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Monday, March 2, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Local family joins statewide campaign calling for more funding for developmentally disabled

post by Billie Owens in ARC

Althea Penepent (right) with her daughter-in-law Jeanne and daughter Valerie. Mrs. Penepent is speaking out on the need for expanded services for people with developmental disabilities in New York State for her daughter and thousands of others on a waiting list for residential services.

Press release:

BYRON – Althea Penepent often wonders (and worries) what will become of her daughter Valerie after she’s gone. So, Althea has joined a growing number of families across New York State advocating for expanded services for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The “Families Cannot Be Caregivers Forever Campaign” calls current funding in the New York State Budget completely inadequate to meet the needs of these New Yorkers, many living at home with aging parents.

Valerie is the seventh and youngest child of Althea and Richard Penepent, born Feb. 2, 1977. Althea shares that her pregnancy and delivery with Valerie were the same as her first six children. She was blindsided when her doctor came into her hospital room after Valerie was born and coldly stated, “Women over 40 shouldn’t have a child because she’s mongoloid,” then turned on his heel and left. A nurse’s aide called Richard Penepent, plowing snow in the aftermath of the Blizzard of ’77, to come talk to his wife.

When Althea told Richard their baby girl had Down syndrome, he calmly and confidently said, “Althea, we’ll handle it.” Those words from her husband were all Althea needed to hear to reassure her that her new baby would have every opportunity to thrive and learn in a home filled with love.

Today, Richard Penepent, 88, has dementia and has been in the Le Roy Village Green Nursing Home for 13 months. In looking back on this last year, Althea reflects, “He doesn’t recognize very many people any more – but he always knows Valerie, no matter what, and calls her by name.”

Genesee ARC Medicaid Service coordinator Roxanne Monteleone has worked with the Penepent family for the last ten years.

“Valerie’s future weighs heavily on Althea. Valerie is on a waiting list for residential placement, but with no funding in the State Budget, every agency’s hands are tied,” Monteleone said. “It’s a very real concern for many families we serve."

Valerie has had an amazing 38 years, and she will proudly share her many accomplishments.

“I graduated from Batavia High School in 1998 and then began working at the workshop (ARC Sheltered Work Center), Valerie said. "I like to cook, dance, do laundry, crafts, go shopping and do jigsaw puzzles.”

According to her sister-in-law Jeanne Penepent, “Valerie loves to gives birthday cards and is always sharing little gifts for special occasions.”

The recent death of Althea’s sister and sister-in-law combined with her husband’s health and her own glaucoma has Althea even more concerned for Valerie’s future.

“She has come a long way,” Althea said.

Besides regular and special education schooling, the family paid for private math and reading classes for Valerie for 20 years in a program that originally began at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Valerie has been attending the Genesee ARC Sheltered Work Center day program since she turned 21. She has learned a lot of new skills and tackles every job with great pride. When asked her favorite job, her immediate response is, “cheese boxes,” a longtime Work Center contract for Yancey’s Fancy.

“What concerns me is where she will live, who will care for her after I’m gone,” Althea said, “Valerie is a blessing, but my other children have families and concerns of their own. I feel a residential placement is the best for Valerie’s future.”

According to the most recent data provided by Genesee ARC’s state association, NYSARC, Inc., 12,000 people in New York are on a waiting list for residential options, while 4,000 people are in critical need.

The last time there was any major residential development in New York State was in 1998 with the announcement of the NYS CARES (New York State Creating Alternatives in Residential Environments and Services) program by then Governor George Pataki. NYS CARES was pegged as a five-year plan to virtually eliminate the waiting list for out-of-home residential services for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

“While NYS CARES resulted in meeting the needs of thousands of New Yorkers, at the time, development has been at a standstill for years,” Genesee ARC Executive Director Donna Saskowski said. “New York needs to step up and provide the necessary funding, to help the thousands more families like the Penepents."

While facing so many life changes, Althea Penepent wondered aloud how different life might be if Governor Cuomo was in her shoes.

“If he had a handicapped child, maybe then he would understand,” the mother said. “Valerie votes --- 'people with disabilities have rights, too.' "

NYSARC statistics estimate nearly 200,000 people with developmental disabilities in New York State live with family caregivers; more than 50,000 live with family caregivers over 60 years of age.

Families across New York are urging their state legislators to advocate on their behalf to include funds in the upcoming budget to provide critical residential services, at last giving families peace of mind, knowing when they’re gone their child with a disability will be cared for.

A link to the Families Cannot Be Caregivers Forever Action center is on the Genesee ARC Web site, www.geneseearc.org.

Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Adults with Disabilities had a blast at Halloween dance at South Byron Fire Hall

post by Billie Owens in ARC, Adults with Disabilities, Halloween, south byron

Photo and write-up sent by Pat Iamon on Nov. 21:

On Oct. 16th at the South Byron Fire Hall, 85 plus attendees came together to celebrate Halloween at Genesee County’s Adults with Developmental Disabilities Dance. There were witches, pirates, policemen, clowns, cowboys and Hippies. All had to pass by our life-sized “Uncle Charlie” who at the slightest movement gladly removed his head as his eyes moved from side to side.

Attendees entered ghostly bat-ridden, spider-webbed South Byron Fire Hall on a mild October evening. Uncle Joe snapped photos as DJ Tom queued up some of the group’s favorite tunes. As usual, folks mingled on the dance floor in between enjoying some delicious Timbits from Tim Horton’s and apple cider. September and October birthdays were recognized prior to our customary circle dances, the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey.

The next dance is the much-anticipated Christmas Dance. We are expecting a visit from Santa and he usually comes bearing gifts. The dance will be held on Thursday, Dec. 18, at the South Byron Fire Hall on Route 237 once again.

Special thanks to the South Byron Fire Department for extending us the use of the hall for these first two dances while the Byron Fire Hall is undergoing some renovations. The last dance of the season on May 14th will be the Patriotic Dance and it will be held at the Byron Fire Hall.

The dances are sponsored by Byron Ladies Auxiliary, and are open to all folks with developmental disabilities ages 13 and up living in Genesee County; family and caregivers are also welcome. Adequate supervision is required. Anyone wanting to volunteer or who needs more information may call Pat Iamon at 245-2918 or Laura Platt at 548-2245. If dances need to be cancelled due to weather, please listen to WBTA.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Open house and fundraiser to help pay for 'hippotherapy' for disabled children

post by Billie Owens in ARC, hippotherapy

Children with disabilities can benefit from hippotherapy. What's that? It's providing speech therapy and physical therapy using the movement of a horse.

From 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, there will be an open house and fundraiser to benefit ARC of Genesee County for hippotherapy. It will take place at Conrad Country Stables at 2638 Pearl St. (Route 33) just outside of Batavia.

There will be a Chinese auction, 50/50 raffle, children's games and refreshments.

Valerie Edwards is the director of the program, which is relatively new to Genesee County. It is called Equine Assisted Therapeutic Services LLC, located at 3389 Dodgeson Road, Alexander. Phone is 585-815-0327.

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 9:49 am

ARC announces annual Chili & Chowder Fest

post by Howard B. Owens in ARC, batavia

Press release:

Community members, area businesses, ARC families and staff have donated more than 100 baskets for Genesee ARC’s 3rd Annual Chili & Chowder Fest and theme basket raffle.  The event is scheduled for Saturday, November 16 at the Genesee ARC Community Center, 38 Woodrow Road, and runs from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“We have a wide range of themes this year ranging from movies and tools, to candles and restaurants and everything in between,” said Shelley Falitico, ARC Development Director and event chair.

With every $10 ticket, participants will have 25 chances to win, along with a chance to win one of two door prizes. There is a group of specialty baskets, valued at $50 or more with 10 tickets at $15. Featured specialty items include Sabres baskets with tickets and parking passes and a wheeled trash can full of cleaning supplies.

This year’s grand prize is a chest freezer that comes with gift cards to area grocers and meat markets, so the winner can fill the freezer. Grand prize chances are $2 each, 3 chances/$5.00 and 8 chances/$10.

A baked goods sale is also planned along with chili and chowder in bowls, to eat in or quarts to take home.

Winners need not be present. The drawings will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Funds raised will benefit disability services in our community.

New this year is a ticket-only sale on Friday, November 15 from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

“We know this is a busy time of year with a lot of weekend events,” Falitico said. “The Committee wanted to offer everyone a chance to win, even if they cannot attend the actual event."

Community members with questions may call Shelley Falitico at the Genesee ARC Community Relations office at (585) 343-4203, ext. 222.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 1:07 pm

ARC's Genesee Lightning brings home the gold (and the silver and the bronze)

post by Howard B. Owens in ARC, softball, sports

Press release:

Genesee Lightning, Genesee ARC’s softball team, recently competed in the Special Olympics regionals competition in Victor and the Special Olympics Fall Classic in Pittsford.  In Victor, the team earned a bronze medal and the skills team brought home two gold, three silver and two bronze medals. At the Fall Classic, the team earned another bronze and the skills team came home with three gold and three bronze medals.

Athletes on the 2013 softball team and skills team were: James Grudzien, Erik Goodrich, Wesley Munt, Chris Jakubowski, Angie Maniaci, Juan Baez, Josh Derrick, Josh Jones, Jason Stimson, Jackie Jones, Chris Hartgrove, Josh Tiede, Shawn Bennett, Tim Markek, Jacob Klotzbach, Brandon Oun, Sara Dieck and Shannon Nigh.

Pictured with the team is Certified Coach, Reneé Potter, Genesee ARC Family Support Services manager (far right) and Team Assistant Coach Eileen Corcoran, Genesee ARC prevocational specialist (far left).

Up next are the Special Olympics winter games. As soon as weather permits Genesee ARC’s Special Olympics snowshoeing team will begin practicing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Kids in summer rec program collecting cans and bottles to benefit ARC youth programs

post by Billie Owens in ARC, batavia, summer recreation project

Press release:

The City of Batavia Summer Recreation Program is well under way and entering the third week of the six-week program. Each year the program sponsors a Community Service Day for all of the children to volunteer and give something back to their community.

This year’s Community Service Project is scheduled for July 23 at all of the parks. There will be a community-wide can/bottle drive to raise money for youth programs at the Genesee ARC.

If you would like to contribute to this worthy cause, please feel free to deliver cans and bottles to any of the parks (Farrall, John Kennedy, Lambert, Williams, Woodward) on or before July 23 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Or you can take cans or bottles to the Batavia Youth Bureau located at 12 MacArthur Drive and program sponsors will make sure the donations are delivered to the parks.

Each park will also visit homes in their park’s neighborhoods on July 23 to solicit cans/bottles for the drive.

If you have any questions or would like to help in any way, please call the Youth Bureau at 345-6420. Thank you for your anticipated assistance and support!

Toni Funke

Program Coordinator


Friday, September 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

ARC 'Trash & Recycling Center' open house showcases new location, bigger recycling efforts

post by Daniel Crofts in ARC, environment, Recycling

Michael Smith hopes that "future generations of our children will ask, 'What were landfills?'"

Smith is the trash/recycling coordinator at Genesee ARC. He is pictured (left) with Floor Supervisor Mark Wood.

His comment was part of an opening speech at last night's open house for the agency's new Trash & Recycling Center.

The open house was in celebration of the center's move from its former location on Clinton Street (in the City of Batavia) to a larger facility at 3785 W. Main St. Road in the Town of Batavia.

Genesee ARC, which serves children and adults with developmental disabilities, has handled the City of Batavia's waste management for nearly 30 years.

"Recycling was a natural spinoff," Smith said.

And now, with New York State's recycling and take-back program for electronic items, they are going to be even busier.

By law, businesses, municipalities and waste collection companies can no longer throw away old computers, TVs, or other covered electronic devices -- known as "e-waste" -- into the trash or into landfills. Instead, the manufacturers must take them back for recycling purposes.

ARC's new Trash & Recycling Center location will house the agency's e-waste recycling efforts, which are part of an expansion of endeavors and a growing need for services that prompted the move to West Main Street Road.

At this time, according to Wood, all of the materials that go through ARC's Trash & Recycling Center are sent to mills around the Northeast region and Canada.

"They take the products and re-manufacture the raw material into new soup cans, new milk cartons, new boxes," etc.

In addition to being good for the environment, the center also give employment opportunities to people with disabilities, which Wood sees as a major plus.

Photos: Top four photos by Howard Owens. Other photos by Dan Crofts.

Government officials present at last night's event included:

Jeremy Bennett, a representative from Congresswoman Kathy Hochul's office, with ARC Executive Director Donna Saskowski.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell, with ARC Director of Development Shelley Falitico.

For more information on ARC's Trash & Recycling Center, click here.

Disclosure: Dan Crofts works for Genesee ARC. He is employed at the Day Habilitation site in Elba.

More pictures (click on the headline for more):

Friday, April 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Geneseean of the Year thrives on helping people become all they can be

post by Billie Owens in ARC, chamber of commerce awards, donna sasnowski

This is the final story in a series about the 2011 award winners of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

One of the most satisfying meals Donna Saskowski ever had was simple fare -- pork chops, Tater Tots and corn. It's one she has never forgotten although it was 20 years ago. A gentleman named Curtis cooked the food at his apartment for his special guest, the lady who worked at Genesee County ARC, and who still does, now as the executive director.

Saskowski, who is the chamber of commerce 2011 Geneseean of the Year, could sense the great pride Curtis had for his accomplishment -- from setting the table and serving the food, to having a pleasant conversation and saying a fond farewell. Guest and host became friends. And Curtis, who is still served by ARC, remains Donna's friend.

Seeing people like Curtis, who is developmentally disabled, accomplish new things, learn a skill or develop a hidden talent gives meaning to Donna's work, helps motivate her and keeps her grounded.

Her inclination to help others improve their lives was fostered in no small part by her mother, the late Helen A. Trowbridge, who was a full-time registered nurse, mother of nine children, working farmer, community volunteer and a graduate of Clown Alley. Yes, Helen attended clown school in her 50s and loved entertaining people, for free, at the ARC, nursing homes, hospitals, etc. With her loud suits and zany bag of tricks, "Gorgible" the Clown made a big impression on her big family to do for others.

Donna grew up in Corfu on the family farm, which is still operated by family members today. Both her parents held full-time outside jobs and also raised crops, chickens, dairy cows and black angus cattle. In other words, "all the things my parents needed to keep nine kids fed and give us activities. It was good," she said.

After graduating from high school, Donna went to college to become a social worker and was briefly employed after getting married. But she decided to stay home and raise two daughters until they entered school. Then she looked for part-time work and landed a job as a residential assistant at ARC after "cold calling" the facility seeking an application.

It was, as they say, a good fit.

"They help me, they give me a lot of inspiration and make me feel good about myself," Saskowski said.

When the people in the ARC community get the support and services they need, they often have new experiences that are life-changing.

"Suddenly, they realize -- maybe because they haven't had other opportunities in their life -- the level of skill they have, how much of a contributing part of the community they can be.

"Sometimes people with developmental disabilities aren't given those opportunities and so they kind of lack confidence or the courage to step up. They know they can do it, but I don't think -- because we often don't have faith in them -- that they want to express it."

When they do, the results can be amazing. Donna has a couple of art works in her office, and there are others displayed elsewhere in the facility on Walnut Street, that show real talent, and certainly beauty.

Events like the Challenger Dance and the Sprout Film Festival also give her clients a chance to blossom.

And that helps her stay energized and focused so she can advocate for them effectively.

In addition to her work at ARC, Donna is active in the community. She is currently serving as secretary for the Batavia Rotary Club, which she joined in 2004, and is a board member of the Regional Action Phone Network.

In 2006, she was named a Leadership Fellow at the Community Health Foundation of Western New York and that was a tremendous experience for her. It enabled her to meet leaders from throughout the region and engage them in a dialogue about the state of health care and health in general.

She has also been a Girl Scout leader and served on the board of the YWCA. She is a member of Leadership Genesee's Class of 2005.

She holds a bachelor's and master's degree in Social Work from the University of Buffalo and was named Social Worker of the Year in 2010 by the Western Division of the New York State Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Donna is highly regarded for her leadership, exceptional ability to work collaboratively, and her commitment to community development.

She lives in Darien with her husband, Paul.

As for being named Geneseean of the Year, Donna is most pleased.

"I have a great support system or else I wouldn't be able to do the things I do -- my staff here, but especially my family, my husband. If he didn't cook all those meals and do all those things when I was in graduate school, and raise the kids for three and a half years, it would have been a tough go. And he did that."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Local ARC Group Helps Salvation Army Ring Bells

post by Robin Walters in ARC, batavia, Care-A-Van Ministries


The Local ARC group was at Walmart helping Salvation Army ring the bells.

Care-A-Van Ministries pulled up with the bus and provided Christmas music for the local shoppers as well. It was a fun night with the two organizations working together.


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Betsy from ARC with Robin Walters, PR Director of Care-A-Van Ministries

Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 11:02 am

ARC's line of pet products passes first-year milestone

post by Diane M. Dole in ARC, Pet Products, pets

If you're in the market for a smart bandana for Bowser or a nifty cap napper for Fifi, the Genesee County ARC has some doggone good pet products that you can buy to support a great cause.

The pet line began a year ago in May. It helps ARC employ people with different types of disabilities, giving them a sense of pride and accomplishment. ARC also makes boxes for jewelry, filters and for Yancy's Fancy cheese.

Paul Saskowski, ARC's marketing manager, came up with the idea for pet products when he noticed that even during a recession, people spend money on their pets. Pets are treated like members of the family and they have their own special needs.

He did extensive research on the types of materials used in making pet products, such as the dog beds, and the prices stores charged. He wanted high-quality products that were durable and competitively priced.

These include: beds, cat nappers, dog bandanas, dog jackets and soon they hope to bring back their toothsome "Bark Bones."

The popular pet beds range from $25 to $75. They are very tough and will take even the most destructive pet awhile to tear it apart.

"We are nearing our 100th bed sold,” said Saskowski.

A heavy, water-resistant canvas is used for the bottom of the pet beds. The bed can easily be wiped down if it gets wet. There are four colors to choose from -- brown, khaki, black and tan. The top is made from a soft fleece and there are six colors/patterns to choose from: camel, rifle green, dog bones, white paws, red paws, and "bow-wow."

The stuffing is made from a cotton blend. To help with recycling and cut down on the amount of unused material, excess padding from ARC's manufacturing of jewelry boxes is included in the stuffing. This also helps make the beds softer. The beds are machine washable. Just throw the bed in the washing machine and follow the care instructions.

They come in small, medium and large. There is also the option of fiberfill or a pillow-top orthopedic, depending on how soft you want the bedding.

"All orders are custom made," he said, this way, customers can choose their own color/pattern and add the pet's name.

One person sews the pet products and she can make two to three beds per day. Once the order is ready, either the customer will pick up the product or Saskowski will drop it off. On rare occasions, an order comes from out of state and the product is packaged and mailed. Most of the orders come from within the area; the farthest one shipped went to Florida.

The cat nappers are $10, made from cozy fleece and have a touch of irresistable catnip sewed into them. They come in a variety of colors. The dog bandanas cost $2 to $4 are also made from fleece with many prints to choose from, including seasonal holiday ones.

The dog jackets also come in a variety of colors and sizes range from x-small, small and medium. Prices are $10-15. Each item can be personalized with your pet's name for only $5 more.

The Bark Bones are an all-natural, oven-baked dog treat. Currently, the ARC kitchen is undergoing renovations and as soon as they are completed, production of the treats will start once again. These have been a big hit. Dogs find them quite tasty.

Currently the pet product line gets all of its business through fliers in various animal hospitals and shelters, at fairs and local markets, and by word-of-mouth.

"We have fliers in the State Street Animal Hospital and in Mount Morris."

ARC anticipates getting a website to sell the pet line soon, making the products easier to order for a greater number of customers. Several organizations are said to be waiting for the website to launch and plan to post a link to it.

All money made from the pet line stays with the Genesee County ARC.

Its mission statement is "...to support people with disabilities in partnership with their families and the community. We embrace the individuals and nurture their social, spiritual, physical and emotional growth."

To order products or find out more, contact Paul Saskowski at (585) 343-1123, ext. 258 or via e-mail at <www.pasaskowski@rochester.rr.com>.

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