CONNECTIONS ISSUE 8 OUR MISSION. YOUR STORIES.
STRONGER TOGETHER IN THIS ISSUE
A Message from CEO Erik Geizer POSITIVE CHANGES CONTINUING
A Message From The CEO - 1-3
As we continue into the second quarter of 2022, positive changes are happening daily in our field. These changes give us hope for the future and motivate us in working to realize our mission and advocate for all people with
CQL Accreditations - 4,5
Local Newspaper Honors WWAARC Nursing Director - 8 Resource Center Employee Honored as NYS DSP of the Year- 7 The Arc New York Dedicates Conference Room to Longtime Volunteer - 6
Lexington ARC RN Named Capital Region Top Nurse - 9
Bright Beginnings Program Ears Distinction - 9
Congratulations, Graduates! - 10-14
2022 Special Olympics Games! - 15-19
intellectual and developmental disabilities.
When Volunteering Leads to Innovation: Engineering a Difference - 20
Volunteering Opportunities - 21, 22 Arc Herkimer Opens New Café - 23 New Partnership Leads to Career Center - 23
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A Message from CEO Erik Geizer (Continued)
STRATEGIC VISION PROGRESS
The Arc New York's Strategic Plan was approved by the Board in April 2021, and it represented an agreement by key stakeholders to engage in a formal process to move the organization forward in a unified direction and position The Arc New York for even greater success in the future. After a full year of implementation of this strategic vision, we have made great progress on every initiative. We received over 10,500 survey responses from staff across the state to guide our efforts to enhance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We are implementing significant changes to strengthen our governance process, exploring innovative approaches to programming, detailing best practices and strategies, revitalizing our advocacy efforts, and working to address our ongoing staffing crisis. We invite you to explore the Strategic Vision Progress Report to learn more details about the work completed over the past year, the goals for the next twelve months, and the larger vision for our future. We encourage you to reach out with questions and feedback as we work in unison to achieve our goals, build our organization toward the future, and fulfill our mission. OPWDD'S STRATEGIC PLAN Similar to The Arc New York, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) recently released their much anticipated 2023-2027 Draft Strategic Plan.
New York State is required under Mental Hygiene Law 5.07 to develop a comprehensive five-year plan that defines and adequately resources supports and services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). OPWDD’s last plan under this requirement was adopted in 2012 and expired in 2016. According to OPWDD Commissioner Kerri Neifeld, “This draft plan presents solutions to the critical issues that our stakeholders have told us need to be addressed, such as strengthening the workforce, providing new housing options, better supporting people where they are, exploring new support opportunities, improving existing options and supporting people to find employment and meaningful day activities." OPWDD is holding a series of in-person regional forums to present the plan and solicit public feedback.
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A Message from CEO Erik Geizer (Continued)
Commissioner Kerri Neifeld delivered opening remarks at the forum, and OPWDD staff presented a short overview of the draft strategic plan. A public comment period followed, during which self-advocates, family members and providers voiced their perspective on the needs and future of services and supports in the state. The Arc New York will deliver formal comments on the 5.07 plan later this month, including recommendations to strengthen the plan and the system as a whole. We look forward to partnering with OPWDD to identify solutions to our current challenges and ensure this vision for New York's supports and services is sustainable, robust, high- quality, and person-centered.
The first of these forums was hosted at The Advocacy and Resource Center, the Clinton County Chapter of The Arc New York. Prior to the forum, Commissioner Neifeld joined Advocacy and Resource Center Executive Director Robin Pierce, myself, and state office and OPWDD staff to visit with residents, tour current facilities and see new development underway.
SAVE THE DATE! 2022 ANNUAL MEETING OCTOBER 13-15 IN ALBANY The Arc New York 2022 Annual Meeting will be held in person after two years apart! Join us to reconnect, learn and celebrate. More details will follow, but we're saving you a seat!
COUNCIL ON QUALITY & LEADERSHIP ACCREDITATIONS
THE ARC JEFFERSON – ST. LAWRENCE EARNS NATIONAL ACCREDITATION FROM CQL
The Arc Lexington announced earlier this year that they received CQL's Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation, with Distinction! CQL's Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation, With Distinction, is a four-year accreditation that applies the most stringent standards for human service organizations, requiring measurable results. THE ARC LEXINGTON AWARDED WITH PERSON-CENTERED EXCELLENCE ACCREDITATION, WITH DISTINCTION This level of CQL Accreditation is for organizations with deeply embedded person-centered approaches and practices, using CQL’s internationally-recognized tools. It includes strict eligibility criteria, rigorous expectations involving the impact of supports on outcomes, the application of CQL Certification, and robust data collection and analysis requirements. Lexington is one of only 11 organizations worldwide that have received this honor. The organization owes this award to their dedicated employees and the amazing people they support who have been recognized at this level of achievement! Basic Assurances (ensuring fundamental safeguards related to health, safety and human security) Personal Outcome Measures® (supporting and empowering people to achieve their goals and dreams) Person-centered Excellence (demonstrating organizational commitment to continued enhancement of systems directly related to person-centered services). The agency was awarded CQL accreditation as a result of demonstrating proficiency in the following areas:
The Arc Jefferson-St. Lawrence was awarded the three-year CQL Quality Assurances Accreditation from CQL, (The Council on Quality and Leadership) in May. This award confirms that the agency shares CQL’s vision for person- centered solutions to improve the quality of life for people receiving supports. This level of accreditation sets up the organization for the introduction and integration of CQL Accreditation philosophies, tools, and practices to positively impact people's lives. “We are proud of the way staff members and people we support worked together to make this national certification a success,” said The Arc Jefferson – St. Lawrence Chief Executive Officer Howie Ganter. “It is even more satisfying to have achieved Accreditation while dealing with a global pandemic and a staffing crisis specifically impacting direct care staff members.” When The Arc Jefferson - St. Lawrence partnered with CQL to pursue accreditation, it undertook a rigorous process to review and enhance services. Efforts were focused on empowering the people who receive support from their organization to make choices in how they live their lives, including work choices, options for home life, and creating a community.
COUNCIL ON QUALITY & LEADERSHIP ACCREDITATIONS
THE ARC WESTCHESTER EARNS CQL RECERTIFICATION
The Arc Westchester is pleased to announce that The Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) recertified their accreditation status in May. CQL is a leader in working with human service organizations to continuously define, measure, and improve the quality of life and quality of services for people with developmental disabilities. “The Arc Westchester partnered with and welcomed CQL to the organization with openness and a dedication to ongoing learning throughout. It was a pleasure to be a part of their journey," said Angela Clarke, CQL Quality Enhancement Specialist, “CQL is thrilled to continue partnering with Arc Westchester, who are truly committed to their mission of providing innovative support and strengthening community participation. The accreditation week was a great example of the organizational dedication to being a leader in learning and growing within these changing times," said Kristen Heichel, CQL Quality Enhancement Specialist, Westchester is proud to be recognized by CQL, and this recertification reflects the quality of services they provide and their commitment to their mission and values. Westchester's last accreditation was in 2016 and all reviews were held in person. This year, due to the pandemic, the CQL Accreditation Team conducted their week-long visits and interviews remotely. The first day started off with introductions and a short video outlining values and how the organization applies them to everything they do. Core members of their Advocacy Committee welcomed the CQL team and staff, and shared highlights of the programs and services since the last accreditation and the swift adjustments made during COVID-19.
Over the course of the week staff, board members, families, and people receiving services enjoyed participating in this new virtual platform. Live video tours of homes and day services offered an in- depth opportunity to showcase residents' living environments and day service programming. All interviews, focus groups, and data analyses were conducted using Zoom. The Arc Westchester wishes to thank members of the CQL Accreditation Team who conducted their observations with professionalism and compassion. They were impressed to see the many ways Westchester enriches and supports a person’s life and congratulated the agency on providing dignity and respect to the people supported.
THE ARC NEW YORK DEDICATES CONFERENCE ROOM TO VOLUNTEER
WWAARC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NAMED TIMES UNION TOP CEO
Dan Murray, Executive Director of Warren, Washington & Albany Counties ARC (WWAARC), was recently honored as one of the Times Union's Top 15 CEOs. "From the moment I walked through the ARC doors, I knew this is where I wanted to be," Dan said. "I've always been extremely fortunate to work alongside the most selfless, hard-working, and caring people. WWAARC is my extended family and will always hold my heart." Dan grew up in the Capital Region and was taught the importance of acceptance and inclusion by his parents and extended family. Visits with relatives for holidays and family gatherings often included his cousin, Bobby, who had Down syndrome. “Bobby wasn’t treated differently by anyone,” Dan said. “He was just another cousin amongst many – he played, laughed, talked, joked and danced alongside everyone else.” Prior to joining the WWAARC family, Dan served in the United States Army where he learned the importance of effective leadership, teamwork, honest and direct communication, camaraderie, and appreciating and acknowledging everyone’s contributions, regardless of their position or role. Throughout his nearly 30-year career at WWAARC, a career that began with providing direct support and care to people with I/DD, Dan has striven to incorporate these values and principles into all that he does in support of the organization’s mission and its employees.
In May, The Arc New York had the honor of dedicating its large conference and training room to Mr. Warren Heilbronner, Esq. Mr. Heilbronner exemplifies dedication, continual service, and advocacy on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Warren is very proud of his work with Trust Services and reaching the goal of over $100 million under Trust management, as he should be! It is an amazing accomplishment, representing a 20,000% increase from the original amount under management when the Trust opened. Warren was extremely touched by the dedication and reiterated his passion for our organization upon acceptance. We are a stronger organization because of Mr. Warren Heilbronner. His nearly 50 years of volunteer work with The Arc of Monroe and The Arc New York demonstrate an unwavering commitment to this field. Through his service to his Chapter, The Arc New York Board of Governors and the Trust, Warren has improved the lives of thousands of people with I/DD in our state. Warren joined The Arc of Monroe Board in 1973 and served as VP/President for a decade. He served on his Chapter Board, as its President, on The Arc New York Board of Governors, as Vice-President for the Western Region, on the NYSARC Executive Committee, and held numerous committee chairmanships and memberships. Most notably, Warren has served as Trustee and Chairman of the NYSARC Trust since 1986 — almost four decades! In 2020 he was named The Arc New York Volunteer of the Year, among many other distinctions.
Congratulations, Dan Murray!
AWARDS, TRIBUTES & DISTINCTIONS RESOURCE CENTER EMPLOYEE HONORED AS NYS DSP OF THE YEAR
ANCOR chose Jen as a DSP of the Year because of her commitment to the people she supports.
“Whether assisting with money management to fulfill a dream of
purchasing a home or supporting the dream of motherhood, Jennifer works to ensure the people she supports achieve their biggest dreams and live their best, most meaningful lives,” ANCOR noted. “Jennifer builds trust with the people she supports to discover what’s most important to them. Her calm, judgment-free approach gives her the information she needs to present various scenarios in which they can accomplish their goals. No matter the choices they make, Jennifer commits to identifying the pathways, resources and supports required to transform the dreams of the people she supports into reality.” ANCOR’s Chief Executive Officer Barbara Merrill referenced the current shortage of direct support professionals nationwide and its negative impacts on the ability of service providers to meet the needs and desires of people with disabilities and their families. “This is the 16th consecutive year ANCOR has presented the Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards, and the third class to have been honored since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “The challenges presented by the pandemic have collided with a recruitment and retention crisis in our workforce to wreak previously unthinkable havoc on our system of home- and community-based supports. There has never been a more poignant time to celebrate people like Jennifer and the more than four dozen other DSPs who exemplify excellence in our field.”
Earlier this year, Jennifer Herron, an employee at The Resource Center (the Chautauqua County Chapter of The Arc New York) was named a NYS Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Year by ANCOR (the American Network of Community Options and Resources). She and other honorees from across the country were recognized April 13 in Miami during ANCOR’s Annual Conference. Jen has worked for The Resource Center for two decades. Most of the people she supports as a life coach live independently with assistance from staff. Jen helps people navigate the challenges of living on their own and supports them in enjoying positive, self- directed lives. When people face important decisions, Jen helps them understand the available options and the likely outcomes of each. When people make decisions that have undesirable results, Jen works with them in a respectful way to assess what went wrong and determine how to move forward. “I want to thank all of my superiors for believing in me and thinking so greatly of me,” Jen said. “They really have my back, and I really appreciate all that they do.”
LOCAL NEWSPAPER HONORS WWAARC NURSING DIRECTOR AWARDS, TRIBUTES & DISTINCTIONS
In May, during National Nurse's Week, The Post Star did an interview and feature on Theresa Cantz, RN, Warren, Washington & Albany Counties ARC (WWAARC)'s nursing director. The full text of the story is below. "I grew up in Long Island and moved to Whitehall, New York with my family when I was 18 years old. I was not sure what I wanted to do for work. I went to college and was referred to Warren Washington Albany ARC (WWAARC) by my cousin. I started working there as a Direct Support Professional per diem at the age of 19. I loved it. I didn’t finish college when I first enrolled at after high school. I got married and had kids. While working at the ARC as the Director of Training, I saw how developmental disabilities nurses were in very high demand. That’s when I realized the time was right for me. I went back to school.
Now I’m the Director of Nursing at the WWAARC. We support people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities in both residential homes and day services. It sounds cliché, but helping people is the best part about being a healthcare professional. Our team of nurses work so closely together to proactively look after the folks we support on our caseloads. We advocate across healthcare specialists for what is needed to promote the good health of our patients. In developmental disabilities nursing, you have a unique ability to build relationships with your patients – an opportunity that you don’t have in other clinical settings."
Theresa Cantz, right, receives the "Nurses: The Heart of Health Care" award from Julie Mosher of Glens Falls Hospital at SUNY Adirondack.
AWARDS, TRIBUTES & DISTINCTIONS LEXINGTON ARC RN NAMED CAPITAL REGION TOP NURSE
BRIGHT BEGINNINGS PROGRAM EARNS DISTINCTION
Nancy DeSando, RN, was rceently named one of the Capital Region’s Top 25 Nurses as a Finalist in The Times Union’s Salute to Nurses special section. There were 600 nurses nominated, and the top 25 were honored at a virtual reception and in the Times Union. Nancy plays an integral role as the Director of the Article 16 Clinic at Lexington. She has been instrumental in helping to lead the agency through the COVID-19 pandemic. Nancy set up support groups to help employees guide individuals through the pandemic and led Lexington's Vaccine Task Force. She has given countless hours, nights and weekends to ensure the organization is providing everything needed to keep individuals and staff safe and healthy. In addition, Nancy provides medical oversight and supports to students with autism and other learning differences in Lexington's Transitions program.
The Arc Jefferson-St. Lawrence recently announced their Bright Beginnings Early Learning Center was selected by the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) as a 2022- 2023 NASET School of Excellence. This distinction is bestowed upon select qualified, licensed, special education schools. Selection as a NASET School of Excellence is the highest level of recognition a private special education school can achieve through the professional association. This honor was presented to Bright Beginnings Early Learning Center as a special education school that meets rigorous professional criteria. “We are so proud that Bright Beginnings was chosen to be a NASET School of Excellence,” stated Lynn Pietroski, The Arc Jefferson - St. Lawrence’s Chief Operating Officer. “Our staff has done a wonderful job demonstrating truly exceptional dedication, commitment, and achievement in the field of special education and we are honored to be recognized.” The Bright Beginnings Early Learning Center operates integrated preschool classrooms, under the jurisdiction of the New York State Education Department, for both typically developing children and students with disabilities between the ages of two years, nine months and five years of age. The Bright Beginnings program promotes social interaction, pre-kindergarten readiness skills, and age-appropriate self-help abilities. All of this is accomplished in a nurturing environment and in partnership with the child’s family.
CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATES! TRANSITIONING TO THE FUTURE
Congratulations to this year's graduates and best wishes for a bright future!
In May, graduating students at the Transitions program hosted their Experience Transitions graduation ceremony and capstone event, where they celebrated their peers who completed the full-year curriculum, distributed awards to outstanding students, and shared what they have learned during their year in the program. The Transitions program, started by The Arc Lexington, focuses on building academic skills, life skills and general independence for high school graduates and young adults with autism and learning differences. Through partnerships with local colleges, internships in community businesses, and supported living opportunities, Transitions helps young people make successful transitions from adolescence to adulthood. Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities, experienced staff, and an evidence-based curriculum that provides individualized attention and training in skills students will use for the rest of their lives. Earlier this year, The Arc Lexington formed a partnership with Warren-Washington-Albany ARC(WWAARC) to expand the program into the Capital Region. WWAARC offers employment supports to students who attend the Transitions program in Albany. These supports include internships, career counseling, on-the-job coaching services, job training and more. Families joined graduates in-person and virtually for the ceremony and were treated to student-led tours of the building, where they engaged in interactive presentations by students, mentors and instructors about every aspect of Transitions.
Benjamin Fliederbaum planning to join the Transitions Graduate Program
attending Castleton University in the fall
planning to join the Transitions Graduate Program
Joe Magliocca planning to join the Transitions Graduate Program
working on associate degree at Fulton-Montgomery Community College
planning to join the Transitions Graduate Program
planning to join the Transitions Graduate Program
NINE GRADUATE FROM SANYS U PROGRAM CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATES!
In May, nine people who receive supports from Arc of Onondaga and one Chapter employee completed the SANYS 10-week self-advocacy program. The Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, Inc., "SANYS U" teaches self- advocates and their supporters about the history of self-advocacy, rights and responsibilities, and promoting ways to strengthen and develop strong leaders. During the 10 weeks, graduates learned about their rights and how to achieve what they want. The goals of SANYS U are to give individuals with disabilities and direct support professionals a more thorough understanding of the importance of self-advocacy, and to develop future leaders for the self- advocacy movement. At the graduation ceremony, final projects were presented to the audience. Projects included a Q&A, and a look at the history of self- advocacy. Onondaga's self-advocacy group, The Arc Achievers, has transformed from what was a mostly social group a few years ago to a group that is working together to realize their goals. They continue to make an impact on the community through their See me. See us. campaign, which began in March. The Onondaga Chapter applauded the people who put in the time and effort to complete SANYS U. The organization is proud to have future self-advocacy leaders among them.
CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATES! CELEBRATING ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE ARC ONTARIO
Congratulations to Mason and Cooper for graduating from The Arc Ontario's College Experience program in May! Mason was a dual graduate who also received a culinary program certificate from Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC). He made Dean’s list and will continue his education at FLCC.
Cooper graduated from Ontario's Hobart William Smith College Experience program. He plans to participate in the 2022-23 session of Project SEARCH, a nationally-renowned program designed to support young adults with disabilities or other challenges as they seek to expand upon their employment skills and start their career.
Project SEARCH at Eastview Mall in Victor, NY, is a ten-month community pre- vocational program. Three Project SEARCH interns who receive services from The Arc Ontario— Maggie, Jack and Dean — completed three different internships at businesses in and around the mall as well as daily classroom instruction. Best of all, they successfully obtained their driver’s permit in preparation for competitive employment. Maggie and Jack will be applying for jobs this summer and Dean has already been hired by LL Bean at Eastview Mall. Congratulations, Maggie, Jack and Dean!
CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATES! THE ARC ERIE COUNTY HONORS GRADUATES WITH CEREMONY
The Arc Erie County New York held a graduation ceremony for the 2022 graduates of the agency's School-Age Program, which provides specialized educational and therapeutic services for students aged 5-21 who have been deemed eligible for those services by their respective school district’s Committee on Special Education (CSE). The program strongly supports educating students in the least restrictive environment. The Arc Erie operates a variety of classrooms that address the needs of a diverse student population. Program staff work with each CSE in providing comprehensive services that are appropriate for each student. The agency also honored the graduates with this special video.
GRADUATES FROM THE ARC ALLEGANY-STEUBEN 'RISE' UP
GRADUATES 'THINKING AHEAD' TO THE FUTURE
Individuals who receive supports and services from The Arc Greater Hudson Valley recently graduated from Dutchess Community College’s new Think Ahead program. Graduates Ryan, Kristen, Nicole and Bridgette enrolled in the Think Ahead program to develop job and life skills while enjoying the college experience.
Matthew and Nicholas, individuals who receive supports and services from The Arc Allegany-Steuben, recently graduated from Alfred State College through Allegany-Steuben's RISE program. RISE (Reaching, Individual, Success, in Education) is a collaboration between Alfred State and The Arc Allegany- Steuben’s ACHIEVE Career Consultants. The program is for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities who wish to continue their education after high school in a collegiate environment (up to four years). RISE is located on the Alfred State campus and focuses on creating a unique educational experience that nurtures students’ social and academic growth. Students are given access to a variety of experiential learning opportunities through service learning, work-study, mentoring, and work-based training.
ARC HERKIMER GRADUATES 3 FROM PROJECT SEARCH PROGRAM Project SEARCH interns Connor, Allison, and Jackie completed their internship programs and graduated from Herkimer County Community College in May. Congratulations!
2022 SPECIAL OLYMPICS GAMES!
Erik won the gold medal in bowling, representing Arc GLOW at the Western District's Special Olympics New York event. Way to go, Erik!
Lydia, Kevin, Raymond and Tina participated in the Broome-Tioga Special Olympics, representing ACHIEVE's Team Courtly Circle, while others came out to show their support of their housemates!
The Arc Allegany-Steuben's Green Machine basketball athletes took part in the Special Olympics Western Regional Basketball Competition at Niagara Falls High School. The team took second place and team member Brian did the torch run. Great job everyone!
Congratulations to the Green Machine track athletes who also competed in the Special Olympics Western Region Games.
2022 SPECIAL OLYMPICS GAMES!
In June, Chris Teich went to Orlando to compete in gymnastics for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games! Chris’ many years of hard work paid off and earned him a spot in this national competition. Chris receives supports and services from The Arc of Monroe and had the opportunity to talk about the games with 92.5 WBEE’s Bee Morning Coffee Club. You can listen to the interview and read more about Chris’ story here.
Erica, Tina and Meghan of Saratoga Bridges finished on top during the Track & Field Special Olympics event in Clifton Park.
Matt, Joe, Brendan, Mike, and Cory (as well as others from Mountain Lake Services who are not pictured) participated in the Special Olympics Track and Field event in Clifton Park. They took great pride in the hard work that got them to the competition.
2022 SPECIAL OLYMPICS GAMES!
Congratulations to Kristen Newman of The Arc Greater Hudson Valley! She competed in bowling in the Special Olympics in Orlando and won two Silver Medals, one for Unified Doubles and one for Unified Team!
Great job, Tom Mooney of The Arc Rensselaer County, for winning the gold medal in powerlifting at the Special Olympics US games in Orlando!
Gabby, from The Arc GLOW, was very proud of her participation in the Special Olympics Unified Basketball team! The season wrapped up in June, and Gabby is already excited for next season. WGRZ-TV Channel 2 featured the league in one of its newscasts. Click here to see Gabby in her #1 jersey in the segment.
2022 SPECIAL OLYMPICS GAMES!
Kristen and Michael of The Arc Allegany-Steuben competed in the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando. Michael won two bronze medals (Bocce Pairs and Bocce Team), and Kristen won gold in the 100-meter dash. Friends and family were very proud of the pair. Michael's hometown even threw him a parade when he returned from Florida - he rode in a NY State Police vehicle and waved to fans. Awesome job, Kristen & Michael!
2022 SPECIAL OLYMPICS GAMES!
Tara Sayward of Mountain Lake Services competed in the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando's swimming event, where she swam the four-person 50-yard Medley, 50-yard Backstroke, and the 50-yard Freestyle. Her mother Pam, an employee with Mountain Lake Services, and her father were down in Florida to cheer her on. Prior to competing in the Orlando games, Tara was featured in a news article written by The Sun. Great work, Tara!
WHEN VOLUNTEERING LEADS TO INNOVATION: ENGINEERING A DIFFERENCE Volunteering is essential at The Arc Westchester,
This new device allowed Grimmy, who has difficulty at times with gripping items, to do so comfortably. This allows him to finely control these objects, and hold them securely using the team’s device. “Through volunteering with The Arc Westchester, we have taken a few things away," said Wilenzick. "First, we learned how great it feels to help others and give back to the community. Every time we met with Grimmy, he had such a joyful look and was so excited that we were building something that would make his life easier. We also learned that you can use your skills and passions to give back, and it can be a lot of fun. This project took something that our entire team enjoyed, engineering and the design process, and allowed us to apply that passion to help Grimmy. This made the project all the more enjoyable and meaningful.” After the project was completed, the team from The Leffell School won an award in the TOM Abraham Accords Open Innovation Challenge. They were recognized for “Best Documentation," and recieved a prize of $1,000! The group beat out 70 teams in 14 countries and 35 universities across the globe. The young students were the only non-university team that won any award, and the only high school team that participated. The Arc Westchester applauds this inspiring group of students, and is excited to continue this wonderful connection to ensure more volunteering opportunities like this occur in the future.
as it provides opportunities for individuals supported by the agency to engage with members of the larger Westchester community. More importantly, it offers a chance for learning and creates meaningful connections. A phenomenal example of this is The Arc Westchester's latest community collaboration with the Leffell School in Hartsdale NY. In December of last year, seniors of the Leffell School’s engineering program approached The Arc Westchester and proposed a volunteer opportunity for the group to design and build a device that could assist an individual with physical limitations. To start, the group: Ezra Feilbogen, Alex Gitnik, Ryan Hirsch, Avi Katzen, Brandon King, Talia Raich, and Drew Wilenzick got in contact with Todd Bazzini, Director of Volunteer Services and Fund Development. “We were tasked with finding someone with a physical disability we could aid through our engineering knowledge. After researching some organizations, we found Arc Westchester and saw all the amazing work that they do. We reached out to see if there is someone they support who could fit into this project” said Drew Wilenzick, one of the seniors and point person for the project. Every year, 30-40 high school seniors from The Leffell School Engineering and Entrepreneurship Program participate in The TOM (Tikkum Olam Makers) competition. The Hebrew phrase means “repairing the world," and the event charges students with seeking out a local person with disabilities to understand a challenge that the person faces in daily life. Working together with the individual, whom they refer to as “Need- Knowers," the teams then go on to design and fabricate a new product that will be useful in overcoming this challenge. Upon meeting Grimmy, an individual in the agency's Choices Program, the group worked on creating a device that could assist him with everyday activities like drawing. To do this, the group utilized a 3-D printer, velcro, and magnets.
Pictured from Left to Right: Grimmy, Drew Wilenzick, & Avi Katzen
VOLUNTEERS BRING HOPE
BLESSING BOX UNVEILED
Individuals at The Arc Erie County recently began a new volunteer journey at Hope Rising Together. The group learned how to measure and pack food for a village that Hope Rising supports in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The volunteers watched a video demonstration, suited up in their food safety gear, and got to work measuring out the food to send. Each packet contains a nutritionally dense meal that serves six people. Volunteers measured rice, lentils, flavored protein powder and dehydrated vegetables. The volunteers are excited to be doing new activities in the community and they're hopeful this is the start of a beautiful relationship with this wonderful organization!
The Arc Jefferson-St. Lawrence recently held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the launch of a personal hygiene Blessing Box that is open to community members. The project is managed by the agency’s Day Habilitation program. The Blessing Box is a free, no-contact option for people in need to access items 24 hours a day. It was constructed and generously donated by the students of the Building Project’s class at Jefferson-Lewis BOCES. Staff and people supported by the agency donated items to fill the box with supplies. The group also hosted a bottle and can drive to fund more supplies in the future. The Blessing Box will be monitored daily to ensure the inventory stays stocked and organized. This project is completely driven by people with disabilities and their desire to “give back” to the community.
VOLUNTEER DAY AT RYE COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL!
The Arc Westchester was excited to participate in a Volunteer Day event with their friends at Rye Country Day School (RCDS)! Individuals from the Chapter and singers from the RCDS’ acapella group worked together in a collaborative performance. “I want to echo everyone’s enthusiasm! It was so great … the students came in and said how much fun it was. Thank you everyone for making this happen!” said Mary Marcell, Director of Music. The 30 individuals from The Arc Westchester had a tremendous time, as the students of RCDS opened up the ceremony with a spectacular rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. The talented acapella group went on to cover songs from Camille Cabello, Imagine Dragons, John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, and The Beatles. Several members of The Arc Westchester had their own opportunities to shine as well, singing Broadway and classic tunes! The group finished the day with a chance to engage with one another in fun conversation during a pizza party. “Our event was a true joy for everyone. It was wonderful for folks from The Arc Westchester to join with folks from RCDS in a community-building experience centered on music and fun. We all left smiling and singing and can’t wait to do it again!” said Rebecca Drago, Director of Public Purpose.
The Arc Westchester is always proud to provide fun, collaborative events like this for the individuals they support. The Chapter was thankful to the amazing students of RCDS for making it all possible. Their talent, compassion, and welcoming personalities made the day one no one would forget! “RCDS students are a class act and have been making a difference in our individuals' lives through volunteering for many years.” said Todd Bazzini, Director of Volunteering and Fund Development.
You can watch a recording of one of the RCDS performances from this special day here.
Arc Herkimer recently opened a new eatery for the public. The Copper Café, which serves breakfast and lunch options, is a training ground for people with disabilities to learn restaurant and hospitality skills. Individuals will grow their abilities in customer service, cooking, points of sale and more. The goal is for the café to be a middle ground for the people Arc Herkimer supports to gain those skills, and then move on to inclusive, fulfilling employment in the community. The Copper Café is located within the Arc Herkimer Mall in Ilion, NY, and is open weekdays. Customers can get breakfast sandwiches, smoothies, personal pizzas, and paninis and other items. The Copper Café logo was inspired by the Periodic Table of the Elements and the symbol for copper. The entire restaurant is decked out in copperware – from planters to pictures to light fixtures, as well as an entire copper bar for people to sit at. Customers can even purchase a copper tumbler to put their coffee in. WKTV Channel 2 News visited The Copper Café during their soft opening, and did a special segment you can view here. ARC HERKIMER OPENS NEW CAFÉ
PARTNERSHIP LEADS TO CAREER CENTER
ACHIEVE recently announced a partnership with Owego Free Academy, alongside other local businesses, to create and develop of a new Career Center for students! This is an innovative opportunity for high school students interested in pursuing human services to learn more about discovering the rewards of a career in direct support. The Arc New York is very excited to see where this partnership leads!
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