New Jersey Yachad held a kickoff event for the Mendel Balk Yachad (MBY) Adult Community Center on Monday, September 11. The center offers social and educational programs for young adults with special needs.
The Balk family generously opened their home to NJ Yachad for a BBQ and special guest performer, Mordechai Schapiro. Holding the opening day for the MBY Center at the Balk home was particularly meaningful because the center is named in memory of Mendel Balk, a”h, father of Yachad participant Yoel Balk. Mendel was a special individual who cared greatly about his family and the community, and Yachad is grateful to be able to carry on his name through this one-of-a-kind program that merges family and community.
The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center provides a home away from home where young adults feel accepted, loved and included in all the Yachad activities they enjoy there. The MBY Center, at 70 Sterling Place in Teaneck, is open Monday through Thursday, 4-7 p.m., providing lots of time for members to feel comfortable and at home in the space.
“The Mendel Balk Yachad Center is a dream come true and is a special place in our community,” said Chani Herrmann, director of New Jersey Yachad. “Hosting the opening event of the year at the Balk home made it even more special, with members of the Balk family present to share in the festivities. There was so much joy in the air.”
Members come from Bergen County (Fair Lawn, Teaneck, Bergenfield, Englewood, Alpine), Passaic County, Riverdale and the MetroWest area (Hillside, Highland Park). Many participants come from nearby high schools including Ma’ayanot, TABC, Frisch and Bruriah. In the four short months that the center was open last year, it hosted about 35 participants regularly!
One of the most important needs for children with special needs as they grow into young adults is social interaction and opportunities for them to build relationships and spend time with their peers. The Mendel Balk Yachad Adult Community Center was created to do just that, with the goal to foster personal growth, friendship, increased independence and, most importantly, a greater a sense of community.
The center is unique for members because it provides a platform for socialization and independence. The energy in the center is designed to foster an environment of independence for all members. Without the center, many young adults might go home at 4 p.m. with an entire night ahead of them and no plans. The center fills that void, allowing participants to leave the work or school setting during the day and go to a space offering social and recreational opportunities.
The MBY Center space was completely designed for the purpose of the center—painted with soft purples and gray to foster a warm environment. It has a lounge area with a TV and game system. Generally, members walk straight into the center and head directly to what they know as their center “living room” and relax there. They take a game from the board game station, read a magazine or use the computer. The center also has a kitchen station filled with kitchen supplies for the culinary workshop. Aside from all the great stations in the center, there are multiple weekly programs including art, basketball, pottery, theater and STEM.
The kickoff on the evening of September 11 was an exciting and special way to welcome the New Jersey communities to this wonderful facility. The event began at the MBY Center with an ice cream party and some icebreakers. Following that, everyone headed over to the Balk home and enjoyed a BBQ, basketball and dancing. Special guest and musical star Mordechai Schapiro enhanced the evening with his energetic performance, making it a night that everyone will remember!
For additional information about the MBY center, contact director Racheli (Ambinder) Israeli, at [email protected] or 201-833-1349.