Last year, Carlos Bernard was at a stage in life where others would eye retirement. Instead he sought to reinvent himself.
Bernard, a longtime co-owner of Sir Speedy printers in Pleasantville, decided to sell his share of the business after 26 years. He took a couple of months to figure out what he wanted to do, and while he wasn’t looking for full-time employment, Bernard, now 71, hoped to find something that was fulfilling.
He found that in a part-time consulting role with the Institutes of Applied Human Dynamics (IAHD), a Tarrytown-based nonprofit that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by providing programs, job training and residential options. There had been several other choices as well for Bernard but he decided to help the organization where had served as a member and later as co-chair of its Leadership Committee.
“Once I started I was hooked,” he said. “Once I saw the work that they were doing for the people that they were trying to take care of through programs and services, it’s just something that became very meaningful for me.”
Bernard’s role, where he supports the communications and marketing director, has been to help identify various funding sources, including grants, and to raise the profile of the organization. He recommended to IAHD’s leadership to hire a professional grant writer in hopes of capturing some of the funding opportunities available to the organization.
IAHD operates 32 residences for its clients, 13 in Westchester, the remainder of them in the Bronx and runs training sessions in the arts, culinary programs, a cleaning program and other occupations to develop their skills that could lead to part-time employment and a satisfying life. The organization also provides recreation and cultural opportunities, including trips to museums, ball games and retreats upstate.
Bernard said IAHD takes care of people on the entire spectrum from high-functioning individuals with autism to those with severe disabilities.
But there are challenges beyond financial considerations. Retaining direct support professionals is one obstacle, since many salaries are as low as $13.50 an hour. Also, many employers are leery of adding someone with disabilities to their staff. Part of IAHD’s mission is to help to break down those barriers, Bernard said.
“I can’t begin to tell you that people have a concern about hiring someone with a disability, maybe because they don’t know how a person is going to perform in some instances because they don’t understand that we just don’t send people out,” he said. “They go with someone that’s going to be working (with them) and to me doing something that’s going to be a win-win situation.”
For last month’s Pleasantville Rotary Pancake Breakfast, Bernard recommended bringing along a young man who has dreams of becoming a chef. He helped with the cooking for the breakfast and was “the hit of the kitchen,” Bernard said.
“That’s part of the challenge also, to look at individuals with disabilities for who they are and for the fact that they have talents they can contribute, that they’re entitled to lead meaningful lives just like everybody else is,” he said.
Bernard was born and raised in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. After graduating from Iona and earning his masters from the University of Kentucky, he initially went into the banking industry.
After various positions in international banking, Bernard met up with a business partner and went into the garment industry. He eventually sold his stake after about seven or eight years. Bernard was then looking for another business opportunity and found the Sir Speedy chain, figuring at the time the printing business would have fewer peaks and valleys.
A Westchester resident since 1980 with a wife and two grown sons, Bernard loves playing tennis, spending time with family and enjoys traveling, although he and his wife have had their adventures somewhat curtailed because Bernard’s 98-year-old father is living with them.
His family is planning to visit Puerto Rico this winter to visit Bernard’s 96-year-old aunt.
But he receives plenty of satisfaction from helping to contribute to an organization in IAHD that he truly believes in.
“I want people to understand the importance of the work that we do and to consider getting on board in terms of a supporter and eventually a donor,” Bernard said. “We’re always looking to bring people on board to our Leadership Committee, to get involved in hoping to fundraise and to make my life a bit easier.”