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Imagine a place where independence flourishes, friendships blossom, and every resident feels a profound sense of belonging. 

The Special Needs Community Initiative is on a transformative journey to create a future where every individual with an intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) can live with dignity, joy, and freedom to make choices in their daily lives. We are more than just a vision, we are a promise to build a better future for you or your loved one. 

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Our mission is to empower individuals with IDD
to live fulfilling lives by creating and sustaining affordable
co-housing communities. These communities offer a safe and supportive environment, fostering personal growth through our innovative LEARN, WORK, and PLAY program.

Our Board of Directors

Our board is a powerhouse of passionate leaders: parents, community champions, and professionals with diverse skills like marketing, advocacy, and finance. Together, we chart the course for SNCI, ensuring responsible finances and a clear strategic plan to achieve our mission.

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My name is Josette Duncan. I am a graphic designer/production editor for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). I am also the kitchen manager for Arin's Good Girl Dog Treats, a company that employees individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I have two adult sons, Stefan and Nathan, and they are the joys of my life. Nathan has Down syndrome and I never imagined 27 years ago that his life would lead me to my purpose – to figure out a way to make his life as productive and fulfilling as possible and for others like him. 

Why I Got Involved

Nathan has the same dreams and desires for his future as other young adults. He wants to live a purposeful life surrounded by friends and family but not completely dependent on them. Unfortunately, his options are limited. When I began researching options, I came across the cohousing community model – an intentional community of private homes surrounded by shared spaces and activities. This model has been used in other communities to combat homelessness and has given senior citizens another option to retirement homes so I thought why couldn’t it be another option for the special needs community. A community like this would allow my son to have his independence but also give me the peace of mind that he’s in a safe place.

Josette Duncan

President

Josette Duncan

President

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My name is Amber Herscher. Mom to three and a full time Deployment and Logistics Supervisor (for 6 years) at a non-profit ministry. I have an 22-year-old adult son with Autism. 

Why I Got Involved

I joined this amazing organization to help my son and others with disabilities achieve their dream of living on their own with like minded adults. I am so excited for the endless possibilities open to adults with special needs right in our community!

Amber Herscher

At-Large

Amber Herscher

At- Large

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My name is Diana Marenfeld. I am a mother of two young women with Autism. I was an activist within the NYC School system for most of their school years (serving on two school councils for special needs children).

Why I Got Involved

As my daughters and many other young adults have transitioned into adulthood, I see a need for us to have a community where they can be safe, secure, and allow them to thrive. Knowing that there will be a community for them to live in and participate in is very important to me. Many caregivers will be facing hard decisions for the future and this community initiative will give us the options we are looking for. I am excited to be a part of this initiative and look forward to the day it will be a reality.

Diana Marenfeld

Vice President

Diana Marenfeld

Vice - President

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My name is Noah Helms. I am a Trust Senior Associate with Bank of America – Private Bank. I am from Lincolnton, NC and I grew up alongside Josette’s, children Stefan and Nathan which led to me realizing there is work to be done to help provide a fruitful
life for individuals and families in the special needs community.

Why I Got Involved

While helping individuals and families may not seem like a top reason to enter the finance world, I can assure you most people in this line off work do it to help their clients realize their goals and live the life they dream of. I see the same calling in the work that the individuals of the Special Needs Community
Initiative complete. I was drawn to this organization for the same reason I was drawn to my career path and that is to help people who may not have the means and abilities achieve what is most important to them.

Noah Helms

Treasurer

Noah Helms

Treasurer

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Bio to come

Why I Got Involved

Bio to come

Melissa Wagner

At-Large

Melissa Wagner

At-Large

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My name is Simran Sedani, and I am a mother to two boys with Autism with varying abilities. I have been an Internal Medicine Physician for 18 years, with expertise in caring for hospitalized patients. I have witnessed firsthand how poorly equipped the healthcare system is in dealing with this unique population, especially as adults. There is a critical lack of awareness, education, resources, and training. There is a lack of individualized approach to treatment necessary to promote healing for our special needs population. As an individual, I can only make a difference one person at a time. As a Physician leader, I can advocate for better management of patients with similar special needs. This has become my ultimate goal: to improve the lives and experiences of hospitalized patients, improve outcomes, and, most significantly, provide support for individuals with disabilities and their families as they recover from illness. Not only is this population disadvantaged in the hospital setting, but there are more significant, gaps in care and functionality in short or long-term physical rehabilitation centers, psychiatric care, or home health. I believe that the lack of adequately trained staff and equipment leads to overmedication and mistreatment of this vulnerable population.

Why I Got Involved

The fear of my son living without his family's support when we are gone keeps me up at night. I worry because he is nonverbal and is quite frail. In my years as a Hospitalist, when neurodivergent individuals express themselves, it is misunderstood as agitation, and they are subjected to restrictive measures and sometimes heavily medicated and confined. This approach can sometimes make it worse for these individuals.  A co-housing community like the one envisioned by SNCI will allow them autonomy and provide a safe environment where they can be among like-minded individuals. This will help them grow together and support advocacy efforts. This will prevent loneliness and Depression, which is common in this population.  I hope to help drive a culture change in the neighboring healthcare organizations’ attitudes and treatment of this unique population. Someday, they will have better options for managing differently abled individuals and will support their needs better. Perhaps including sensory-friendly areas within healthcare settings allows them to feel calm and safe. It takes a single candle to brighten a dark room. I believe in the vision of SNCI; It starts with one, it begins with SNCI.  

Dr. Simran Sedani

At-Large

Dr. Simran Sedani

At-Large

Make a Real Difference:
Join the SNCI Board of Directors

Are you passionate about creating a brighter
future for individuals with disabilities?
We are seeking dedicated individuals to
join our dynamic Board of Directors!

We're always looking for ways to grow! To bring our vision of a co-housing community to life, we're seeking individuals with expertise in:

  • Real Estate: Help us navigate the land acquisition and development process.
  • Building & Construction: Bring your knowledge to ensure our co-housing project is a success.
  • Fundraising & Grant Writing: Unleash your skills to secure the resources we need.
  • Sponsorship Development: Partner with businesses who share our values.

If you're a leader looking to make a lasting impact, this is your chance! Join a dedicated team and be part of something truly transformative.

Know someone who fits the bill? Share this opportunity with them!
Click the button to express your interest. Let's build a brighter future together!

Board meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month for ten months every year from 6:30 – 8:30 pm EST via Google Meet

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