Everyone is invited to join our virtual celebration when we present the 32nd annual Ability Awareness Awards on Friday, November 20.
Because of the pandemic, we couldn’t old a large, in-person celebration this year to honor this year’s award recipients. Instead, the awards were presented over the course of five small luncheons. Those events were recorded and will be shared at the virtual celebration, which will tale place at 6:00 p.m. via a Zoom videoconference. To register to attend the event and receive the access info to the Zoom meeting, click here or phone Victoria Trass Bardo at (716) 661-1477.
Here is a rundown of this year’s honorees:
Can Kings – Employer of the Year
Can Kings is a can and bottle redemption business with locations in Fredonia and Silver Creek. The Resource Center’s Supported Employment Program began partnering with Can Kings several years ago, with Can Kings performing vocational assessments of people with disabilities who were seeking employment. One of those assessments resulted in a job offer, and that person has been successfully employed since June 2018.
During COVID, Can Kings owner Marcus Promber has been accommodating and understanding regarding this employee, who initially was leery about coming to work. Marcus gave the person as much time off as he needed, then readily accepted the employee back once he felt comfortable returning to work.
Marcus has expressed interested in utilizing Can Kings for additional vocational assessments and hiring more people with disabilities from The Resource Center.
In accepting the award, he praised the work ethic of his employee from TRC, whose name is Donald.
“I can’t say enough about him as a worker. He’s the first one out the door to help customers, and he’s the one I point out to people, `That’s how it should be done,’” Marcus said. “Diligent, kind; I mean, I can’t say enough about him. It’s more his award than anything.”
Peter Carlo – Volunteer of the Year
Because of the pandemic, there haven’t been a lot of opportunities for people to volunteer at The Resource Center. But the pandemic hasn’t stopped Pete and his one-man mission of spreading the word about TRC.
Pete is a Korean War veteran who loves his hometown of Jamestown and works hard to improve the community. He has donated more than 300 American flags to local organizations. He also has a fondness for The Resource Center, as his daughters both worked for TRC. Pete believes the community at large doesn’t know enough about The Resource Center, and he has taken it upon himself to change that. For the past few years, everywhere Pete goes – restaurants, veterans events, medical appointments, political gatherings, or ceremonies at which he donates American flags – he carries with him a supply of writing pens that have The Resource Center’s name on them. Outgoing and eager to meet folks he doesn’t know, Pete often uses the pens to strike up a conversation and ask people if they’re familiar with TRC.
True to form, after accepting his award, Carlo began distributing pens to those in attendance. “This is what it’s all about: tell the people what The Resource Center is all about,” he said. “I want them to know that they’re here in Jamestown, they’re here to help you. But they can’t help you if you don’t ask for help.”
Mary Davis – NYSID Outstanding Performer
Mary was honored for having been selected by NYSID (New York State Industries for the Disabled) for recognition in its annual Outstanding Performer Program. NYSID honored Davis for her job performance as a member of the TRC Environmental Services crew that maintains the Interstate 86 rest area in the Town of Ellery. Mary also was recognized as a NYSID Outstanding Performer in 2005.
Among her responsibilities, Mary drives the crew to and from the facility; cleans the restrooms; and keeps the lobby and outside area looking pristine. She also does the inventory and the ordering of supplies, along with performing grounds checks. Mary also assists travelers with directions or suggests ideas on what to see while in the area.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had, and I hope I never lose it,” she said.
Jennifer DeWolf – Advocate of the Year
Jennifer is a direct support professional at The Resource Center, working with people with disabilities in TRC’s Dunkirk Day Habilitation Program and at some of the agency’s homes in the North County. Jenn respects the people she supports and is committed to assisting them in meeting their milestones. She also engages the people she supports to participate in community service projects.
Jenn stands out in other ways. When she notices issues that should be addressed, she shares her concerns with other members of her teams. Her co-workers praise the quality of her documentation regarding the people she supports, and she never gives the impression that she is above any aspect of the demanding job of being a direct support professional.
“I’m very honored to receive this award on behalf of all the individuals I have supported the last seven years of working as a DSP,” Jenn said. “I would also like to thank all the people that I have worked with, all the managers and my co-workers that I’ve worked with from Lake Shore Day Hab, Birchwood, Eagle and Water IRAs … and helped me grow to the DSP that I have become.”
Nancy Hunt – Health Provider of the Year
Nancy is a respiratory therapist who works at UPMC Chautauqua and at The Resource Center, where she supports people living in TRC homes who have breathing difficulties or other airway concerns. Nancy conducts frequent visits with the most compromised individuals, recommending the most appropriate treatments to keep them out of the hospital. When hospitalization becomes necessary, she advocates for her patients to ensure the hospital treatment team provides the best care possible. Nancy also regularly communicates with the staff at TRC’s homes to keep them up to date on the person’s health status while they’re in the hospital.
Her TRC co-workers respect and appreciate Nancy’s knowledge, experience and compassion, and they also are grateful to her for helping to order and maintain the agency’s respiratory equipment.
“I’m very honored to receive this award,” Nancy said. “I’ve worked for The Resource Center for years, and I love every minute of it. I’ve met so many wonderful clients and staff members. We work as a team, and I will always cherish it.”
Courtney Poitras – Personal Success Award
Courtney has managed to remain employed after previous jobs went away, and she now works in The Resource Center’s Jamestown manufacturing facility.
In her personal life, Courtney has a self-directed plan that enabled her to move out of a TRC home and into her own apartment. She lives independently, with minimal support provided by The Resource Center.
“I love living on my own. I get to do whatever I want, and I feel free,” Courtney said. “I love being on my own. It’s awesome.”
She thanked her parents, as well as her support staff, her support broker and the staff at her former home for preparing her to live independently.
Courtney was thrilled to receive the Personal Success Award (“I feel like I’m famous!”), and she had a message for other people with disabilities who may be considering moving out on their own or looking for a job. “Keep trying, sand don’t be afraid to try new things.”
Ashlee Terry – Edwin Roth Mental Health Award
Ashlee is an applied behavior science specialist at two of The Resource Center’s homes on Foote Avenue in Jamestown. The people living in these homes have a variety of challenging behaviors. Under Ashlee’s guidance, the teams in the homes have been able to assist individuals in improving their lives. Examples of these successes include a young man who no longer needs assistance from law enforcement when he becomes agitated; several people who no longer have to be hospitalized; and a few people who have been able to move into less-restrictive living situations.
Ashlee advocates for the people she supports to ensure their needs are met. She plays a key role in developing behavior plans for each person. When she doesn’t know how to address an issue, she conducts research to find the needed information. And if a plan doesn’t work, she’ll rewrite it until it yields positive results.
“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone,” said Ashlee, emphasizing that any success she has realized is the result of the team members with who she works. “I’m here because of them and with them. This award goes out to all of us, not just me. We work super hard, we’re diligent and we find the answers that we need.”
Brianna Wicks – Outstanding Achievement Award
Brianna has had a momentous year on her pathway to becoming an adult. After finishing school and enrolling in The Resource Center’s Dunkirk Day Habilitation Program last year, she moved out of her family home and into a home operated by TRC. As a member of a health self-advocacy group in her day program, Bri proudly shared how she has advocated for herself, from relaying issues to TRC staff, talking with her doctor about changes she wanted to make regarding her medications, and being aware of movement and other ways to improve her health. And after the health self-advocacy group met at the start of the pandemic to discuss ways to help people stay safe, Bri gave a presentation about it to staff and peers in the day program.
She has been learning to give people personal space, honor their wishes regarding personal touching and patiently take turns with the attention of others.
Being forced to stay at home during COVID was a major upheaval for Bri, as she missed being able to see her family and friends. She talked with staff about things she could do to make herself and others feel better, and in response she wrote letters to some of the people she missed.
Wendy Wilcox – Bruce Walford Community Support Award
Mondays through Fridays, Wendy has a full-time job at M&T Bank. On weekends, she works at The Resource Center providing direct support to people with developmental disabilities living in TRC’s homes. In that role she has forged strong bonds with the people she supports strives to ensure they get to participate in community events.
Wendy also is a longtime member of the Jamestown Kiwanis Club. Combining her passion for community service with her commitment to support people with disabilities to enjoy meaningful lives, a few years ago she started an Aktion Club. An initiative of Kiwanis International, Aktion Clubs provide opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to engage in community service. Wendy facilitates the group’s meetings, arranges transportation for group members and supports them to participate in community service activities.
Wendy also is active in her church, and her faith has inspired her to support people with disabilities to be able to attend church services.
In accepting her award, Wendy praised the volunteers with developmental disabilities who serve as members of the Aktion Club.
“These guys and ladies are the best volunteers you could ever find,” she said. “They have the best ideas, they want to think about helping people, helping animals, helping kids, helping anybody, all the time.”
YMCA Camp Onyahsa – Community Support Award
For more than a decade, Camp Onyahsa and The Resource Center have partnered to provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience the wonders of summer camp. Throughout the week, campers enjoy all of the activities Onyahsa has to offer – swimming, boating, fishing, archery, arts and crafts, nature walks, basketball, tetherball, and making S’mores by a campfire. The final night of camp typically involves a big party, with counselors performing skits and everyone getting the chance to sing and dance.
Because of the pandemic, TRC officials weren’t sure there would be a Camp Week in 2020. But Camp Director Jon O’Brian and his staff developed a process for safely operating. Though overnight camping wasn’t possible, TRC’s campers were able to do most of the other things they enjoy about camp.
Jon noted that he was a young counselor when The Resource Center first established an overnight camping program at Onyahsa in 1979. He shared some of the memories and names of TRC campers he has known over the years. Jon said TRC’s camp week is a highlight of the summer for him and his staff, and he knows the annual experience is important to the campers. So he and his staff were determined to come up with a safe way to hold camp week for TRC.
“We know that several campers count the days until camp begins each year, and we did not want to disappoint them,” he said.
Jon also took time to praise TRC and its employees.
“I want to use this opportunity to also recognize the great work of The Resource Center in our community, and the tremendous dedication especially of its frontline staff, whose efforts are perhaps too often unrecognized and maybe even underappreciated in our region.”
The awards luncheons were held at Calarco’s restaurant in Dunkirk; Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron; The Chop House on Main in Jamestown; and Stella: A Kitchen & Bar in Lakewood. Each of the award recipients was given a trophy, plus certificates of recognition provided by Congressman Tom Reed, Senator George Borrello, Assemblyman Andy Goodell, and County Executive PJ Wendel.
This year’s awards selection committee was composed of Sandy Ahlgren, a retired teacher; Victoria Trass Bardo, development and events manager for Filling the Gap; Toni DeAngelo, retired wellness director at UPMC Chautauqua; Kathy Field, TRC’s associate executive administrative assistant; Dan Hocking, co-owner of ACME The Appliance Store; Elizabeth Williams, a member of TRC’s board of directors; and Barrie Yochim, executive director of Meals on Wheels of the Jamestown Area.
Click here to make a donation to The Resource Center Excellence Awards Fund in honor of one of the award recipients.