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Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Genesee ARC celebrates 'Gives Back Week'

post by Howard Owens in Genesee ARC

Press release:

This is “Gives Back Week” at Genesee ARC, an opportunity to highlight ways individuals served by the local nonprofit help make a difference to other community organizations.  Each ARC Chapter shared a success story for the 2014 Statewide Gives Back publication and Genesee ARC chose to feature Marty, a longtime volunteer at the New York State Veterans Home.

Since 1999 Marty has logged nearly 1,400 hours as a Physical Therapy volunteer at the New York State Veterans Home in Batavia. Each Thursday, he and his Mom, Joan, visit the home to honor and give back to the men and women who so proudly served the United States of America. Marty helps by transporting residents to and from their therapy appointments and both he and Joan assist with housekeeping and clerical duties. They are accompanied by their dog Gator who is known and loved by all of the residents. Marty looks forward to the weekly visits and feels good about helping others.

“I like helping out, I have a lot of friends here,” Marty said.

He greets staff and residents by name, sharing a hello and his heart-warming laughter.   Marty is a valued member of the volunteer team, and considers the Veterans Home his "second family." When asked what kind of impact Marty has on the residents, NYS Veterans Home Volunteer Director Connie Caselli said, “The residents look forward to seeing Marty. He’s a real pleasure and so passionate about volunteering.”

In addition to Marty’s volunteer work at the New York State Veterans Home, individuals at Genesee ARC participate in a variety of other community volunteer placements including:  Assisting with table set-up at the Office for the Aging; Meals on Wheels delivery; Salvation Army Toy Drive collection and bell ringing; Cafeteria aide at a local elementary school; Organizing, sorting and washing books in the children’s room at Richmond Memorial Library; Visiting and interacting with the Human Services Class at Genesee Valley Educational Partnership; Helping to fill 100 backpacks weekly for the United Way Backpack (food) program; Making and delivering homemade cat and dog treats for the Genesee County Animal Shelter and cleaning the cat cages, interacting and playing with the Shelter animals; Adaptive bowling and visiting residents at the Genesee County Nursing Home;  Daycare Childcare Aide; Serving and cleaning at Stephen’s Table Soup Kitchen; Making and delivering coloring books for local pediatricians’ waiting rooms; Collecting needed items for Eagle Star Housing; Straightening clothes and organizing racks at the WYCA's My Sister’s Closet; assistance with cleaning at the Elba Fire Department, Northgate Church and the Bergen First Presbyterian Church.

Genesee ARC is always looking for meaningful volunteer placements or projects for individuals, giving them an opportunity to make a difference and “give back” to the community. If you have a volunteer placement or project idea, please send it to Genesee ARC Director of Development Shelley Falitico at sfalitico@geneseearc.org.

Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Advocacy groups urge state to support services for disabled

post by Bonnie Marrocco in Genesee ARC, NYSARC

Genesee ARC’s parent organization, NYSARC, Inc. and CP of New York State, the leaders of the two largest statewide family founded groups supporting people with disabilities, are calling on Governor Cuomo to make good on commitments by previous administrations to support people with disabilities and their families.

"There is a need for funding programs for people with intellectual disabilities in New York State," Genesee ARC Community Relations Coordinator Sandy Konfederath said. "Our ARC is one of 54 Chapters overseen by NYSARC. We serve 500 people in Genesee County with intellectual and or other developmental disabilities, along with their families. We currently have 280 employees, a majority of which are Direct Support Professionals."

NYSARC and CP of NYS urge the Governor to demonstrate his commitment to the thousands of people with developmental disabilities in New York by investing in services which are critical to the well-being of these vulnerable citizens.

"The supports and services for people with developmental disabilities have been cut by almost $400 million over the past four years," Susan Constantino, President & CEO of CP of NYS said. "These cuts have come at a time when we are seeking to find new ways to truly integrate people in communities statewide – taking money away from needed supports and services goes against the longer term goals of person-centered planning and community integration. This is why we have asked the legislature to add an additional $11.25 million into this year's budget for the development of new supports and services for more than 300 individuals with high priority needs who reside at home with their families."

The need for this funding has been exacerbated by the Governor's 2014-15 budget proposal, which eliminates year-projected investments. These proposed reductions come on the heels of cuts over the past four years and lowers the State's investment in services for people with developmental disabilities for years to come.

"Our request for additional funding is both reasonable and responsible, striking a balance between the State's priority to be fiscally prudent and our mutual obligation to serve families who are becoming more desperate," NYSARC Executive Director Marc Brandt said. "Without essential supports, both in and out of home, families and their loved ones are finding the promise of being included in society to the fullest extent possible beyond their grasp. That promise was enunciated in the Olmstead Supreme Court Decision and embraced by this Administration."

While some reports contend that New York State ranks first in Medicaid spending for people with disabilities, prior to these cuts, and when compared nationally, New York State spending on not-for-profit supports and services for individuals with developmental disabilities ranks 36th among all states (2010 University of Minnesota study).

"Not-for-profits have been working hard to make ours a highly efficient system of care and the numbers show it," Brandt said. "But too many families are at or beyond the breaking point."

The need for services, such as meaningful day activities, at home support, out of home residential services, as well as other services, surpasses any funding amounts that have been suggested, particularly for those who can no longer live safely with their families.

According to The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), as of April 2013, over 12,000 people statewide were waiting for residential services and approximately 4,200 of those people stated that the need was immediate. Additionally, more than 14,000 people were waiting for a day service.

"Our request for funds would go a small way toward helping provide these acutely needed services and the demand for services will continue to grow as nearly 3,000 individuals with severe cognitive disabilities will be aging out of New York's educational system as of June 2014," Constantino said.

NYSARC, Inc. is the largest not-for-profit organization in the United States. They support people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, as well as their families.

CP of NYS is a statewide organization with affiliates across the state. They employ 18,000 individuals to support people with developmental disabilities, as well as their families.



Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 11:55 am

Richenberg wins fifth straight ARC 5K in Elba

post by Howard Owens in 5K, elba, Genesee ARC, sports

While rain seemed to encourage a few of the ARC 5K walkers to shorten the course today, it didn't slow down Michael Richenberg (second picture), who won the race in Elba for the fifth straight year.

A slow drizzle turned into a bit of a downpour about a minute into the race, but hundreds of runners still completed the course.

Race results are not yet available.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the full race results.

Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 10:44 am

Photo: ARC makes its rounds on last day of contracted service to the city

post by Howard Owens in bativia, garbage collection, Genesee ARC

Genesee ARC crews were out and about this morning picking up garbage. It's the last day of a 28-year run for ARC as the contracted trash collector for the City of Batavia. From now on, residents are required to arrange for their own garbage collection with a private hauler. ARC is going into competition with five other companies that will provide trash service.

Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Genesee ARC holds annual banquet and awards ceremony

post by Howard Owens in Genesee ARC

Press release:

Genesee ARC’s Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate and say thank you to those who have made a difference to Genesee ARC over the past year.

In addressing guests at Friday’s event at the Clarion Hotel, Executive Director Donna Saskowski described the last 12 months as challenging.

“We have faced the loss of a major contract (trash and recycling) as well as state budget reductions that may change how we do business in the future,” Saskowski said. "However, through all of that I continue to see a very dedicated group of staff and supportive families working to help guide our way."

Looking to the future, Saskowski said, “We are not going anywhere; we are here for the long haul. I can say this with conviction because our mission is to provide supports and services to individuals with disabilities and their families.”

The 2013 Spirit of ARC Award was presented to the Genesee County Office for the Aging and Director Pamela Whitmore. This award was established eight years ago to recognize an organization, business, family or individual that exemplifies the mission of ARC. Genesee ARC’s relationship with the Office for the Aging began more than three years ago when they reached out to ARC’s vocational department to request assistance in setting up tables for various activities at the Senior Center on Bank Street. This has resulted in part-time employment for three or four people several times per week ever since.

Earlier this year, Genesee ARC’s Culinary Arts Program was awarded the contract to provide meals for Genesee County’s Meals on Wheels program.

“This was the beginning of four new jobs for people we support,” Saskowski said. “Ten months later we are producing more than 100 meals daily and this contract maintains employment for those four people who are also doing something they love.”

Additionally, the Genesee County Office of the Aging provides support to some ARC seniors and assistance with tax preparation each year for many people served by ARC.

Volunteer of the Year honors were presented to Dawn Fisher, a Human Services teacher at Genesee Valley Educational Partnership.

Saskowski said, “Dawn embraces the values of integrity, honesty, and independence and is always looking for integration opportunities for people with disabilities.”

Fisher coordinates many activities involving her human services students and individuals from ARC. The Volunteer of the Year is also active in the Challenger Sports program, is a key volunteer for the Challenger Winter Fun Day and is a longtime member of the Down Syndrome Parent Support Group of Genesee County that has been supportive of Genesee ARC’s mission.

In the youth category, the spotlight was on Ashley McCormack, 12, of Darien as she was presented Youth Spotlight Award. ARC Director of Development Shelley Falitico presented the award and shared that when Ashley has a goal in mind, she does everything she can to accomplish it!

“Last fall Ashley raised $875.00 for Genesee ARC through the Challenger Sports Bowling Party. In 2010, she raised $610,” Falitico said.

Ashley has been involved in Challenger Sports since ARC’s collaboration with the YMCA began seven years ago.

“Whether soccer, dance, bowling or baseball, Ashley always gives 110 percent,” Falitico said.  

Friend of ARC Awards were presented to:

Laverne Bates, for helping develop a golf program for individuals with disabilities served by Genesee ARC and for enlisting the enthusiastic volunteer support of his family;

Ben Bonarigo, in recognition of his longtime support and commitment of Genesee ARC programs and services;

Deirdre Pehrson, a special education teacher at Genesee Valley Educational Partnership for going above and beyond to help her students excel and succeed;

Mosman Paint & Wallpaper for the difference they make in the lives of individuals with disabilities at the Genesee ARC Day Habilitation Center by donating items used for arts and crafts;

Brandon Armstrong, owner of City Styles Barber Shop, was recognized for his welcoming ways with individuals from one of ARC’s residences, who are customers of the shop;

and Cory Weber, a volunteer who has helped out with Special Olympics Track & Field, Softball and Snowshoeing competitions.

The following received Genesee ARC Achievement awards: Tyler Kreutter,
Stacy Gill, Deborah Lehman, Sarah Dieck, Jennifer Pawlak, Betsy Hamilton, Valerie Penepent, Terry Warters and Samuel Russell.

Genesee Staff Shining Star honorees for 2013 are: Vanessa Dempsey, Medicaid Service coordinator; Theresa O’Hearn, Day Habilitation specialist; Catherine Pangrazio, bus aide; Rebecca Podlasek, Culinary Arts specialist and Karen Roesch, residential assistant.

Longevity awards went to the following individuals: Dan O’Grady, Joe Barone and George Hughes -- 40 years;  Madaline Cleveland, Jeff Glazier, Liana Harding -- 35 years; Julieanne George, Sherry Markle -- 30 years; Judy Chapell, Ben Conwell, Paul Alexander -- 25 years; William, Joseph Mergler, Paul Miller, Alan Nygard, Cheryl Squires, Dolores Wanser, Rebecca Ritz and Marguerite Rodriguez -- 20 years.

Staff longevity award recipients were: Sandy Konfederath -- 20 years; Joseph Hoak, Teresa Hodge, Nicole Mudrzynski and Traci Manes -- 15 years;  Andrea Anderson, Leoti Cudney, Jennifer Elmore, Sandra Moskal, Catherine Schultz and April Zeilman -- 10 years.

The Master of Ceremonies was Assemblyman Steve Hawley. There were more than 325 guests in attendance at the banquet, which also serves as Genesee ARC’s official annual meeting.

Board Officers for the upcoming year are: Candie Pocock, president; Debrah Fischer, vice president; Jane Scott, treasurer and Deborah Riggi, secretary.

Photo from Genesee ARC. Pictured are, Pam Whitmore, representing the Genesee County Office for the Aging -- Spirit of ARC Award; Dawn Fisher -- Volunteer of the Year; Assemblyman Steve Hawley -- Master of Ceremonies; Donna Saskowski -- ARC Executive Director, and (seated), Ashley McCormack -- Youth Spotlight Award.

Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Photos: Genesee ARC hosts annual Stardust Ball

post by Howard Owens in byron, Genesee ARC, Stardust Ball

Tonight Genesee ARC hosted its annual Stardust Ball at the Byron Fire Hall.

Some 65 people, including ARC clients and family members, attended the event.

Couples were encouraged to wear the best gowns or suits and each received a handmade -- by volunteers -- corsage or boutonnière. Attendees could also get a formal portrait taken as a keepsake.

Top photo, Josh Derick (a big fan of The Batavian) and Jennifer Pavlick.

Steven Jenney and Joanne Ladd

Collin Wickings and Nicole Hirtzel

Justin Shaw and Colleen Fisher

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 8:58 am

Council hears from public on proposed changes to trash collection law

post by Howard Owens in batavia, garbage collection, Genesee ARC

There was nearly a full house for Monday night's public hearing on proposed changes to the City of Batavia's garbage collection law.

Most speakers -- and most applauders -- argued for some variation of "keep Genesee ARC" as the city's official garbage collection agency.

A couple of speakers said the city should get out of the garbage business.

There was no vote or comment by the council itself Monday. Council members did what they do at public hearings -- sat and listened.

The council is considering a proposed change to the ordinance that would take the cost of garbage collection off the tax rolls, end a 28-year relationship with Genesee ARC, and leave it up to each individual resident to contract with a garbage collection company of his or her choice.

Even the speakers who favor free choice said they would go with Genesee ARC if the price was competitive.

"If ARC chooses to provide trash service I will go with them," said John Roach, who supports the proposal to get the city out of the trash business. "It's the right thing to do and a good many people feel the same way."

But many supporters, such as Carol Grasso, said the city has pulled a fast one on residents by proposing a single-payer, pay-as-you-throw tote system and then when people protested, just saying, "OK, we'll get out of the trash business."

"Council may have misunderstood what we wanted," Grasso said. "Many of us wanted it to stay the way it was."

Grasso suggested that if the council votes for the new ordinance, come November, local voters may just "throw out the garbage."

Mary Ellen Wilber suggested that supporters of ARC may just seek the 400 signatures necessary for a ballot initiative to overturn any decision that gets the city out of the trash business.

"We need to do something together as a city and work together," Wilbur said. "You guys need to understand it wasn’t really broken. I don’t know what happened that this came to this point, but it has to be equitable for everybody."

Thomas Houseknecht said the proposed change unfairly increases the cost for city residents who can least afford the increase and offered to serve on a committee that would help the city come up with a better plan for garbage collection.

Several people made such an offer, and even supporters of choice, such as Jim Rosenbeck, said the city hasn't collected enough public input, studied the issue thoroughly and given it enough time.

"Trying to make the decision in two months is unfair to people," Rosenbeck said.

While he also offered to serve on a trash committee, Rosenbeck clearly favors getting the city out of the trash business.

"I don't believe the sky will fall if the city gets out of the trash collection business," Rosenbeck said. "It works in the town. It works in other communities. I think if trash piles up on the streets, you folks are charged with making sure that's taken care of, and I trust that you will."

Donna Rae Sutherland said the city getting out of the trash business is "bad governance" because it's the city's responsibility to provide shared services that benefit all residents.

Part of the economic calculation, she said, needs to include the local impact of Genesee ARC on jobs created, taxes paid, money spent locally -- the whole multiplier effect of local employment.

A trash collection committee should be formed, she said, to come up with a plan in conjunction with ARC that will increase recycling and create shared revenue with the city.

A select-your-own system, she said, is just going to lead to problems.

"Absentee landlords and unruly tenants will certainly clash over who pays and who is responsible for trash collection," Sutherland said. "Neighbors with garbage contacts and business owners with Dumpsters will find other people’s trash added to their own. Pocket parks and green spaces and back alleys will become drop garbage zones and our streets will become more congested with trash vendors."

Roach said, free choice works in other communities and there's no reason it can't work in Batavia.

"Former City Council President Charlie Mallow has moved to Webster where they have this free choice system and everybody has a different service provider," Roach said. "According to the former city council president, it is not a major problem, trucks running up and down the streets or anything like that. It’s workable. Glens Falls doesn’t have a problem. Saratoga doesn’t have a problem. The Town of Batavia doesn’t have a problem. Get out of the trash business. I don’t need anybody telling me who I have to hire."

Monday, March 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Genesee ARC concerned about state funding cuts to disability programs

post by Howard Owens in Genesee ARC

Below is a press release from the parent organization of Genesee ARC about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed cuts to funding for programs that assist people with developmental disabilities.

According to Sandy Konfederath, of Genesee ARC, the proposed cuts would "equal $600,000" for the local agency.

The photo is of Deb and Mike Riggi, of Oakfield, and their daughters, Masha and Cassidy, during a meeting Saturday with Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer. Deb Riggi is a Genesee ARC board member. The Riggis and Genesee ARC Executive Director Donna Saskowski met with the Senator to discuss the local impact such funding cuts.

Press release:

NYSARC, Inc., the nation's largest nonprofit agency serving people with developmental disabilities, is urging the Legislature and the Governor to approve a final budget deal restoring $120 million in State funding to programs and services for people with developmental disabilities.

The reduction is a result of a 6 percent across-the-board cut which was contained in the Governor's budget. When federal funds are included, the cut is $240 million.

"These cuts are catastrophic," said NYSARC Executive Director Marc Brandt. "They are in addition to the nearly $350 million in cuts developmental disabilities services have sustained over the past three years."

Agencies throughout New York State care for 126,000 individuals with developmental disabilities. It is the largest system of its kind in the nation.

Brandt said that "We expect that many agencies will sharply curtail service and some may face closure" as they are unable to meet payroll and pay for goods and services.

"Many of these agencies serve vulnerable people, some of whom are medically frail, many of whom require 24-hour care. We don't know what will happen with them. Many, particularly adults, have no families to step in should an agency fail. This is a recipe for disaster for this population."

Furthermore, Brandt added, "the staff that provides hands-on care are already stretched to the breaking point from prior year cuts and a staggering onslaught of regulations."

"Seventy percent of all agency funding goes to pay these individuals. Simple math will force these employees to absorb layoffs, shortened hours, and increased medical costs."

"Now, these cuts will push many of these staff beyond the breaking point. Many of people they care for will find their quality of care eroded and be exposed to far greater health and safety risks."

"The Governor's Justice Center was aimed at enhancing the health and safety of the people we serve. We strongly support the Justice Center. However, we can't help but note that these cuts will undermine the primary aim of the Justice Center -- to safeguard the people we serve."

"When New York State elected to build a large system of community-based care for people with developmental disabilities, it accepted a moral responsibility for decent care. Some argue that a system this large should never have been built. But over decades, New York State built it. That reality won't go away. The State must continue to own up to its clear moral obligation to provide decent care to tens of thousands of people with developmental disabilities and their families. The State must eliminate this cut."

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Trash tops tonight's city council agenda

post by Howard Owens in batavia, garbage collection, Genesee ARC

The Batavia City Council meets at city hall tonight at 7 o'clock and top on the agenda are the proposed changes to how garbage and recycling are collected in the city.

The council will be asked to pass several resolutions, which will: alter the city's solid waste code; enter into a bond anticipation note to buy totes; enter into a contract with Allied Waste Services for trash and recycling collection; purchase totes from Cascade Engineering; establish a refuse and recycling fund; and set a refuse and recycling user fee.

All must pass in order for a new system to go into effect.

Supporters of Genesee ARC are expected once again to fill council chambers in hopes of persuading at least five council members to vote against the proposed plan.

If the changes go through, a 28-year relationship between ARC and the city for garbage collection comes to an end.

Following the seven resolution items, the council will be asked to adopt a budget resolution. The budget contains an 16-percent cut in the property tax rate. The reduction hinges on the new trash program. If that vote fails, it's unlikely the council will be able to approve the proposed budget and the city will need to redraft the budget.

There is no agenda item for public comment during the special business meeting.

Following the special business meeting, the council will hold a conference meeting.

On the conference meeting agenda are items to establish an investment policy and the Dwyer Stadium lease for the Batavia Muckdogs.

Also on the agenda is consideration of foreclosed properties.

The city has foreclosed on five properties for delinquent property taxes. City staff is recommending three of the properties go up for public auction and that two of the properites be provided to Habitat for Humanity for restoration.

Recommended for auction are:

  • 339-341 Ellicott St., zoned commercial, valued at $60,000 and with $23,061.57 in unpaid property taxes.
  • 10 Swan St., zoned commercial (but looks like a residential property), valued at $61,000 and with $18,730.08 in back taxes.
  • 61 Oak St., single family, valued at $83,000 and with $24,894.08 in taxes owed.

Recommended for Habitat are 11 Harvester Ave. and 2 McKinley. Both properties were once owned by the Pontillo family. Both properties have been vacant for a considerable amount of time. Habitat, according to the staff report, has reviewed both properties and expressed an interest.

Over the past seven years, Habitat has rehabilitated five single-family homes in the city. The average assessed value has climbed from $49,520 to $68,400.

Monday, February 11, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Just in case, ARC and BDC looking at job options for those who might be out of work when trash contract ends

post by Howard Owens in batavia, garbage collection, Genesee ARC

Even as supporters of Genesee ARC hope to garner enough public support to sway the Batavia City Council away from trashing a 30-year relationship for garbage collection in the city, the agency is looking at its options should it lose the garbage contact.

ARC Executive Director Donna Saskowski said she's formed an internal task force to look at all of the options for the agency.

The core mission of ARC, Saskowski said, is to provide services and employment to people with disabilities. That will not change, regardless of the outcome of the proposed changes to the local solid waste law.

"My job is to take care of the people we serve," Saskowski said. "We're researching as many options as possible."

Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp. (BDC), has also stepped in to help line up resources for placing any agency employees who might otherwise be eligible for unemployment.

Of the 30 people who work in the garbage and recycling collection program, some are more properly classified as clients of ARC, Saskowski explained, and even though they are paid for their work, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Those people, Saskowski said, will continue to be assigned work by ARC one way or the other.

Another group are actually employees of the agency and must work in community-based employment.

If jobs are not found for them, they would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

There are approximately -- the number fluctuates -- 15 such people.

Some of the agency's employees who could be affected by a loss of the contract have no disabilities.

Pacatte is pulling together resources, including the county's Job Development Bureau to help them find work.

There are private employers who have already expressed an interest and both Pacatte and Saskowski hope more come forward.

Nationally, 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed.

"We're looking for any company that could use a well-trained, dedicated workforce," Saskowski said. "We work with each individual and try to find the best situation for (him or her)."

Pacatte said there are a few tax-credit programs employers can benefit from if they hire a person with a disability.

Working to help ARC is what the BDC should do, Pacatte said, "with any company that is anticipating any kind of major shift in their workforce."

If the council votes against the proposed ordinance change, Saskowski said she doesn't really know what will happen with garbage collection in Batavia come March 31 when the current contract expires. She referred that question to City Manager Jason Molino.

"I couldn't even address it at this point," Saskowski said.

Late this afternoon, Molino wasn't immediately available for comment.

Along with finding jobs for anyone displaced by a change in garbage collection, ARC is looking for other companies to do contract work for and other entrepreneurial options.

"We're looking at just about anything and everything," Saskowski said.

Information for employers:

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