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IMAGINE... Page 1

The Heart of Our Community Page 2

Advocacy is Growing Guardianship: Stepping in for the Family Written in the Stars Page 3

Choices for High School Graduates Ponies, Food Pantries and Job Training Pages 4 & 5

The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center Page 6

gallery265 Page 7

Arc & Mercy College: Partners in Technology Recreation Provides Fun and Respite Page 8

Campaign Update In Memory Support Those Who Support Us

The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center

The Heart of Our Community


hen we designed The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center seven years ago, our goal was to create a space that not only held our offices, but also served as the home base of our organization — ­ a welcoming place where individuals and families could find support, participate in art classes, receive therapy, have lunch with friends and attend workshops and special events. This building is the heart of the community where people assist with preparation and planning for life and community inclusion. In order to achieve these goals, we not only worked with an architect, but also with our own self-advocates, whose visions for the building came to life in so many ways.

Through our discussions, water became a central theme of inspiration: water allows us to exist, it provides us with nutrition, it soothes the mind and calms the soul, it offers recreation. These intriguing qualities captured the minds of our advocates, so water became a focal point in our building, with two prominent waterfalls and a lobby floor designed to suggest a stream. In order to create a welcoming sense of “home,” the self-advocates requested a building full of common spaces for individuals to meet. They also designed a quilt relating to the building’s water theme. The quilt, an artistically beautiful work of art, now hangs in our building. Each square was developed with symbols representing their personal message, telling a story of uniqueness, hope, and happiness. Every day, our thoughtfully designed building is full of life. I see smiling faces on each floor and am greeted by hugs and handshakes everywhere I go. The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center was conceived with a high aesthetic in mind. This place is the gateway to our community — an inclusive, open space inviting to all. Our building, with its beautiful art gallery, comprehensive health center, array of services, and various lounge areas makes a powerful statement: we place a high value on every individual who walks through our doors, and we want to aide each one in Ric with participants of the Choices program. attaining their personal goals. The GleesonIsrael Gateway Center was designed for launching dreams shaped by individual choice. Welcome to our community.

Advocacy is Growing Did you know that Arc of Westchester is expanding their Advocacy service based on family interest? This program provides support if a family member cannot be actively involved due to particular circumstances, such as distance, their own health concerns, or the lack of information on available resources. Advocates assist with representation at meetings, review of available resources, or social visits to the person. Families appreciate an independent review of the current health or well-being of their loved one when they are unable to physically visit. Advocacy provides a detailed contract describing the expectations of both the advocate and the family member. For example, the advocate has no legal standing and can only offer observations to the guardian; the advocate cannot make decisions, provide custodial care, or offer financial support to the person. Our Advocacy model was designed in the likeness of our Guardianship program, with all advocates reporting to members of our Guardianship committee.


Stepping in for the family


hat happens to a person with an intellectual or developmental disability after Mom and Dad pass away? Who watches out for Nancy Succoso with Ed Ryan them? Who makes at the annual Guardianship medical decisions holiday party. and ensures proper treatment? Arc of Westchester’s Guardianship program, headquartered in The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center, does just that — ensuring families that their child will be cared for by people who take their loved one’s needs and desires into consideration each and every time. Families choose this program for a number of reasons: it might be an elderly couple whose other children are not able to care for their sibling, often living too far away, or an aging mother with no remaining family to care for her child. In these and similar cases, the Guardianship program steps in to give support as a family would, from housing decisions to school to help with medical care, as well as providing them with birthday and holiday celebrations and presents, as a parent/ family member would do. “We have a small team of staff members plus volunteers on the Guardianship Committee who sit together and discuss each decision that needs to be made,” says Nancy Succoso, Special Assistant to the Executive Director. “When it comes to the most difficult medical decisions, we review the benefits, risks and alternatives for all procedures. These are tough decisions since we develop caring relationships with the people involved. We cannot replace parents or siblings, but we always do our best.” 2

What happens to those we love when

Written in the Stars

Advocacy Program Launches with Star-struck Siblings


hen Ruth Dewey’s son Christopher was a young boy, there were virtually no programs for a child with severe autism. Families were left to fend for themselves. Fortunately for Ruth, her daughter Rachel simply accepted her brother for who he was and never appeared to be resentful of all the attention he commanded. As a teen, she developed a special bond with her older brother, and it was his fascination with outer space that guided her to become an astrophysicist.

Ruth Dewey and her son Christopher at last year’s Guardianship party.

“When Chris was about 11, I took him to the planetarium and he was entranced,” explains Ruth. “The idea that something existed as regular as the stars became almost a compulsion. We gave him a backyard telescope as a teen that he would take out on a dark night, and my daughter often went with him. Later in life, when she was working on her doctorate in physics, I asked her what made her choose that career and she said ‘I suppose it was Chris’s telescope.’ And every year she sends him a guide to hang on his wall that lists when every planet can be seen.” This close bond between siblings who live across the country from each other — Christopher in Westchester and Rachel in Oregon — is what led 92-year-old Ruth to choose Arc of Westchester’s Advocacy program as the perfect solution for her family once she can no longer be Christopher’s guardian. Through Advocacy, Arc of Westchester serves as a conduit to family members divided by distance or other circumstances. An Arc representative is in touch with both Christopher and Rachel — visiting Christopher on a regular basis, comforting him when he needs care, and notifying Rachel when a major decision needs to be made. “The Advocacy program gives me and my daughter peace of mind,” says Ruth. “Christopher and Rachel communicate regularly, e-mailing each other weekly. I cannot think of anyone else I want as a guardian for him than my daughter, but she lives far away and Chris needs someone local. So the idea of engaging an Arc advocate who has a lot of experience puts me — and Rachel — at ease.”

they can no longer be cared for in their own homes?

Congratulations, High School Graduates! Now What?


raduating high school and entering adulthood can be difficult for any child. But when that child has an intellectual or developmental disability the challenges are even more daunting, and parents often wonder what to do next.

As a first step, Arc of Westchester’s Choices is a community-based program that helps young adults transition from high school to the “real world” and whatever lies ahead. Each morning, participants meet at The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center. “Our program always begins with volunteer work, and then we move toward internships and career achievement classes,” explains Lori Calandruccio, community choices director. “This period is called discovery and it’s how we see what

works, what doesn’t work, and who’s ready for employment. This way, we know the right path to take with each individual.” This person-centered approach is a key component of the Choices program, allowing each individual to work toward employment at their own pace. “We have many success stories,” says Lori. “For example, a parent wondered if her daughter would be able to work full time or at all. She has an incredible eye for detail, however, like many people with developmental disabilities, there can be distractions. During the discovery process, she was evaluated and it was determined that she would be a good fit for eDocNY, Arc of Westchester’s social enterprise and document management business. With the coaching support we provided, she’s now one of their best employees!” On average, individuals stay in Choices for three to four years, quickly becoming cheerleaders for one another, always excited to see their peers succeed.

What do ponies, food pantries, and job training have in common? They’re all elements of Arc of Westchester’s Day Services program, which provides 350 adults with opportunities to explore their full potential through volunteer and work experiences in the community. “The purpose of Day Services is to help people become as independent as possible and meet individual life goals, which may include employment,” says Avery Valins, director of day services. “At the Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center, self-advocates, individuals, families, and staff work together to develop a plan and coordinate community-based activities.” These activities take on numerous forms in the Day Services program. A favorite location is the Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Center in Brewster where Chris Baker (bottom) trains, grooms and cares for the barn’s ponies — duties that help Chris learn important job skills like responsibility and dependability. Other participants, such as Jerilyn Alonso (top right), spend their day delivering food on behalf of County Harvest. Through this experience, Jerilyn learns valuable work skills, such as handling inventory, computer proficiency, and organization. On-the-job training like Xaviar Garcia’s (top left) daily tasks of preparing food stations, maintaining cleanliness, and serving customers at The Sharing Community in Yonkers, provides individuals with essential skills that will help them secure a job in the community. Arc partners with close to 50 different non-profit organizations throughout the county that provide participants the opportunity to learn valuable job skills, helping them to become vital and contributing members of society. 3

The Gleeson This building was designed for

launching dreams shaped by individual choice.

The entire building serves as a gallery and houses hundreds of original works by Arc of Westchester and community artists.

We are committed to the Westchester County Green Initiative and our building was designed to be a green facility.

This is the site where all day and career services are developed. This building is an educational and training facility for all employees, special education preschool teachers and program participants.

Our state-of-the-art equipment provides technology training and webinars.

Our building was inspired by this quilt, designed by our self-advocates to reflect their passion for water. Each square’s symbol represents a personal message, conveying water as a source for life, a vessel for recreation, a power that can calm and soothe, and more.

-Israel Gateway Center The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center opened in 2008, and is the We host numerous events and conferences, such as the annual Family Resource Day, Transition Linkages Fair, Technology and Transitions conferences, Regional Self-Advocacy meetings, and weekend community events.

home base that supports 2,000 people with developmental disabilities and their families who are served by Arc of Westchester every day.

Individuals receive mental health, physical, and occupational therapies through the Wellness Center.


Unconventional Artists Produce Gallery-worthy Art


ne floor up in The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center is home to gallery265, an art studio complete with a dramatic water wall and displays of original artistic creations by artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Some of the unique works on exhibit include a colorfully rendered bicycle and skateboard, both part of a yarn-bombing The artists frequently create beaded exhibit from two years ago, sports-themed artwork, jewelry, a skill that can prove challenging to many with disabilities. Nevertheless, chandeliers created from recycled materials, and they painstakingly thread each bead and much more. “Our studio was designed to be a produce beautiful patterns and creations. professional gallery space,” says Roberta Nickelsen, Day Habilitation art instructor. “We have professional mechanisms, such as easels, pedestals, and lighting, for displaying the art. It’s an important part of our message — just because some people have challenges, it doesn’t mean that they do not have abilities and talent.” Roberta, who worked as a textile designer for 30 years, leans heavily on her preferred method — fiber art, although all art mediums are explored. Yarns, fabrics, and strings are all very sensory-related materials, which Arc artists respond to. “When we do anything, I throw out a very wide net,” explains Roberta. “I believe it costs just as much to buy pretty materials as it does ugly materials, so I provide really nice fabrics to start with. That’s a good beginning.” Thanks to the ongoing generosity of Virginia Donovan, a long-time Arc of Westchester supporter, gallery265 also receives regular donations of beautiful art supplies from her studio. gallery265 holds four art shows a year at The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center, when anyone in the county is invited to showcase their artwork.

4 6

Representatives from Mercy College with Ric Swierat and Jordan Jankus.

Arc Partners with Mercy College for a Pioneering Technology Study


rc of Westchester recently partnered with Mercy College for an innovative technology study intent on finding new ways to build independence for people with developmental disabilities and autism. Few published studies exist demonstrating technology’s long-term effectiveness in this area; this collaboration intends to lead the way. Graduate students in occupational therapy will use technology customized to each participant’s needs to achieve specific goals, like accomplishing household tasks, money management, and shopping. Students will then determine if these skills can be maintained without ongoing intervention. As the participants become more adept with technology, so must their parents, educators, and caregivers. That’s why Arc

of Westchester held its debut TECH TOOLS Conference at The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center last November. Attendees gained valuable tips on how to keep teens and children safe from Internet dangers, as well as the benefits of the Smart Board. Each session also provided iPads to help participants experience various applications in areas such as health and wellness, self-exploration, social skills, and work skills. Arc of Westchester has also created an online resource library and forum called the Tek Portal (, which provides tips and links to websites and apps that can offer both low- and high-tech solutions for families. Through studies and programs, Arc of Westchester is helping technology provide individuals with increased independence in the home and community.

Recreation Provides Fun and Respite


veryone wants to have friends, peers, and to be able to socialize,” says David Gasparri, director of recreation at Arc of Westchester. “At The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center, we offer a wide array of recreational activities that are a fun outlet for adult children while providing respite for the family.”

“Many of those we serve don’t move away from home,” David explains. “They’re home at 30, 40, and 50 years old. And their parents are taking care of them. So we provide programming that allows them to be with their peers while Mom and Dad get a break.” The building is home to numerous day programs that extend the weekdays and provide weekend activities. On a daily basis, after-work programming provides socializing opportunities, educational classes, and organized recreation from 3:00-5:30 p.m. On Saturdays during the spring and fall, The Arc Theater Company offers 10-week sessions

taught by Broadway veterans. Dancing, singing, and acting rehearsals, culminate in a performance for approximately 100 people. On Sundays, the Teens enjoying the Gateway Gala. Prep Club provides young adults activities to help them prepare for adulthood. There are also many social events held at The GleesonIsrael Gateway Center, including the semi-formal Gateway Gala, and St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween dances. Our teens also attend Winter, February, and Spring mini-camps during school vacations. “We provide a lot of social opportunities, and our participants also get to learn. We offer life skills classes — such as what to say or do in public, nutrition, and general skills,” David says. “Our folks look forward to our programs every year, and every year they return.”


Arc of a Life Campaign UPDATE The Arc of a Life Campaign has pledged to raise the funds necessary to ensure that Arc of Westchester will always be ready to adapt to change and address needs through the entire arc of a life. The campaign has surpassed the $2 million mark of the $6 million goal. Here are a few of the early campaign successes...

In Memory

• eDocNY, Arc of Westchester’s Tom Hughes visiting children at innovative social business The County Children’s Center in Katonah enterprise, has received the support necessary to expand and enhance operations to manage new business and hire additional people. • The Tom Hughes Fund for Children has strengthened our autism initiatives to benefit our littlest program participants at a critical time in their development. These funds helped to purchase sensory gym equipment and create an after-school social skills program at The Children’s School for Early Development. • An exciting new pilot program was launched in collaboration with Mercy College to develop creative uses of technology that will enable people with disabilities to be more independent. • Arc of Westchester’s Pemart Residence, located in Peekskill, NY, will have its own generator capable of keeping residents safe and warm when emergency weather conditions strike. This is just the beginning; we have a lot more work to do together. For more information about the Arc of a Life Campaign, please call Nancy Patota at 914-495-4625.

Support Those Who Support Us Looking for a new place to eat in Westchester? Enjoy the meals at each of our 2014 Matter of Taste restaurant and beverage providers, and thank them for their generosity and ongoing support. An American Bistro, Abigail Kirsch, Artuso and Sons Bakery and Café, Caperberry Events at the CV Rich Mansion, Cathy’s Biscotti, Chef Johnson’s, Chocolations, Culinary Tech Institute, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, Eastchester Fish Gourmet, Johnny Gelato, LuLu Cake Boutique, North Street Tavern, Path Coffee Roasters, Rye Roadhouse, Sam’s of Gedney Way, Texas deBrazil, The 808 Bistro, The Great American Barbecue, Toscana Ristorante, Tramonto, Sweet Sam’s Baking Company, Westchester Country Club, Yonkers Brewing Co.


Jason and Susanna Berger

We would like to remember Susanna Berger, a generous donor to Arc of Westchester who passed away in December of 2014. Susanna often said she donated because it brought her joy. “The enjoyment is in being able to watch what’s happening with your gift,” explained Susanna. “It’s much nicer to give while you’re still here to see the results, rather than have your name go on a wall plaque after you aren’t around anymore.”

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The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center • 265 Saw Mill River Road • Hawthorne, NY 10532 6 914-949-9300 •

Imagine- Spring Newsletter 2015