CELORON - More than 130 people turned out for the 21st annual Disability Awareness Awards Celebration, sponsored by The Resource Center and TRC Foundation.
The event was held Oct. 13 at TRC's administrative offices, located at 200 Dunham Ave., in Celoron. The awards pay tribute to individuals with disabilities who have made significant accomplishments in their lives during the past year, as well as recognize community members, businesses and other organizations that have helped make a difference in improving the lives of persons with disabling conditions.
The 2009 award recipients were:
North County residents who received Disability Awareness Awards included, from left, Lillian Johnson of Fredonia, Outstanding Achievement; Andy Dyckes of Fredonia, Outstanding Performer; Josie Klee of Forestville, Success of the Year; and Virginia Matteson of Dunkirk, Mental Health Award.
Elmer J. Muench Volunteer of the Year - Evelyn Wright-Kegelmyer of Cassadaga has been a dedicated volunteer at Laurel Run for years, organizing the registration process and helping to sell the special "Laurel Run" edition published by the OBSERVER. She also shows initiative in other areas. For the past several years, Wright-Kegelmyer has created and organized two fund-raising events - a basket raffle at The Resource Center's annual Staff Picnic, as well as a Craft Sale to raise money for TRC's Toys for Tots drive. And, she plays a major part each year in putting together TRC's bake sale to raise funds for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. This award is named in honor of the late Elmer Muench, a longtime advocate for individuals with disabilities.
Outstanding Achievement - Lillian Johnson of Fredonia. Last year, Johnson decided to write a book about her life. Enlisting the help of her staff at The Resource Center, she was able to do that. The 14-chapter book is titled "You Have to Have Love in Your Heart," and it describes the way Johnson lives her life. She sends birthday cards and gifts to her friends, and she always thinks of something nice to say when someone is feeling down. Johnson participates in several programs, including Chautauqua County Adult Day Care, The Resource Center's Dunkirk Work Center and TRC's Dunkirk Day Habilitation Program, and she lives in a TRC home. She also volunteers at Holy Trinity School.
Edwin W. Roth Mental Health Award - Virginia Matteson of Dunkirk. With the support of programs such as Chautauqua County Single Point of Access, the Saint Agnes Home, Southern Tier Environments for Living, and The Resource Center's "Gateways" Continuing Day Treatment, Matteson has shown the strength to overcome serious personal situations. Displaying the courage and determination to share her story, Matteson has inspired others to open up about traumatic events in their own lives. She works with and volunteers for The Salvation Army's Domestic Violence Unit. She is a founding and cornerstone member of the Gateways Program's Team of Hope, a group of people with mental health challenges who are active volunteers in northern Chautauqua County. Matteson is the first to volunteer for a multitude of projects throughout the community, often working behind the scenes by cooking meals and setting up for a variety of special events. The award is named for the late Ed Roth, an official with the New York State Office of Mental Health, who was a strong advocate for people challenged by mental illness.
Success of the Year - Josephine Klee of Forestville's world was turned upside down when her mother died, but she persevered and never gave up. A broken ankle and the subsequent eight weeks of physical therapy in a nursing facility brought Klee challenges that included physical pain and separation from her friends and her home. But she handled the situation with fortitude and flexibility. As a member of the Gateways Team of Hope, Klee has volunteered for the United Way, Relay for Life, The Salvation Army, and the "Out of the Darkness" Walk for Suicide Prevention. She works behind the scenes of many fund-raising events at Gateways by shopping, donating money, making posters, and cheering on her peers. Her passion is the Laurel Run, and she is the first to sign up to volunteer, helping to distribute posters and sell newspapers before the event, and then working at the registration table and handing out medals and water to the runners and walkers. Klee works as a substitute cleaner at the New York State Thruway as part of The Resource Center's Supported Employment Program. During the past year, she has shown outstanding growth in the area of social and relational skills.
NYSID Outstanding Performer - Andy Dyckes of Fredonia was one of 49 people across New York State to be named an Outstanding Performer by NYSID (New York State Industries for the Disabled). For more than 15 years, Dyckes has had a cleaning job with the Fredonia Central School District through The Resource Center's Supported Employment Program and Environmental Services, TRC's janitorial division. He is in charge of a section of the Middle School building and is responsible for cleaning; dusting; sweeping, mopping and buffing floors; and collecting trash. Dyckes gets along well with his co-workers and likes it when teachers ask him to complete special tasks for them. He is always willing to fill in when asked, doing other tasks or working at other facilities.
Lifetime Achievement - In conjunction with The Resource Center's 50th anniversary, the agency recognized past presidents of its board of directors. While some of them are deceased or no longer living in the area, several past presidents attended the event: Marie Carrubba, James Chimenti, Harry Glatz, Michael Felice, William Haenggi and Wayne Hotelling.
Advocate of the Year - Bruce Jackson of Lakewood. Jackson has worked at The Resource Center for 25 years, the past 20 of which have been spent serving children with special needs. For many parents, their first real contact with The Resource Center is Jackson. His mild manner and wealth of knowledge are a comfort to parents coping with the realization that their child has a developmental delay. Jackson assists parents in obtaining therapeutic services for their children and helps parents understand their rights with regard to the educational system and be aware of the school-based services their children are entitled to receive.
Allied Industries Business Partner - Jamestown Container Corporation of Falconer. Jamestown Container has been a partner of Allied Industries, The Resource Center's manufacturing and employment division, for more than 30 years. TRC's relationship with Jamestown Container is unique in that not only does Jamestown Container subcontract work to the production departments at Allied Industries, the company also is an integral part of the supply chain for Allied's government and commercial sewing business, supplying corrugated containers for many of the products Allied ships throughout the world. Three to eight people with disabling conditions work on Jamestown Container projects every day in areas such as hand assembly of impact boxes, partitions, ink cartridge recycle boxes, and cooling separating covers for high-temperature molds; gluing pallet lids; and taping foam to corrugated pads. Last year, the work provided to Allied by Jamestown Container resulted in the production of 225,000 units, more than $42,000 in wages and $50,000 in revenue.
Carl Cappa Humanitarian of the Year - Margaret Look of Nye, Mont., has been involved with The Resource Center since its early years, when the agency was trying to educate the public about the need for services to assist people with disabilities in leading productive lives. She used her position as a reporter and news editor at The Post-Journal to ensure that numerous articles about the agency appeared in the local paper. Her involvement with TRC became more personal when her son began attending the Work Center Program. She subsequently served on TRC's Board of Directors in the 1960s and '70s. In 2001, Look established a fund that people can access to acquire clothes (for job interviews, work or recreational activities such as swimming) or to have their hair cut or styled. Since the establishment of the Look Good Fund, its focus has expanded to also provide transportation vouchers and other needed items, such as eyeglasses. Look created the Look Good Fund because of her belief that people with disabilities are more readily accepted by society when they look their best. To date, more than 200 people have benefited from the fund. The award is named in honor of the late Carl Cappa, a Jamestown businessman and philanthropist who served as the chair of TRC Foundation's board of directors
Community Support - Bair Music of Hillsdale, Pa. The father-son team of Gary Bair and Jamie Braley were honored for their efforts in conjunction with monthly dances that The Resource Center hosts for individuals with developmental disabilities. Braley used to receive services from TRC and work on one of the agency's Environmental Services janitorial crews before leaving to join his father's disc jockey business. For the monthly dances, the pair makes the 100-mile, one-way drive to Jamestown. With a catalog of more than 300,000 songs, Bair Music can satisfy just about any request from the audience. Bair and Braley also go to lengths to make sure the dances are fun and that everyone is happy, giving away hats and other merchandise in keeping with the theme for each particular dance.
Employer of the Year - Weber Knapp Company of Jamestown. The Weber Knapp Company, a manufacturer of custom mechanical motion-control components, was recognized for its efforts on behalf of an employee with multiple sclerosis. During the past 12 years, Weber Knapp has made whatever accommodations necessary in order for the employee to maintain his job as an electrician.
Health Provider of the Year - Marcia Wells of Jamestown is the nurse at TRC's Counseling and Psychiatric Services office on East Fourth Street in Jamestown. Wells advocates for each patient's right to receive the best quality of medications for their needs, dealing with insurance companies to obtain authorization for her patients to receive medications their insurance may not cover. Wells consistently communicates with physicians' offices regarding patient care; advises social workers and psychiatrists of patient complaints and concerns; and will also answer phones, cover the reception desk and file paperwork when the front office is short-handed. When she knows she will be taking time off from work, Wells prepares prescriptions for patients who will be requiring refills while she is away. She also tries to schedule her time off around the doctors' off-days to make things easier on the clinic staff. She also occasionally covers TRC's Dunkirk counseling office, when needed.
Masters of Ceremonies for the event were Steve Waterson, TRC's community relations director, and Phil Tronolone, a marketing and advertising executive who produced and narrated TRC's video, "A Full Life." Remarks were given by Paul Cesana, who is The Resource Center's executive director and the president of TRC Foundation, and Michael Metzger, the president of The Resource Center's Board of Directors.
Vanessa Maldonado, who participates in TRC's "Passages" Continuing Day Treatment Program, received a standing ovation for reciting a raw, original poem about her efforts to overcome mental illness that was brought about by a traumatic childhood. Musical entertainment was provided by harpist Thomas Williams. Artwork created by Passages Program participants was on display.
Following the presentation of the awards, Flame entertained the audience. Flame is a group of musicians with disabilities from Fulton County, N.Y.
Those community members who served on the selection committee for this year's Disability Awareness Awards were Lexi Bishop of the Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena; Annette Carlson, Phillips Lytle; Libby Nord, Lucy Desi Center; Clark Poppleton, recently retired from The Resource Center; William Prieto, Advertising Advantage; Delana Rupp, Jamestown Community College; and Melissa Uber, Quick Solutions USA.