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The Resource Center has started a regular feature in which we showcase some of our incredible staff on social media in an “Employee Spotlight” segment. Here are some of the people we’ve featured so far:
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Again this year, The Resource Center joined with advocates locally and throughout the world to shine a light on these causes.
In accordance with its by-laws, The Resource Center hereby announces its General Membership Meeting and Election will be held Monday, June 4, in TRC’s Administrative Office Building at 200 Dunham Avenue in Celoron.
The event will begin at 6:00 p.m. All Active Members of The Resource Center who are in good standing are invited to participate in the meeting and to vote in the election and on any business items that may arise. To be considered in good standing, one must have made a contribution of $10 or more to The Resource Center or Filling the Gap, Inc., since May 7, 2021.
If interested in attending the meeting, please contact Selina Phillips at 716-661-1412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Active Members in good standing who are unable to attend the meeting are encouraged to vote in the election online. Click here to cast your vote.
The tentative meeting agenda is as follows:
The Nominating Committee — composed of June Jacobson, Chair; Wayne Hotelling; and Julie McCarthy — has proposed the following candidates for Officers and Directors of the Board of The Resource Center, as well as candidates to serve on the Nominating Committee for the 2023 Election:
Officers (one-year term)
President — Richard Erickson
Vice President — Richard Kimball
Secretary — Dawn Columbare, DNP
Treasurer — Todd Jacobson, MD
Directors (two-year term)
For more information or to indicate you plan to attend the meeting, phone 716-483-2344.
If you have not yet paid your 2022 TRC Membership dues, click here to make a secure, online payment. Your membership demonstrates your commitment to The Resource Center’s mission. In these challenging times, your support of TRC is extremely important.
A Resource Center employee has received national recognition for the supports she provides to people with disabling conditions.
Jennifer Herron has been named a Direct Support Professional of the Year by ANCOR (the American Network of Community Options and Resources). ANCOR selected Jen as New York State’s DSP of the Year. She and other honorees from across the country were recognized April 13 in Miami during ANCOR’s Annual Conference.
Jen, a Sinclairville resident, has worked for The Resource Center for 20 years. In her role as a Life Coach, she supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, most of whom live independently with assistance from staff. Jen helps people navigate the challenges of living on their own and supports them so they have the opportunity to enjoy positive, self-directed lives. When people face important decisions, Jen helps them understand the available options and the likely outcomes of each. When people subsequently 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, really appreciate all that they do.”
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.”
TRC officials were pleased with Jen’s selection as DSP of the Year.
“Jen is such an asset to our team and the people she supports,” said Terri Johnson, Director of Employment and Community-Based Services. “As a Life Coach, Jen wears many hats for the people she supports. Jen has faced so many scenarios when supporting people that many would have given up, but Jen always sticks with people and never stops trying to help them find a better option. We are so proud to have her on our team and couldn’t be more excited that she is being recognized on a national platform.”
This marks Jen’s second major honor. She was The Resource Center’s Employee of the Year for 2019.
ANCOR advocates for more than 1,800 service providers nationwide that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since 2007, ANCOR’s annual awards have recognized direct support professionals who provide long-term supports and services to people with disabilities.
“This year’s honorees were chosen from more than 300 nominations that truly represent the indelible impact our direct support workforce has, both in the lives of the people they support and in the communities where they serve,” ANCOR said in announcing the award recipients. “These extraordinary professionals work tirelessly to solve problems, engineer solutions, adapt, innovate, listen, and support, all in service of ensuring that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can live and thrive in the community.”
“From helping people with activities of daily living to supporting them to connect with long-lost family members and so much more, direct support professionals like Jennifer are proof-positive of the crucial roles this workforce plays in communities across the country,” said Heidi Mansir, the President of ANCOR’s Board of Directors. “ANCOR is proud to celebrate Jennifer and the 50 other professionals who comprise the 2022 class of outstanding honorees.”
Barbara Merrill, ANCOR’s Chief Executive Officer, 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. For that reason, there’s 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.”
Click here to listen to an interview with Jen.
Henry Wesley has experienced a lifetime of tragedy and triumph. And now, after decades of possessing only the barest of information about his mother and the rest of his family, he recently got to meet new-found relatives for the first time.
Stories of people separated from their families at an early age can be heart-wrenching, and Henry’s story is harder than most. He was born in South Carolina in 1945. His parents split up while Henry was an infant, and he and his mother moved to New York State. Noticing that Henry didn’t seem to be developing at the appropriate pace for a 2-year-old, his mother took him to see a doctor. The physician diagnosed Henry as having cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities and physical impairments. His mother realized she couldn’t afford to provide Henry the care he would need, so she surrendered custody of her son to the State of New York.
Young Henry was sent to live at the Wassaic State School, a large center in Dutchess County that was home to thousands of people with developmental disabilities. Similar to other state schools, Wassaic was plagued by overcrowding and understaffing, which resulted in the severe neglect and mistreatment of the people who lived there.
Henry arrived at Wassaic in 1948, and the following year he was transferred to the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island. He languished there until 1972, when media reports of the terrible conditions at Willowbrook led Albany leaders to begin the process of reforming New York State’s system of caring for people with disabilities. Still, Henry would spend 15 more years in institutions before coming to Chautauqua County to live in a new community residence operated by The Resource Center.
Since leaving the institutional setting, Henry has thrived. He has become a passionate advocate for people with disabilities. Computers have enabled Henry, who does not communicate verbally, to share his life story with others to help ensure that the maltreatment he and others received in institutions will never again be allowed to occur.
His greatest personal achievement occurred November 5, 1994, when he married the love of his life, Jean. The two first met in 1972 after Henry had moved back to Wassaic, where Jean had lived for more than 30 years. Later, they rekindled their relationship after they came to The Resource Center.
It was Jean’s own ancestry search that inspired Henry to hunt for his long-lost family.
Four years ago, Jean was able to find information about her mother, who died when Jean was 7 months old. Jean learned where her mother was buried, and she and Henry traveled to New York City to visit Jean’s mother’s gravesite. (During that visit, they saw there was no marker at the grave. Jean subsequently had markers created for her mother and two other relatives buried in the same plot. She had started making plans to return to the cemetery in 2020, but that trip has been delayed because of COVID.)
Prior to this, Henry had been ambivalent about pursuing his own family history. Having been abandoned by his mother, he had little interest in learning anything about his family. But Jean’s success in finding out about her family history led Henry to embark on a similar search. With support from his self-determination assistant, Britnie Barmore (who had supported Jean to track down her mother), Henry submitted a DNA sample and waited to see what he would learn.
The results have been more extensive than Henry could have imagined. DNA matches came pouring in. At first, Henry wasn’t ready to act on the information he received. But over the course of two months he warmed to the idea and asked Britnie to assist him.
“Britnie has helped me the last eight-ish months by doing advanced searches with the information I had from my admission summary report from Wassaic,” Henry said. “Together, we searched through public family trees that showed up as `hints’ on these advanced searches. We were able to locate a person who had the same first name, middle initial and date of birth as the information I had on my mother from the Wassaic admission report. We clicked on that profile and noticed that we had an ancestor in that tree who was a direct DNA match, listed as my second or third cousin.”
Henry and Britnie contacted the cousin, Deborrah Wesley, who at first was skeptical that her relative was Henry’s mother. But Deborrah started asking other family members about Henry, and she eventually realized she and he were related. Britnie supported Henry to phone Deborrah to ask some questions, and he was able to learn that Deborrah was his mother’s cousin. He also learned he was his mother’s only child.
Henry also learned his mother, Lena Belle Badger White, had died in 2014, so he couldn’t ask her questions about his early years and why she had surrendered custody of him. But Deborrah has given Henry a lot of information about his mother and has sent him photographs of his mother, his maternal grandparents and his mother’s siblings.
Deborrah referenced another cousin, Lillian, who is still living. “I remember Lil, as she used to visit me while I lived at Willowbrook,” Henry said. “Lil said the last time we saw each other, she was about 15, and I was around 5.”
The mention of Lillian’s name brought back some memories Henry had suppressed. He remembered Lil visiting him at Willowbrook, and he remembers his mother visited him there during the 1950s but then stopped coming.
Information provided by Deborrah has helped answer some of Henry’s questions while also deepening the mystery surrounding his early years. Deborrah said other family members stated Henry’s disabilities resulted from a fall as a baby. She and Lil also said that his mother had been persuaded by her boyfriend to surrender custody of Henry when he was 2.
It was also frustrating for Henry to discover that his admission report from Wassaic contained incorrect information regarding family names.
Having connected with his mother’s side of the family, Henry was eager to know more about his father, William Maner, and other relatives on his paternal side. Deborrah put Henry in touch with his half-sister Margaret, and the two chatted by video.
“My sister sent me many pictures of my father, who passed away in 2014 as well, and also told me that I have about 20 other siblings,” Henry said.
Going from having almost no information about his family, to learning he has about 20 siblings and a large extended family, has been a lot for Henry to absorb.
“This is a lot of information to take in, but it has cleared up years of questions, and I am very overjoyed to find out I have brothers and sisters who want to be a part of my life,” Henry said recently. “I am happy to have made these connections, and I look forward to meeting my family in person.”
That day came sooner than Henry could have imagined. In early spring four members of Henry’s family traveled to Jamestown to meet him. Deborrah and her cousin Alise Leslie came from their homes in North Carolina; Willie Smith (the brother of Henry’s mother) and his wife, Carolyn, arrived from Peekskill, NY. They came to The Resource Center home where Henry and Jean live for a family gathering that was decades overdue.
As soon as he learned his family members had pulled up to the home in their cars, Henry eagerly maneuvered his electric wheelchair to the living room window to catch a glimpse of his relatives. Willie and Carolyn arrived first, and Henry graciously greeted them as they entered the home. Upon seeing Henry, Carolyn declared, “He does look like the Wesleys.”
After Henry introduced Willie and Carolyn to Jean, the group made its way to the kitchen table to talk. Carolyn had brought along family photos, and she and Willie took turns showing the photos to Henry and explaining who was pictured. A short while later, Deborrah and Alise arrived at the home. Thoughtfully, they brought gifts for Jean and Britnie.
Deborrah presented Henry with a framed montage of photos that also contained a shortened version of their extended family tree.
Henry shared photos of his life, including his wedding album and pictures of the places he has visited. He also used his computer to play recorded messages describing the peaks and valleys of his life – from low points such as his experiences at Willowbrook, to his courtship with Jean and their marriage.
“You have had a full life,” Deborrah said while looking through Henry’s photo albums. “I’m glad.”
During the reunion, Henry learned more about his history. Willie said that when was a baby, he and his mother had lived with Henry’s great-grandmother, whose house was a gathering place for family. So many relatives back then would have had knowledge of Henry.
Willie also remembered accompanying Henry’s mother on one occasion when she went to visit Henry at Willowbrook. Willie said he was a young boy at the time, and because Willowbrook didn’t allow children to visit he had to wait in the car. Willie also said Henry’s mother made the decision to stop visiting her son because Henry would cry uncontrollably whenever her mother left to go home, and the experience became too painful for her.
As they talked around the kitchen table, it was heart-warming to see the bonds that had formed so quickly among Henry and his relatives. “I’m so glad I answered you,” Deborrah told Henry, referring to when he first contacted her after obtaining his DNA results.
Reflecting on his family visit a couple of days later, Henry was still basking in the glow of the reunion and the positive results that came from his DDNA test.
“I have often thought about my family, and wondered if they think of me too,” he said. “I am overjoyed to have been able to find my family, and it brings me great joy that they took the time to travel to visit me. We shared stories about our lives, many pictures, laughs, and even some tears. I am grateful that this was able to come together the way that it did.”
And there still are more family connections to be made. Henry and Jean have been invited to attend a family reunion in Florida in December, where they’ll have the opportunity to meet relatives on his father’s side – relatives who, until a few months ago, were unknown to Henry.
Henry went decades without knowing much about his personal history and his roots. But now he is making up for lost time and learning what it means to have family.
The Edgewater Art House will become the new home of our art program for people with disabilities. The facility will be located next to our Edgewater Day Program on Eighth Street. The Art House will include many opportunities for art including painting, drawing, mixed media as well as ceramics. A gallery space will allow those participating in the art classes to have an opportunity to showcase their art.
Last year, TRC completed a successful capital campaign that raised $315,000 for the Art House. However, we subsequently learned a dramatic increase in the cost of construction materials left us well short of the amount needed to create the art house.
In response, The Resource Center sought the City’s assistance in obtaining state funding to complete the project. Using information provided by TRC, Mayor Eddie Sundquist and his team applied for an Empire State Development grant. Receipt of the funding means construction can begin.
TRC officials were excited to hear of the City’s successful grant proposal.
“We are thrilled to have been awarded this grant,” said Denise Jones, Executive Director. “The Edgewater Art House will be the new home of our award-winning art program and will make it possible for more people with disabilities to develop their artistic talents. In addition to providing a serene location that is sure to inspire artists, this beautiful facility will become another jewel in the City of Jamestown’s waterfront revitalization initiative. We look forward to breaking ground this spring.
“We are extremely grateful to Empire State Development for recognizing the significance of this project and its impact on our community. And we are indebted to Mayor Sundquist and his team for supporting this project and leading the effort to obtain this grant.”
Currently, TRC’s art program is housed within the Day Habilitation Program at the Michael J. Raymond Center on Jones & Gifford Avenue. Since this is a state-certified site, only people with developmental disabilities who are enrolled in TRC’s Day Programs are eligible to participate in the art program. The Edgewater Art House will be a non-certified site, meaning we can open our art classes to people with developmental disabilities who do not participate in our Day Programs, as well as to people with behavioral health challenges. TRC also intends to give the general community the opportunity to participate in art classes.
Additional funding for the project has been received from KeyBank and First Niagara Foundation, Filling the Gap, staff of The Resource Center, and local foundation and private donors.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a time to celebrate people with disabilities and advocate for their full inclusion as valued and respected members of the community. In conjunction with this initiative, several local elected officials have issued proclamations.
At the invitation of members of Make A Mark, a self-advocacy group composed of people with developmental disabilities, Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas attended the group’s recent meeting at The Resource Center’s facility on East Chestnut Street. During his visit, Mayor Rosas read a proclamation declaring March as “Spread the Word: Inclusion” Month in the city. The proclamation urges all Dunkirk residents to “take the pledge to make your school, your workplace, your community, and your world more inclusive. Seek out someone who has been left out, isolated or bullied. Sit with them. Welcome them. Be a friend. Be a teammate.”
Click here to watch a video of Mayor Rosas reading his proclamation.
Make A Mark members also contacted Senator George Borrello and County Executive PJ Wendel, and each responded by issuing proclamations. Senator Borrello commended Make A Mark members for their efforts in support of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, which seeks to end the use of the word “retarded” when referring to people with intellectual disabilities. Advocates suggest replacing that “R” word with a different one – “respect.”
County Executive Wendel designated March as “Spread the Word to End the Word” Month. His proclamation read, in part, “Whereas, locally, Make a Mark, an advocacy group at The Resource Center, is leading our county’s efforts to raise awareness about the hurtful nature of the R-word and encourage individuals to replace it with the word “respect” … I encourage all residents of Chautauqua County to join our efforts by using respectful language to not only promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but all people in our communities.”
We thank Senator Borrello, County Executive Wendel and Mayor Rosas for their commitment to promoting respect and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Members of the Make a Mark self-advocacy group hold signs bearing words that promote inclusion and respect for people with developmental disabilities.
Denise Jones has again been recognized as one of the most influential people in Western New York.
Denise, The Resource Center’s Chief Executive Officer, is ranked No. 67 on Buffalo Business First’s “Power 250” list. The list reflects those who, in Business First’s opinion, are the 250 most influential people in the eight-county region. This is the seventh straight year Denise has been included on the Power 250 list since she became TRC’s Executive Director in 2015. She is the highest-ranked person who is based in Chautauqua County.
Business First’s 10th annual Power 250 list and rankings were determined from a consensus of the members of its newsroom.
“Factors we consider include length of time in an executive position, companies with sizeable employment and payrolls, and non-profits making an impact on community welfare,” said Donna Collins, Business First’s Editor-in-Chief. “The 2022 Power 250 showcases people who set the goals, communicated to all their factions and then led the charge for employees and clients to attain prosperity, security and success.”
Denidse, a certified public accountant, joined The Resource Center in 1990 as the agency’s first Internal Auditor. In 1997 she was named Finance Director, and she worked in that capacity until becoming Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Executive Director for Administrative Services in 2004. In 2008, she was promoted to Chief Operating Officer and Associate Executive Director.
TRC officials were pleased Denise has again been recognized as one of the region’s premier business leaders.
“The Board of Directors congratulates Denise on her recognition in the Power 250 list of the most influential people in Western New York,” said Patricia Perlee, President. “Denise continues to lead TRC through challenging times, all while recognizing and understanding the needs of staff, clients, self-advocates, and families. This distinction by Buffalo Business First is well earned, and TRC is very fortunate to have Denise as our Executive Director.”
The Resource Center has been supporting people with disabilities and their families since 1958. The Resource Center also provides a variety of health-related services that can be utilized by anyone, regardless of whether they have a disability. TRC also performs subcontracting work for the federal government and local businesses at manufacturing facilities in Jamestown and Dunkirk. To learn more, phone 716-483-2344.
CAPTION: Posing with the items to be given away during the monthlong Blingo prize drawing are Victoria Bardo, left, development and event manager for Filling the Gap, and Cindy Hitchcock, FTG’s vice president of business and finance.
People who enjoy the excitement of a daily prize drawing can take part in the sixth annual “Sassy Baggs & Beyond Blingo” fund-raiser to benefit people with disabilities.
Typically for the Blingo event, people gather at The Resource Center for a night of bingo, with designer handbags as prizes. That wasn’t possible again this year because of the pandemic, so instead organizers have created a “20 Prizes in 20 Days” event.
Every weekday starting April 4 and lasting through the end of the month, Filling the Gap, Inc., will hold a drawing for one of 20 prizes. Items include handbags, gift cards, a smart speaker, a Bluetooth speaker, a vacuum sealer, a blender, a toolkit, and a video doorbell. All of the prizes can be viewed at The Resource Center’s Facebook page.
The online version of Blingo was introduced last year because of the pandemic. Victoria Trass Bardo, development and events manager at Filling the Gap, said that while The Resource Center and Filling the Gap hope their other traditional community events can be held this year, organizers couldn’t bring a large group of people together for Blingo.
“We were optimistic about hosting an in-person, fun-filled event in 2022, but it is not possible given the guidelines we are following at this time,” said Bardo, adding that the online Blingo will follow the same format as last year.
“Our 2021 Blingo event was such a success that we are planning on an online event once again this year. There are 20 awesome items up for grabs. We hope these unique items will inspire everyone to purchase their tickets soon,” she said.
A $20 ticket gives the buyer one chance in each of the daily drawings. People can improve their odds of winning by buying multiple tickets. Tickets can be bought online at the Filling the Gap web site or in person at the Felice Corporate Center, 92 Fairmount Avenue in Jamestown, and The Resource Center’s administrative offices at 200 Dunham Avenue in Celoron. Tickets can be purchased until March 31.
The Blingo event is being organized by Filling the Gap, which works with The Resource Center to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Chautauqua County. Proceeds will benefit The Resource Center Look Good Fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The Look Good Fund supports people with disabilities in areas such as personal care, personal appearance, clothing, protective gear, and transportation. The fund was established by the late Margaret Look, who in the 1960s and ‘70s was a member of The Resource Center’s board of directors and was news editor at The Post-Journal.
Other events scheduled for this year include a Slow Roll Pedal Party on June 18 in Dunkirk; the Laurel Memorial Run and Walk on July 15 and 16; the TRC Golf Classic on July 25; the Mark Pacheco WOW Fund Lip Sync Battle on August 26; and Step Up for Autism on September 24. For more information about Blingo or any of the other events conducted by The Resource Center and Filling the Gap, phone Bardo at 716-661-1477.
Filling the Gap, Inc., has announced its 2021 grants, awarding $81,277 to support people with disabilities.
Filling the Gap is a Jamestown-based not-for-profit that works with The Resource Center and other organizations to support Chautauqua County residents who are poor, distressed and underprivileged, especially people with disabilities. Each year, Filling the Gap solicits grant requests from TRC and other organizations within the Filling the Gap network.
This year’s funding requests totaled $242,503. Filling the Gap’s grants committee studied the requests and recommended which ones to fund, and FTG’s board of directors agreed with the committee’s recommendations. Some requests were denied because other funding sources are available.
With the amount awarded this year, Filling the Gap has now given out $1,531,695 in grants since 1995. This year’s awards are as follows:
In addition, Filling the Gap’s board approved a request from The Resource Center to direct the proceeds from this year’s TRC Golf Classic (about $44,000) toward the purchase and installation of overhead lift systems at two TRC homes.
Filling the Gap officials are proud they could provide money to support a variety of initiatives.
“Filling the Gap is happy to continue awarding grants to The Resource Center and the corporations within the FTG network. We were especially glad to be able to fund such a diverse variety of requests this year,” said Cindy Hitchcock, vice president of business and finance.
Most of the money for the grants comes from fund-raising events that Filling the Gap facilitates in partnership with The Resource Center. Proceeds from these events are transferred to the various TRC endowment funds at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The income from these endowment funds is used to fulfill the grant requests.
For more information about Filling the Gap, phone 716-661-1519 or visit www.fillingthegap.net.