Through the power of music, Daniel's Music Foundation (DMF) has been helping individuals with disabilities to learn, socialize, and, simply, have a great time. In the words of Daniel Trush, the brave inspiration and force behind the foundation, DMF is all about music and "letting people shine." In 1997, when Daniel was twelve years old, he experienced a brain aneurism that left him in a coma for 30 days, and then in a wheelchair for two years. Prior to the incident, Daniel was a music enthusiast having played both the guitar and the trumpet. Daniel's parents, Ken and Nancy Trush, said that while Daniel was in a coma they would play him his favorite artists as a form of communication. Thankfully, he eventually recovered. While in college as a non-matriculated student, he took a music history class and began to experiment with music as a form of therapy. Inspired by this concept and noticing the lack of music programs available to people with disabilities, Daniel and his parents founded DMF. Their hope was to use music as a means of empowerment bonding between people with disabilities. DMF had humble beginnings. The Trush family started by offering a keyboard class with five members in a basement that they would rent by the hour. Gradually, though, their purpose began to resonate with others, and their membership and funding grew. In 2011, DMF was chosen by the New York Yankees as the honored organization in their annual Hope Week - DMF members were invited to sing the national anthem in Yankee Stadium. This momentous event provided DMF with the coverage they were seeking. Within three weeks, the number of students in their programs increased from 150 to 200.Fast forward a few years later to 2013 when DMF was able to move into a state-of-the-art 8,700-square-foot facility that is entirely wheelchair accessible and "barrier free." Equipped with five studios and a plethora of instruments including keyboards, percussion, and guitars, DMF also offers private lessons. Members have gone on to perform at Giants Stadium and Madison Square Garden. In addition, they host some of their own special events including an annual festival with forty performances, dinner dances, and the "DMF underground" composed of artist performances and an open mic.Today, thanks to the dedication of everyone involved, DMF boasts over 300 students and 10,000 annual visits to its facilities from members of other organizations that support people with disabilities. The foundation gauges its success based on a metric created by Daniel that it takes very seriously: "the smile-o-meter," meant to measure the "changes in attitudes and outlook" reported by its members. For the Trush family, however, it is equally important to build a bridge between the students and the greater community. "We're about music, but also about awareness."
In the heart of Spanish Harlem, known to locals as El Barrio, is the Puerto Rican tapas bar, La Fonda. “We put Puerto Rican food on the map,” said James Gonzalez, who became a partner in 2017 after having spent “forever” as a loyal customer. “With my background, I should have been anything except for an entrepreneur, but here I am.”Puerto Rican immigrant Jorge Ayala had spent decades living next door to George & Gina’s, a small eatery named after the husband and wife team that owned it. When the couple decided to sell, Jorge worked out a deal to take over the lease and create a “restaurant of the people” that celebrated the Latinx heritage that was so meaningful to him and other transplants in the neighborhood.Fittingly, La Fonda’s dishes are “Nuyorican fusion,” melding elements from the Boricua, Spanish, African, and indigenous Taíno cultures. “Our food is all made the way a grandma would make it, but it’s not just the basic rice and beans that she would put on the table.” Yes, La Fonda may make its sofrito fresh every day, and it is of course known for its chicharrón and slow-roasted pernil, but these hearty Latin staples take on an elegant new life under James and Jorge’s direction.
I have looked forward to encountering this location since my journey began more than five years ago. My husband and I have been affiliated with The New Jewish Home for twenty-five years, starting when my grandmother became a resident. Ten years later, she turned one hundred years old and my husband was honored to become a member of the board of this not-for-profit.The New Jewish Home has been around for nearly 170 years, providing a continuum of services for elders including home care, post-acute rehabilitation, long-term care, and senior living options. There are plans in place to move this Manhattan home to a side street a few blocks south. The new facility, to be known as the Living Center of Manhattan, will be the first to offer the Green House model in an urban setting.