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Animatronic Comfort Animals Delight ALP Residents at The Alice Center


Jocelyn Recore, administrative coordinator at The Alice Center’s Assisted Living Program (ALP), knows she works in a special place. For Recore and the ALP team members who care for the program’s 30 residents, coming to work is often like visiting family.

“It’s like going to grandma and grandpa’s house,” said Recore. “We build that relationship with them – ‘come in, sit down, let’s chat’ -- We’re such a small facility and it’s amazing to have that connection with our residents.”

So it was a special moment for Recore and her co-workers recently, when they presented ALP residents with animatronic cats and dogs for use as comfort items. The electronic pets, which were purchased using annual grant money awarded through the New York State Department of Health, made a bigger impact that Recore could have hoped.

“We were expecting them to be excited, but when we presented them, the residents were beyond excited – they were ecstatic,” said Recore.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ALP residents have had to forego many of the experiences they normally enjoy – from the Elvis impersonator the facility brings in every year and the ALP’s annual family bar-b-que, to other activities that the state grant dollars usually fund.

The Equal Grant is awarded to facilities each year, and this year the ALP received more than $36,000 – leaving Recore, who leads the application process, and the program’s resident council, which votes on how to spend the funds, with a big question: what to do with the money at a time when the program’s normal activities had either been cancelled or put on indefinite hold.

Residents settled on the animatronic pets, which Recore said have already made a big positive impact – and sparked some happy tears among team members who were overjoyed at seeing residents interacting with the items and talking with each other about how much they loved their new pets.

“It’s very difficult for them right now,” she said,” so when we can do things that put a smile on their faces like this has, it makes our heart glow.”