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Helping special needs families in WNY

Posted at 7:00 PM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-02 19:00:06-04

LAKEVIEW, N.Y. (WKBW) — Jamie Swanson of Orchard Park says families caring for a loved one with special needs need help and support.

“It’s really about walking beside these families, and saying we’re here to help,” said the mother of three.

Swanson and her husband Daryl have three young children on the Autism spectrum. The Swansons say they understand the every day struggles some deal with, and want to build relationships with others who may be feeling the same way.

“In the special needs world, many caretakers feel abandoned,” she said.

For the past three years, the Swansons have collected donated locally sourced food and other goods for families with special needs. It was after their personal experiences they created Bountiful Loaves & Fishes Love Ministry, which provides food and support.

“I don’t want anyone to feel the way we felt,” she said. “We’re really just stepping up and letting people know there’s hope. A lot of times you only know what those struggles are when you build relationships with families.”

Bountiful Loaves & Fishes Love Ministry opens up three times a week based on demand. Despite offering food and care packages, the Swansons say their organization is not a food pantry.

“The food because a lot of times there are many struggles with food, it might be allergies that the child has sensory issues and they may be on a limited diet,” she said. “We don’t look at income. It’s a place where people can come together.”

Thanks to local donations, the organization is able to offer fresh and often organic foods.

As parents of three with Autism, they say inclusion is what is needed in our society.

“We need to be accepted, valued and understood,” she said. “If you know someone with Autism, still invite them, even if they say no. Kindness goes a long way.”

Bountiful Loaves & Fishes Love Ministry has about 400 members on Facebook, and serves all of Western New York. The Swansons say they want to be able to provide more food and helpful items to families with special needs through donations and local partnerships. It’s currently accepting donations, cash and gift cards.