Dozens of people gathered June 16 at the administrative offices of Filling the Gap, Inc., to dedicate the building in honor of Michael J. Felice and his family.
The building at 92 Fairmount Avenue in Jamestown was formally dedicated as the Felice Corporate Center. The facility houses several corporations that operate under the Filling the Gap umbrella.
Mike passed away in October at the age of 85. With Mike having served as the longtime Board chair for Filling the Gap and several of its corporations, it was appropriate that the building be named in honor of Mike, his wife, Laura, and their children.
Many of those attending the dedication ceremony on a warm, sunny and humid afternoon had their first look at the “Felice Corporate Center” lettering that had recently been installed on the building’s exterior. Because of the uncomfortable weather conditions, the ceremony was moved indoors. Denise Jones, the Chief Executive Office of The Resource Center and the Filling the Gap network, welcomed the guests.
“Mike Felice and Laura have all been very much involved and part of our organization,” Denise said. “It wasn’t just about them volunteering their time – they really became part of the TRC family, and their family became part of TRC.” She noted that many of Mike and Laura’s family members and friends who were at the ceremony have supported TRC and Filling the Gap over the years.
She said that Mike, who had volunteered his services as a Board and Committee member for more than 30 years, could always be relied upon. “Whenever he was needed, he was there. He was someone to be absolutely counted on.”
Mike was the President of The Resource Center’s Board of Directors from 1988 to 1991. Denise said that under Mike’s leadership, TRC’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center opened in Jamestown.
The Central Intake Office was established to serve as a single entry point for people seeking to access TRC’s services. The Board adopted the agency’s first strategic plan. TRC assumed operations of the Gateways Continuing Day Treatment Program from the Gowanda Psychiatric Center and established PsychoSocial Clubs in Dunkirk and Jamestown. TRC gained the national spotlight, first by making helmet covers for troops participating in Operation Desert Storm and then by producing air cargo bags to air-drop relief supplies into Bosnia. And the annual Disability Awareness Awards Celebration was established.
Dan Fischer, a former longtime radio executive in Jamestown, was next to speak. Dan worked for Mike at WKSN for about 30 years.
“The Resource Center was always in the periphery of everything he did at the radio station. Mike was very proud of his work there and so proud of this lady,” said Dan, gesturing toward Mike and Laura’s youngest daughter, Jennifer, “who really was the inspiration for everything that Mike did, and it permeated the staff.”
Mike began volunteering at The Resource Center shortly after Jen started receiving supports from TRC as a child. Jen continues to be involved with The Resource Center, living in a TRC home and participating in TRC’s daytime services.
Next Michael Suppa, Filling the Gap’s Vice President of Planning and Operations, read a note from William Brothers, who served with Mike Felice on TRC Foundation’s Board of Directors:
“Mike Felice was a special man. He gave generously of his time, talents and resources and was an inspiration to many. The Felice Corporate Center will stand as a legacy to his work that will continue even after his death.”
Speaking on behalf of Filling the Gap, Mike added, ”Michael was all class, all the time. He was a wonderful man to work with, and we’re all better for it.”
Greg Peterson, Esq., who has served on the Boards of The Resource Center and TRC Foundation for 40 years, shared some of his memories of Mike. These included an idea Mike had that saw The Resource Center serve as the season-ticket sellers for the Jamestown Expos baseball team in the 1980s, a successful fund-raiser that garnered nation-wide publicity and gave area Special Olympians the opportunity to take the field with professional baseball players.
Greg added that Mike was a steadying presence at TRC during a time of tremendous change and growth.
“The stabilizing force at The Resource Center was Mike. He had a real corporate sense to him. He listened; he listened very well – a great attribute to have,” Greg said.
After Greg concluded his remarks, he called Laura and Jen forward to unveil a plaque proclaiming the building as the Felice Corporate Center.
I’m sure Mike is looking down, and would be so happy and proud of this,” Laura said. “He just loved The Resource Center, and he loved everybody he worked with.” Laura also is a longtime TRC volunteer. She and Mike received the Lifetime Achievement Award at TRC’s Disability awareness Awards Celebration in 2011.
The last person to speak was Jen. “Hey, Mike, I love you. I miss you a lot. I love you,” Jen said, looking toward Heaven. “In my heart. Pride and joy.” This was particularly touching because `pride and joy’ was the way Mike lovingly referred to Jen.
Afterward, guests enjoyed refreshments and the opportunity to share memories of Mike.
Click here to listen to a radio show made during the dedication ceremony, featuring interviews with staff, Board members and others who reflected on Mike, his life and his contributions to The Resource Center.