Our very own Crystal White is featured on the cover of OPWDD’s newsletter this month. Way to go, Crystal!!
The ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) has launched their month-long #ABLEtoSave grassroots campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to educate and inform the general public about Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts. The goals of the #ABLEtoSave campaign, which runs throughout the month of August, are to increase awareness about ABLE accounts and to increase the amount of ABLE accounts opened across the country.
ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts that have the potential to significantly increase the independence and quality of life of individuals with disabilities without jeopardizing benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Informational Webinars on ABLE-related topics will be held on Wednesday each week. To see the calendar and sign up to participate, visit our events page. To learn more about the #ABLEtoSave campaign and ABLE accounts, visit the ABLE National Resource Center website (www.ablenrc.org)and be sure to “like” the ANRC on Facebook and Twitter (@theABLENRC).
Did you catch Lexington Executive Director Shaloni Winston on WNYT NewsChannel 13 this past weekend? If not, click on the image below to check out the video and see her talk about our Transitions program, #AutismAwarenessMonth and more! To learn more about Transitions, visit www.transitionsusa.org! #TransitionsUSA
Governor Cuomo declares September 10-17 Direct Support Professionals Week in New York State!
Transitions and the State University of New York at Fulton-Montgomery Community College (FMCC) are excited to announce a partnership to offer a Certificate of Completion in Career and Life Studies. The new certificate program combines credit-bearing courses at FMCC with a non-credit curriculum at Transitions to help students develop executive functioning skills, learn how to be successful at work and in life, build independent living skills and strengthen self-management, advocacy and leadership skills.
“We are grateful to the partnership and support that the State University of New York at Fulton-Montgomery Community College has provided in developing and offering this new Certificate in Career and Life Studies,” said Jennifer Feagles, LMSW, Director of Transitions. “This will provide a certificate to the young adults who are ready to pursue their independence and career goals after high school.”
The Certificate of Completion in Career and Life Studies will assist students such as Marybeth, an active, social and career-minded 22-year-old who was very different before she joined the program. Back then, she was quiet, cripplingly shy and lacking direction or job prospects.
“I didn’t have many friends,” Marybeth said. “I was shy. My mom would have to find ways to get me out of the house.”
When she joined Transitions, Marybeth gained access to internship opportunities in a variety of businesses as well as classes that helped her improve her social, organizational, time management, executive functioning and independent living skills. With the help of those classes, career success courses at FMCC and her current internship at Harvey’s Home, Garden and Pet Center, Marybeth is well on her way to achieving her goal of obtaining a job in her dream field of working with animals.
Transitions, a post-secondary program that helps young adults with autism and other learning differences achieve success after high school, helped Marybeth overcome all her personal obstacles and more. And now, through this partnership with FMCC, Transitions can do even more to prepare her for success in life beyond the program.
“This partnership with FMCC will provide life-changing opportunities for our students,” said Shaloni Winston, founder of Transitions and Executive Director of Lexington - Fulton County Chapter, NYSARC, Inc. “Pursuing a Certificate of Completion in Career and Life Studies will give them not only a quality education that truly prepares them to live and work independently, but also the invaluable experience of being part of college campus life with peers in a similar stage in life, with all the same goals and challenges. Everyone deserves a career they love and a life they control themselves. This certificate program will help realize that dream for many young adults.”
To obtain the Certificate of Completion in Career and Life Studies, students will take credit-bearing classes in career exploration and preparation, resume and cover letter preparation, job interviewing and professional self-presentation at FMCC, and non-credit bearing classes in time management, organization, social success, wellness, self-advocacy and independent living skills at Transitions.
A minimum of 250 hours of on-the-job internship experience at community businesses with graduated levels of responsibility will be required for each student. Transitions staff will provide job coaching, liaise with employers and encourage communication skills that will lead to success in future employment. They will also liaise with the college staff to assist the student in receiving academic support and learning skills needed to complete schoolwork and interact success fully with peers and professors. All students will have full access to the college’s library, gym, clubs and other resources.
“FMCC is proud to partner with Transitions to provide this certificate program for their students,” said Dustin Swanger, Ed.D., president of FMCC. “We believe that education enhances everyone’s life, and receiving a validation of that education in the form of an official certificate not only provides a conclusion to any given program, it becomes a symbol of pride for the learner for years to come.”
This program is suited but not limited to students with learning differences, such as autism spectrum disorder, learning differences and ADHD. Students may attain their certificate on a full-time or part-time basis. Student apartment living with a focus on learning independent living skills is also available for full-time students.
In the two years since its creation, Transitions has already made a significant difference in the lives of dozens of young people who have enrolled in camps, events and full-year programs at its Mayfield campus. This certificate program is an opportunity to marry the immersive lessons of Transitions to FMCC’s fully integrated college environment, giving students a life-altering experience that will set them on the path to success throughout the rest of their lives.
Lexington is pleased to announce that it has been named one of the Best Companies to Work for in New York State for 2017. It was recognized for this honor at a public awards dinner at the Hilton Albany on Wednesday, April 19. Lexington ranked among the top companies in the category for large employers with 250 or more employees.
It is featured in a special publication profiling all 70 winning businessesfrom across New York State and what makes them unique employers. The agency is honored to be recognized for one of the things that matters most to it: creating a welcoming and nurturing environment in which its valued employees can thrive.
“We are grateful to our employees whose work each day makes a difference in the lives of the men and women we support. They made this award possible and we are proud of each of them and their commitment to Lexington,” said Shaloni Winston, Executive Director of Lexington, Fulton County Chapter, NYSARC, Inc.
Lexington relies on more than 1,700 full-and part-time employees to fulfill its mission of providing the best possible supports to children and adults with disabilities and their families, as well as to contribute to the community through volunteering, fundraising and patronizing local businesses. Lexington serves nearly 1,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, mental illness, cerebral palsy, physical disabilities, epilepsy, traumatic brain injuries and more, in Fulton and Albany counties. Though their jobs are not always easy, each Lexington employee is fully dedicated to helping the individuals they support lead fulfilling lives.
Lexington works hard to create a supportive and nurturing environment for everyone who walks in the door. Their Nurturing Environment Program, which promotes quality, ownership, relationships, support and communication, sets a high standard for excellence not only in the care of the individuals they support, but also in employee morale and workplace improvement. Lexington promotes an open door policy, transparency and open lines of communication so each employee knows they are supported professionally and personally.
In an agency of Lexington’s size, it can be difficult to connect with all the employees on a personal level. To help ensure that connection, Lexington offers a wide variety of benefits, opportunities and special events that encourage its employees to build a community around working together and having fun. Lexington is enormously grateful that its employees choose to work for them, so it prioritizes letting them know how much their time and talent is appreciated every day.
It is Lexington’s pleasure to provide such welcoming and supportive atmosphere for the people it supports and its employees, and it is an honor to be considered alongside so many other fantastic businesses across the state. The 2017 Best Companies to Work for in New York State awards is a partnership of the New York State Council of the Society for Human Resource Management, The Business Council of New York, Best Companies Group and BridgeTower Media. For more information on the Best Companies to Work for in New York State program, including the entire list of winning companies, please visit www.BestCompaniesNY.com.
The Best Companies to Work for in New York State awards are celebrating 10 years of recognizing the best employers in the state. This distinctive program evaluates and ranks the best places of employment based on employee satisfaction and engagement, as well as workplace practices and policies.
Flame, Lexington’s world-renowned rock band, will be a featured act at the 19th International Festival of Different Abilities in Carpi, Italy. They will perform at the Teatro Comunale, a beautiful mid-19th century neoclassical theater, on May 30. Flame was invited to play after a representative of Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno, an Italian cooperative that supports people with mental and physical differences, saw videos of Flame’s performances on YouTube.
“Going to Italy has always been a dream of mine,” said David LaGrange, Flame’s drummer, “so being able to go there and share our music is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno organizes and promotes the International Festival of Different Abilities every year to highlight the excellence and uniqueness of people with disabilities. The main purpose of the festival is to express the founding philosophy of Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno, which is that it is always possible to pursue excellence no matter what someone’s physical or mental differences are.
“The point of my job as manager of this project is to show how incredible people with difficulties are, and that their abilities can be a huge resource for everybody,” said Carlotta Sabbatini of Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno.
Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno sees art as both a goal to achieve and a means to attain excellence. Through art, people have the opportunity to reach self-actualization. The festival features dance, music, theater performances, film screenings, art exhibitions, workshops, conventions and more.
This year’s theme is “Impossible but visible.” “We are honored to have Flame representing us at this special event,” said Shaloni Winston, executive director of Lexington. “Everyone at Lexington is so proud of Flame’s talent and the message of inspiration they convey. We thank the people at Cooperativa Sociale Nazareno for their invitation and the opportunity to represent talented, hardworking people with differences at an international level.”
Flame is a ten-piece band comprised entirely of musicians who happen to have disabilities. They formed in Gloversville in 2003. Flame has a repertoire of more than 100 classic rock, pop, country and blues songs from the past 50 years as well as some original tracks. In the past 14 years, they have produced five albums and a single. They tour the northeastern United States in a custom bus and play more than 70 shows per year. Some of the biggest venues they have played include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the House of Blues in Cleveland, New York City’s Apollo Theater, Harvard Law School, the Greek Ministry of Education building in Athens, Greece, and the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho. Flame has received press from Good Morning America, People magazine, Metroland magazine and the Daily Mainichi News in Tokyo, Japan.
For more information about Flame, please contact Maria Nestle at (518) 661-9932, ext.164, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Lexington, a Chapter of NYSARC, Inc., is a private, not-for-profit agency providing a wide range of services to adults and children who are disabled in Fulton and Albany Counties.
The NYSARC Trust Services Board has provided Lexington, Fulton County Chapter, NYSARC Inc., with a remainder fund grant of $8,000 to provide recreational opportunities for people supported by Lexington. Last year, Lexington received a similar grant from NYSARC Trust Services for $10,000 that went toward purchasing recreational game equipment such as foosball tables, ping pong tables, air hockey tables and pool tables.
The funding is providing for Encounters, a social club that brings together young people from all over Lexington, the community and other agencies and helps combat the isolation that often follows graduation from school. Funds from the grant will be used to purchase long-lasting materials such as video game equipment, snow shoes, art supplies and games. The grant will also support other, less durable expenses that generate excitement and keep the group engaged, such as promotional items, catering and gift certificates to defray the costs of some activities.
In addition, remainder fund grants totaling $1,466,000 were awarded to support NYSARC guardianship programs statewide and a total of $1,874,000 in remainder grants were awarded in 2015 to support recreation and guardianship statewide. NYSARC Trust Services administers supplemental needs trusts that enable people with disabilities to remain in their home and community while retaining Medicaid services and other government benefits. Information about how NYSARC Trust Services may benefit you is available by visiting www.nysarctrustservices.org, calling 1-518-439-8323 or 1-800-735-8924 (toll-free), or e-mailing email@example.com.
For more information about Encounters, Lexington’s members-only social club, please contact Katherine Ehle at firstname.lastname@example.org or (518) 736-3909.
On Friday, April 24, 2015, the New York State Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Inc. (NYSSLHA) honored Lexington with the 2015 Distinguished Clinical Service Award in recognition of its clinical supports to Lexington’s band, Flame. Lexington was honored during the Honors and Awards program at NYSSLHA’s 55th Annual Convention, which took place at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center in Rochester, NY.
About Lexington, NYSSLHA said, “It is clear that your organization has a staff of dedicated individuals who should be very proud of Lexington’s accomplishments. NYSSLHA is delighted to recognize your organization and the phenomenal work that brings Flame’s music and message to help change how the public perceives people with disabilities.”
For more than 10 years, Lexington’s clinical team has supported Flame band members in various ways as they have developed into the professional and renowned musical sensation they are today. Speech and language pathologists have worked with lead singer Michelle King on her vocals and have helped percussionist Scott Stuart adjust his wheelchair tray so that he can play the drums. They have also coached band members on the social and communication skills necessary to navigate the many situations their fame has thrust them into ― everything from national events with huge audiences, such as the Special Olympics, to performances at college campuses.
Occupational and physical therapists have worked to ensure the band members are able to access stages, hotels and other potentially challenging environments. Lexington’s therapists even helped with retrofitting the band’s tour bus. Michelle King accepted the award along with Flame band manager Maria Nestle. King spoke about her childhood autism diagnosis and the struggles she has had as a result. She credited Flame for giving her the confidence and opportunity to share her story of ability and gift of music with thousands of people. She thanked Lexington for supporting her as she lives her dream.
NYSARC, Inc., the largest nonprofit organization of its kind in the nation supporting individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families, announces the appointment of Steven Kroll as Executive Director.
He comes to NYSARC after serving as Vice President of Governmental Affairs and External Relations at the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) for the past 19 years.
“NYSARC has a rich history of successful advocacy for people with developmental disabilities and their families,” said Kroll. “NYSARC exists to help persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities lead safe, productive, and happy lives. The support systems for these people, their families, and their caregivers are in the midst of dramatic changes. I look forward to bringing my skills, experiences, and passion to NYSARC and to being a leader of this dynamic and wonderful organization that supports people in every community in New York State. It is a distinct honor to have been selected to succeed Marc Brandt who has provided tremendous leadership over these many years.”
Kroll follows Marc N. Brandt, who retired Dec. 31 after 32 years of leading the Organization and more than four decades of dedicated service to the field. During this time, Brandt was appointed by four Governors to serve on the Advisory Council to the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, now the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. He also championed several legislative bills signed into law on advocacy issues and rights of people with developmental disabilities, including a bill of rights in community residences and a bill establishing an ombudsman on the grounds of developmental centers, and the Health Care Decisions Act, to name but a few.
Brandt considers Kroll’s background and personality an ideal fit for NYSARC during this pivotal period. "Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to meet with Steven,” he said. “These discussions have demonstrated that he possesses a remarkable aptitude to grasp our field’s issues and challenges quickly. Steven brings exceptional leadership and political advocacy experience balanced with a strong sense of compassion and sensitivity for the needs of our Chapters, people with developmental disabilities, and their families.”
Kroll comes to NYSARC with almost three decades of federal and state policy development and advocacy experience and trade association leadership. His professional background also includes serving as a Legislative Assistant for Health Care and Education to the United States Senate, an Associate Director of the American Hospital Association Office of Federal Relations in Washington, DC, and the Interim Executive of the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council.
He has been active in the community, serving on the Board of Trustees of Cobleskill Regional Hospital for the past 16 years. He is an active EMT and a volunteer leader with Delmar-Bethlehem EMS and has served as Assistant Chief of the Delmar Volunteer Fire Department. He is also Vice Chair of the New York State Department of Health Emergency Medical Services Council.
Kroll earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from SUNY Buffalo and his master’s degree in health administration from Duke University.
He resides in Delmar, NY, with his wife, Tricia, and their two children.
About NYSARC, Inc.
NYSARC, Inc. is the largest nonprofit in New York and the United States serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The 54 Chapters comprising NYSARC, Inc. are located in every County in NYS. The Organization supports over 60,000 individuals, employs over 30,000 people, and has a membership of over 103,000.
On Monday, October 20, 2014, Lexington– Fulton County Chapter, NYSARC, Inc.’s own Speech-Language Pathologist Victoria Morrison was honored with the Capital Area Speech-Language and Hearing Association (CASHA)’s Distinguished Service Award at CASHA’s Annual Conference in Albany. CASHA’S Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to a Speech-Language Pathologist or Audiologist or individual who has made outstanding contributions to the fields of Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology, to the communicatively impaired, or to professional organizations that serve these groups.
Morrison was chosen for this distinction by a panel of her peers. Morrison has played a vital role with CASHA for many years as an active member, President (1999), Executive Board Member and frequent presenter at CASHA’s monthly programs. She has worked at Lexington for ten years, is Co-chair of the Fulton County Chapter of the Autism Society and she often presents at state and local workshops and conferences. She was nominated for, and ultimately received, this prestigious award based on her expertise in childhood intervention, Autism, and fluency; dedication to the field; and involvement in community activities.
Michelle King, lead singer of Lexington’s renowned band, Flame, said about Morrison, “Vickey helps me socialize with people. She inspires others and has given me hope that I am able to share with the social skills she has taught me. She asks me questions and I am now able to ask her questions back. I am able to talk to her when I am worried about something and she helps me write social stories so I can understand and better socialize.”
Michelle’s mother, Mary King, said, “Vickey has helped Michelle communicate and express herself with confidence. Vickey has truly been a blessing.” Lexington Executive Director Shaloni Winston said, “Vickey has been instrumental in developing and implementing supports for people who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and has helped establish and grow Lexington’s Early Intervention program which provides critically needed therapies to 18 children in Fulton County.
We congratulate Vickey on yet another achievement.”
NYSARC congratulates Michelle King, 2014 Self-Advocate of the Year, who was recently honored at NYSARC's 65th Annual Convention. Michelle is lead singer for the band Flame with Fulton County Chapter, NYSARC. The Self-Advocate Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated leadership and personal growth and who has positively influenced the lives of others.
On Friday, October 17, 2014, NYSARC, Inc., New York State Chapter of The Arc and America's largest non-profit organization supporting people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families since 1949, honored Lexington-Fulton County Chapter, NYSARC, Inc’s Michelle King as part of their Annual Convention. King was named NYSARC Inc.’s Self-Advocate of the Year. NYSARC, Inc.’s Self-Advocate of the Year Award is a state-wide award presented to a self-advocate who has demonstrated leadership, personal growth and has influenced the lives of others.
The Self-Advocate Award is designed to highlight, recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions made by NYSARC, Inc. self-advocates. Nominees and recipients are people who not only use or have used NYSARC, Inc.’s services but also help to shape those services in a manner that benefits others. Michelle King, lead singer and guitarist of Lexington’s band, FLAME, has been receiving services from Lexington since 2003. Since she joined Lexington, she has amassed quite a list of accomplishments. She sang at Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s wake upon personal request from the Shriver family; starred in a documentary about Flame, the director of which was honored with the Loreen Arbus Scholarship at the 2014 College Television Emmy Awards; was profiled on the nationally-syndicated show, Good Morning America; performed in Greece and was recognized by the Greek Ministry of Education; was featured in People magazine’s “Heroes Among Us” profile, and has met with Senator Farley, Congressman Tonko and Mayor Bloomberg to advocate for the rights of persons with developmental disabilities. This all from a woman doctors once said would never talk. Since coming to Lexington and joining Flame, Michelle has used her fame as a platform to advocate for others and has inspired people all over the world with her message that “it’s not about disabilities, it’s about abilities.”
Michelle’s friend and fellow band member Adrienne Phillips had this to say about Michelle. “I like to talk to Michelle because she inspires me to think about my abilities and what I can do even though I am blind. I like to try new things and she lets me do that. I like when she lets me play her guitar, this makes me feel important. I am glad she came into my life and saved me from being without friends and a purpose.”
Judy Schelle, Board President of Lexington, said, “Young and old, rich and poor, everyone becomes equal through Michelle’s gift to capture and share music with them. What better ambassador for our field? Michelle showcases abilities, inspires her audience and brings happiness to all.”
At the Awards Ceremony, Lexington Executive Director Shaloni Winston said, “We’re so fortunate to celebrate Michelle King’s many successes, acknowledge her rightful place as an ambassador for developmental disabilities and to be at her side as she is recognized as NYSARC’s Self-Advocate of the Year.”
Ithaca College student Kristin Leffler was the recipient of the Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship at the 35th College Television Academy Awards for her documentary Following Flame, a short film about Lexington’s own cover band whose talented members have disabilities. Many television industry professionals attended the prestigious awards ceremony, which was held at the Television Academy's Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in Los Angeles on April 23, 2014. The Arbus Scholarship was presented by actor Robert David Hall, who said, “Following Flame was incredibly well done. As a musician, I was moved by the band’s talents.”
The film shows the impact the band has had on the lives of its members and sheds light on how people with disabilities are often treated and viewed in the United States. Using performance clips and interviews with band members, their families, Flame Manager Maria Nestle, Sound Manager George Spencer and Disabilities Advocate Larry Roberts from the Finger Lakes Independence Center, the film shares the story of Flame’s success.
Leffler became interested in filming a documentary about Flame for her Documentary Journalism Class after hearing about the band from a friend who had booked them to perform at Ithaca College. Flame’s focus on ability rather than disability resonated with Leffler, whose sister has both physical and mental disabilities. Flame’s music and positive message have proven to be a true inspiration for both Leffler sisters.
The Loreen Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship recognizes a young talent whose work sheds light on people with disabilities, helps emerging artists gain recognition and increases visibility for artists with disabilities. The scholarship is presented to student writers, producers or directors with disabilities, producers of content focused on people with disabilities or to a piece that features one or more actors with disabilities.
The College Television Academy recognizes excellence in college student-produced video, digital and film work. For more information on the College Television Academy, visit www.emmysfoundation.org/college-television-awards. For more information about Flame, visit www.flametheband.com.
Great things have been happening in Fulton County, New York! Lexington scored a No. 1 ranking this year among all Times Union's Top Workplaces with 500 or more employees. When it comes to workplace satisfaction, such a sought-after title places Lexington ahead of the biggest and most progressive firms in New York’s Capital region who were also nominated. 1,650 people work at Lexington’s 80+ locations and this award which grades organizations based on candid employee surveys conducted by WorkplaceDynamics, LLC, a leading research firm on organizational health and employee engagement, proves something that those employed by Lexington already know: Lexington is a great place to work.
Asked about what makes Lexington such a great place to work, an employee had this to say, “I am thankful to be a part of helping to make lives richer. It is a joy for me to see excitement in the faces of the people that I help to live a fuller life. I have worked in many different areas of Lexington during my time here and I can say that there has not been a moment that I am not thankful for being here. It brings me great joy to know that what I do at “work” makes a difference in someone’s life.”
“It’s so important to me that our managers really listen and help employees be part of the solution for whatever challenge they’re facing,” said Shaloni Winston, Lexington’s Executive Director. “Our rank as the number one large 2014 Top Workplace proves that what we’re doing is working. This means good things for everyone, not just for the people who work at Lexington, but more importantly for the people we support.”
Lexington ranked highly across the board, but really trumped every other employer when WorkplaceDynamics asked survey respondents to rate their agreement with the statement, “I believe this company is going in the right direction.” Lexington employees overwhelmingly agreed. This finding is not surprising, however, as recognition-worthy accomplishments keep stacking up at Lexington. Last summer, the Maryland-based Council on Quality and Leadership accredited Lexington for person-centered excellence. Recently, Ithaca College Student Kristin Leffler was awarded the Loren Arbus Focus on Disability Scholarship at the Emmy Foundation’s College Television Awards in Los Angeles for her documentary about Flame, Lexington’s rock band of musicians with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. And soon Lexington will break ground on the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts, an inspired arts center that will continue the founder’s legacy of strong support for both the community
Click here to read the Times Union's article.