In early 1988, a group of minority professionals from the Capital District, including Maxine George, who would become the Alternative Living Group’s first Executive Director, gathered to discuss options for addressing the unmet needs of lower-income families with intellectual and developmentally disabled members. They recognized that, while the existing system for delivering services to individuals with developmental disabilities adequately served the needs of others, the members of lower income families were largely un-met. These discussions led to the formation later that year of The Alternative Living Group, Incorporated (ALG) as a non-profit community based organization. In its initial mission statement, The Alternative Living Group, Inc., set forth the following goals:
- To enhance the quality of life for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the community by providing supportive services to them and their families.
- To develop mechanisms to reach out to persons with mental retardation and developmental disabilities who need such services, with a special emphasis on reaching persons who have traditionally not accessed services.
- To empower persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities to become fully participating members in integrated community living.
- To be a catalyst, fostering individual growth for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the provision of individual and family support services.
In August 1988, ALG received a $25,000 award from OMRDD in the form of a stipend that enabled ALG’s Executive Director to participate in OMRDD’s Minority Professional Development Institute. During her year at the Institute, and at various OMRDD facilities, ALG’s Executive Director received comprehensive training in OMRDD fiscal and operational policies and procedures. In September 1989, OMRDD approved ALG to open its first program – an after-school respite program serving children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Schenectady’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood. This program received recognition for its “Teens as Peers” concept, which incorporated non-disabled children as volunteers. Because it promoted a better understanding between children who have disabilities and those who do not, ALG’s Hamilton Hill after-school respite program was awarded the prestigious J.C. Penney’s 1989 Outstanding Volunteers of the Year.
In September 1990, ALG received approval from OMRDD and from the Town Board of the Town of Colonie to open its first community residence at 1085 Watervliet Shaker Road in Colonie. In the years that followed, ALG has added thirteen more community residences (Individual Residential Alternatives-IRA’s) in neighborhoods as diverse as Schenectady, Scotia, Glenville and Albany and eight supportive apartments serving those men and women transitioning from supervised residential homes to a more independent setting.
ALG’s after-school respite program has expanded with programs in Schenectady for elementary, middle, and high school age children at Mont Pleasant Middle School, Elmer Avenue Elementary, Woodlawn Elementary, Martin King Magnet School, Hoosick Falls Central School in Rensselaer County, Summer Respite and Camp in collaboration with the YMCA programs in Schenectady, and a Gap Respite program serving children on weekdays (during the school year when school is not in session). The agency also provides limited financial assistance to families in crisis, as well as funding for families to hire staff to work with their children in their own homes (Respite Reimbursement).
Today, ALG’s role in our communities is also felt through its MSC services, HCBS services, Self-Directed services, ISS supports, and educational advocacy.