Individuals across multiple Living Resources programs are coming together to tell New York State lawmakers that added investment in the I/DD community is needed in the final version of the FY 2025 State Budget. Our organization plans on sending that important message in a very creative way.

The Development Department designed and printed Valentine’s Day cards, emblazoned with the message “Share the Love with the I/DD Community this Valentine’s Day.” The back was largely left blank, aside from phrases like “Show our DSPs some LOVE,” ”Invest in my future so I can keep growing,” and “No U-Turns on the road to MY Independence!”

That’s where our Arts Program and Brain Injury Program took over. They filled the blank space on the back of the cards with beautiful, original artwork. Using the phrases printed on the cards as inspiration, they crafted drawings and wrote personal messages to lawmakers about just how important the programs they attend are and why they feel more funding should be budgeted to increase wages for the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in their lives. Their creativity truly brought the messages to life with a personal touch.

To make the hand-drawn cards extra memorable, each is being paired with a small, heart-decorated bag full of mints and Hershey’s kisses. That’s where the might of the Day Community Opportunities Program came in! 15 participants from Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady Counties came together to count out the candy, bag it, and tie the drawstrings. Many of the participants remarked how much fun they had volunteering and working with one another in a group effort.

Over 200 bags and cards were prepared in total, one for each New York State Senator and Assembly member. This is no small feat, but when members of the Living Resources family came together and everyone focused their personal talents and skills towards a common goal, each piece of this advocacy initiative came together seamlessly. The next step will be to hand deliver the cards and the candy to the legislators’ offices in February.

Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed FY 2025 budget includes a 1.5% Cost-Of-Living-Adjustment (COLA), a far cry from than the 3.2% COLA and Direct Support Wage Enhancement (DSWE) that Living Resources and other agencies like ours need to keep up with inflation and increase wages for DSPs who do life-changing work every single day. The State Senate and Assembly are currently working on their One House budgets, where we are pushing for our calls to be answered.