$1 million awarded to GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island

Congressman secures and announces grant


During GiGi’s Playhouse’s third annual Black-tie Gala, held on March 16, congressman Andrew Garbarino (R) announced that he had secured a $1 million federal grant for the organization.

“The support we continue to receive is truly amazing!” said president of GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island, Mike Cirigliano. “Congressman Garbarino has been advocating for us for over a year… We can’t be more thankful for his efforts to get this done.”

The grant money, according to Cirigliano, will help ensure that GiGi’s has the building and facilities it needs to serve their constituents.

The funds were secured as a Community Project Funding (CPF) request and appropriated through H.R. 4366, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on March 9.

The funding, according to Garbarino, would be used to purchase a building to launch GiGi University’s career readiness program and the Hugs & Mugs supported employment program.

The project, he said, is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds because it will have a significant positive impact on the County of Suffolk and its residents.

“I applaud the mission of GiGi’s Playhouse to see a world where individuals with Down syndrome are accepted,” said Garbarino. “The Down syndrome community has so much to offer our society, and I am proud to have secured this funding to help GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island provide career and employment opportunities and help them seize their potential.”

The 3,300-square-foot Down syndrome Achievement Center at 100 Austin Street, Suite 3, opened in Patchogue three years ago. With over 58 brick-and-mortar locations across the United States and Mexico, GiGi’s Playhouse is the only network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers in the country.

Due to the commitment of dedicated volunteers and generous donors, all services, including therapeutic, educational, and career training programs, are offered for free. With this funding, GiGi’s Playhouse Long Island will look to launch two unique programs that prepare adults with Down syndrome for future employment and place them as interns in a retail setting to provide real-world job experience.

GiGi U

A comprehensive and progressive learning program tailored specifically for adults with Down syndrome comprising a 15-week session made up of three days per week instructional program, GiGi U is designed for motivated adults with Down syndrome to achieve their highest potential in the real world while developing their abilities in the areas of wellness, communication, and career skills with emphasis on job interviewing, communication skills, money management, public speaking, customer service, computer skills, team building and health.  GiGi University is an innovative educational program that builds participants’ confidence, career skills and interests, and health and wellness.


The “Hugs & Mugs” Career Training Program is a retail café and gift shop run by adult mentors with Down syndrome and program support staff. The 18-week career training program places GiGi University graduates as “interns” at Hugs & Mugs, which sells specialty coffee and gelato, as well as personalized gifts including water bottles, cell phone cases, travel mugs, and more.  Interns are coached by mentors and other young adults with Down syndrome can excel in their internship into employment opportunities beyond the program. Hugs & Mugs is open five days a week and interns typically work 16-20 hours each week. Interns learn customer service skills (taking and filling orders at the counter); sales skills (using the cash register machines, making change, and issuing receipts); food and beverage service skills (preparing and serving coffee, espresso and other specialty drinks), logistics and fulfillment skills (order packaging and shipping), IT skills (downloading, filling, confirming and tracking online orders), and more. 


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