It is no secret that over the years I have been a critic of government mismanagement and misguided policy. But I would like to share a story about the humanity and competence of, believe it or not, our New York state government.
Recently my brother Joey died at the age of 53. He was profoundly retarded; I believe the politically correct term today is developmentally disabled. He lived in a group home on Beattie Avenue in Lockport. Joe was a resident of his group home for seven years. Prior to that, he was a resident of the West Seneca Developmental Center for nearly 37 years.
The treatment of developmentally disabled citizens has changed markedly, and for the better, over Joey's lifetime. I remember as a kid going to visit him with my mom or siblings. We had to sign in at the administration building and then drive to Joe's ward building. There we were greeted by attendants in white outfits clutching large rings of skeleton keys that were inserted into locks you would see on jail doors. At that time my brother was called a resident, but was treated like an inmate. It was not a time of enlightenment for the disabled.
Today, new group homes experience almost universal derision from their neighbors concerned about depreciating home values. They agree with the concept of group homes -- just not in their back yards. We should all recognize group homes as a more humane way of caring for our developmentally disabled family members. My mom always said "while I'm here I am happy to take care of your brother, but when I'm gone you will have to look after him." Mom died 2 1/2 years ago and since then my family has been at Joey's group home just about every week.
Although most of the six residents cannot vocalize their feelings, they are sensitive to each other and definitely have their ups and downs just like the rest of us. The staff cooks, gardens, cleans up and makes lunches just as we do. Although the residents are related only by disability, they are a family and have become a part of ours.
As a taxpayer, you would be proud of the dedication, compassion and professionalism of the staff members. They run a tight ship and are very responsive to the concerns of their clients' families. The professionalism of the entire agency that was charged with the care of my brother was impressive, indeed. I had no idea that any government agency could be run this well.
So, dear taxpayer, government can get it right. I would like to thank you for what you have done for my brother and our family. You have given us the opportunity to experience a normal life. For this we are eternally grateful.
Anthony Ogorek owns Ogorek Wealth Management in Williamsville.