Maggie Hendler speaks from experience when she cites the need for
bonding between developmentally disabled adults and the community at
“There is such a stigmatism stuck to those who are disabled, and yet
which one of us do not have our own handicaps? But most of ours are
worn on the inside,” commented Hendler, who serves as the house manager
for the Arc group home in Palmyra.
During her four years with Arc of Wayne County, Hendler said she has
often brought her sons Jeff and Joey to share time with various
residents — to the point where they “have become a second family to my
children.” On Dec. 28, the Hendlers shifted their focus to their home
parish — St. Michael’s in Lyons — to help stage a party for a nearby
Catholic Charities group home.
“I can’t say enough about the importance of having all youth
involved with the disabled,” Hendler said. “The kids today need to be
able to step away from those stereotypes and see the value each
disabled adult has. Kids aren’t able to do this unless they are
involved with an activity such as this.”
The fun evening in the St. Michael’s rectory included snacks;
playing bingo with prizes awarded for winners; singing Christmas
carols; and making ornaments that the guests got to bring home.
Attendees were also treated to piano tunes by Father Edward Dillon, a
retired diocesan priest who resides at St. Michael’s.
Twelve adults in all attended from the Lyons group home, which is
located just a stone’s throw from St. Michael’s. Welcoming them were 14
youths and several parents representing St. Michael’s as well as St.
John the Evangelist/St. Patrick in Clyde and Savannah.
Jeff and Joey Hendler found it easy to mix in with the guests,
saying all seemed to enjoy the party. Joey noted that one adult, Carl,
had an obvious interest in football.
“His favorite team is the Cowboys and I was wearing a Cowboys
shirt,” reported Joey, 12.
Meanwhile, Jeff spent some quality time with a man named Larry. “We
were partners for bingo and I helped him get his food. Larry was quiet
but very nice,” said Jeff, 13.
Zack Rivera, who volunteered along with his mother Mary Glanzel,
said the guests “seemed to be like kids in older bodies.” Yet Zack,
whose family attends St. John the Evangelist, said he didn’t feel
awkward and was pleased the adults were having such a good time.
“They seemed happy. They seemed excited that a lot of people were
there,” said Zack, 17.
Whereas Zack, his mom and the Hendlers were first-year helpers at
the annual party, Matt D’Amato is now a three-time veteran of this
event after volunteering Dec. 28 with his mother, Linda. Matt, 14, said
he assisted guests in locating numbers on their bingo cards, and also
listened to them talk about their family members. He stated that the
party “shows that our community cares about the people who have
This holiday tradition was started several years ago by Father
William Barrett, the former St. Michael’s pastor who retired in 2002.
According to Sister of St. Joseph Catherine Gibbons, faith-formation
director for St. Michael’s and St. John/St. Patrick, youth-group
members would visit the group home to sing Christmas carols. Then,
beginning two years ago, the church began serving as host with an
expanded list of activities.
Sister Gibbons said the party “helps the kids learn about the
diversity of people and their capabilities.” Meanwhile, Jeff Hendler
said this activity reaps benefits for both the youths and the
“It shows to the kids that some people have life harder than
others,” Jeff said. “And to the residents, it puts a smile on their
faces to see young people.”
Added his brother: “It makes me feel good, and it makes them feel
good to have people to talk to. Then they aren’t lonely.”