big draw," she said.

In years past, the approximately 15 students who go to Maplewood helped residents play Bingo or other structured activities in the community room. This year, their visit will coincide with the nursing home's book fair and the kids will be picking up residents by wheelchair and helping them pick out books.

"This is the first year we're going to do something a little different," said Vigneau. "We thought we'd take advantage of the opportunity to let the kids interact with the residents."

For students who can't go out to area agencies for whatever reason, speakers from places like the Ronald McDonald House and the Bethesda House of Schenectady will come to O'Rourke to talk about volunteering, and students will be able to make tote bags or blankets for various organizations.""

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