Community Mainstreaming Associates, a nonprofit organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, maintains that everyone deserves to live productive lives in their communities. Former Malverne Mayor Patti Ann McDonald shares that belief, and welcomed a new CMA group residence to the village last year. For her efforts, she was honored with the organization’s John Walter Humanitarian Award at its 45th annual fundraising gala at The Heritage Club at Bethpage on Nov. 7.
“I think that as a society, we all need to help in taking care of one another,” McDonald told the Herald. “By helping young adults that are differently abled to help them live independently and to be able to experience the same things as everyone, it’s something we should all support.”
McDonald learned about the group last year, and visited one of its group homes in Massapequa. Eileen Egan, CMA’s executive director, pitched the idea of having a group home in Malverne, and McDonald didn’t hesitate to follow through on it. She rallied local elected officials and community members in support of a CMA home at a public meeting. Egan said that in her 30 years of working with various municipalities on setting up group homes, McDonald’s leadership set her apart.
“Patti Ann led her community to be accepting, open-minded and, at the end of the day, welcoming,” Egan said. “She’s kind, compassionate and has a strong moral compass. The world needs more leaders like Patti Ann McDonald.”
McDonald said that at first, some residents were unsure about the idea. “People have a misunderstanding of organizations like this,” she said of CMA. “As Catholics, Christians and people of any faith, we should all be more accepting of everybody.”
McDonald, a lifelong Malvernite, spent more than 20 years on the village board, and served as mayor from 2006 to 2018. During her tenure, she helped the village attract over $1 million in federal and state grants and oversaw the construction of a headquarters for the Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps, renovations of the downtown area and the Long Island Rail Road stations, upgrades of village infrastructure and the expansion and modernization of the village’s parks.
Now retired, McDonald said that she looks forward to supporting groups like the CMA. “It’s a humbling experience to honored and to be in the presence of the other two honorees,” she said. “Especially John [Cronin]” — a 23-year-old entrepreneur with Down syndrome who co-founded John’s Crazy Socks. “He hasn’t allowed any type of disabilities in his life to prevent him from doing something positive.”
CMA offers a range of services and operates more than 16 residences across Nassau and Suffolk. So far, two Malverne residents are set to move into the village’s group home next year.