Inspiring stories, expanding services in Rochester
Inspiring stories, expanding services in Rochester
Making a Difference, One Penny at a Time
For many people, pennies are nothing more than loose change that takes up space in pockets and wallets. Yet for Amherst resident and People Inc. program participant, Jonathan “Jon” Roesser, pennies mean a great deal more.
As a high school student, Jon lost a friend to leukemia and, together with his classmates, took part in a drive to collect "Pennies for Patients" to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The effort inspired him so much that, even after he’d graduated in 2011, Jon wanted to continue collecting pennies for the charity. With support from his mother, Karen; family; friends and his church community, Jon was able to do just that. But it wasn’t until he started taking part in People Inc.’s Life Quality Coaching Program that Jon set an even bigger goal for himself.
With the help of People Inc. Life Quality Coach Nick Cacciotti, Jon strove towards participating in the Gelatin Splash, an annual event hosted by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which allows donors who have raised at least $500 the opportunity to slide into a pool of gelatin. On June 9, 2016, he did it! The event was a fun incentive to collecting and a great way for Jon to stay involved with his favorite charity. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he took part again this year!
Over the past nine years, Jon (affectionately known by many as “the Penny Guy”) has collected more than $2,500 in pennies for cancer research – and he’s not slowing down any time soon. In the future, he hopes to get a group of friends together to collect even more. “I like being able to collect pennies,” Jon said, “and I’m not stopping until there is a cure for leukemia!”
If you would like to support Jon’s efforts with penny donations, contact Nick Cacciotti at
Courtney Goes to Prom in Style!
Courtney Jordan, a 21-year-old resident at one of our group homes in Blasdell, was counting the days to her senior prom.
As a student at Summit Academy, a program of The Summit Center, Courtney has autism and recently attended her prom with friends at Kenmore United Methodist Church. With “The Great Gatsby” as the theme of the night, Courtney turned to a staff member, Donna Hopkins, to help her accessorize her outfit.
Adorned in feathers and beads to match the style of the 1920s, Courtney had an awesome time at the dance and was even named prom queen!
Donna is one of our many direct support professionals who goes the extra mile to help make memorable occasions for the people we serve extra special. “The look on her face followed by a big smile was priceless when she saw the feather belt and headband,” Donna said. “Courtney is just such an awesome person; it’s a privilege to work with her.”
Courtney’s mom, Mary Shoemaker, said that her daughter embraced the entire prom experience. Mary said, “I’ve never seen her smile so much – she really enjoyed the whole day!”
Continuing to Expand Services in Rochester
People Inc.’s expansion into Rochester, NY continues and creates new opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities, along with employment opportunities. Some updates include:
• People Inc.’s After-School Respite Program has partnered with Mary Cariola Children’s Center in Rochester. The program moved to its new location at 1544 Mt. Hope Avenue, where participants will benefit from a larger physical education space, kitchen and other accommodations. “The move to Mary Cariola’s building has allowed our after-school children to enjoy larger spaces to exercise, wind down after the school day and develop relationships with peers,” said Anna Korus, senior vice president, People Inc. To learn more, click here.
• People Inc.’s Elmwood Health Center, a primary care facility offering primary and specialty health care services, is expanding services into Monroe County, with two new locations in Rochester. This expansion is through a partnership with Lifetime Assistance Inc., an agency providing services for people with developmental disabilities. The expansion will increase access to rehabilitation services, providing additional health care options for people with developmental disabilities, along with creating employment opportunities. To learn more, click here.
People Inc. Honored at DD Day Conference
Last month, People Inc. participated in the 29th Annual Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day (DD Day) Conference, where we shared information about our services and celebrated the accomplishments of people with developmental disabilities. During the awards luncheon, Bill Schultz (pictured here), a longtime member of our team, was presented with the well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. People Inc. was honored to receive the Partnership Award for its strong emphasis on ensuring self-advocacy for those we serve. In addition, Western New York Family Magazine, nominated by People Inc. for its contributions to the special needs community, was honored with the Community Service Award. Congratulations to all! To view photos from the event, click here.
People Inc. in the Community
Our leadership team and staff members work tirelessly to share our agency’s mission throughout our community. People Inc. recently participated in an Equal Rights Amendment rally with Senator Timothy Kennedy, The Allentown Association, The Buffalo Urban League and other organizations. The rally participants advocated for equal rights and protections for all New Yorkers, including people with disabilities. For a Spectrum News Buffalo interview with People Inc. Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Kevin Horrigan, click here.
Get Social with Us!
People Inc. news, program updates, fun photos and events are included on social media. It’s a great way to stay updated! Follow us on various social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
Featured Job of the Month: Community-Based Instructors
People Inc. is currently hiring full and part-time community-based instructors for locations in Buffalo, Depew, Hamburg and North Collins. As a community-based instructor, you are able to have a flexible schedule and work one-on-one with individuals who have developmental disabilities to assist them in daily life activities. To apply for this employment opportunity or view other available openings, click here.
Skills Enhancement Program Provides Free Training for Parents
People Inc.’s Skills Enhancement Program assists parents of young adults who have a developmental disability, ages 15-24, in fostering positive relationships and adjusting to life transitions. Parents learn to foster a positive relationship through effective communication and respect, along with facilitating a healthy living environment. Young adults learn to build trusting relationships through mutual respect and develop conflict-resolution techniques. To learn how to register for upcoming summer training sessions, contact Shannon Bianco at or by calling 716.880.3826. The free training is made possible by a Family Support Services grant through the Western New York Developmental Disabilities State Operations Office.
People Inc.’s New Integrated Housing Project Opening Soon
People Inc.’s new, integrated housing project, Highland School Apartments, is opening this summer. Located on 105 Highland Avenue in Tonawanda, the project brings together a diverse group of people; as tenants can be those with disabilities and the general public who are income eligible.
The adaptive, reuse project includes substantial rehabilitation of the two-story former Highland School, into an integrated, vibrant residential community. The building includes one or two-bedroom apartments with kitchen appliances. Tenants are welcome to have one small pet. A community room with Wi-Fi, laundry facility, storage in each apartment and a 24-hour on-call emergency service will also be available.
Apartment applications are still being accepted for the waitlist. To learn how to apply, click here, email or call 716.880.3890.
Recognizing Senior Companions
Last month, the People Inc. Senior Companion Program’s Annual Recognition Luncheon was held at the George K. Arthur Community Center in Buffalo. The event honored companion volunteers who assist seniors throughout the program. Fifty-eight companions attended the event and all received a certificate of appreciation, thanking them for their dedication and years of service. The volunteers, pictured here alongside employees and George K. Arthur, community leader and historian (far right), were recognized for going above and beyond in assisting fellow seniors.
Volunteers, known as “Companions,” assist participating seniors with grocery shopping, light cooking and housekeeping and provide a break for caregivers. The program matches qualified volunteers, age 55 or over who live in Erie County, with participating seniors. Volunteers earn a stipend, mileage and meal reimbursement, along with rewarding experiences.
The program is currently recruiting for additional volunteers. To learn more and to find out about upcoming training sessions, call 716.768.2381 or click here for a video.
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Four Ways to Support People Inc.’s Golf Fundraiser and Auction
The 16th Annual People Inc. Drive Fore Disabilities Golf Tournament will be held on Monday, August 21, at the Orchard Park Country Club in Orchard Park. This is a great event to entertain your clients, reward staff or just have a great day with friends. Participants will enjoy a BBQ lunch, golfer gift, a round of golf, cocktail hour, silent auction and gourmet dinner. There are many ways to support our fundraiser, including:
1. Businesses can form a twosome or foursome team. Click here to register.
2. Not a golfer? A variety of sponsorship opportunities are available, including tee signs to promote your business.
3. Contribute an auction item. Our wish list includes: trips and travel accommodations, use of a condo or a lake house, sports suites or tickets, golf outing at your club or local course, theater or event tickets, wine tour, spa packages, cooking lessons from an award-winning local chef, monthly floral delivery package for one year and gift cards to restaurants.
4. Donate bottles of wine for our popular wine wall, which is a way to raise extra funds during our event.
For more information about registering to golf, sponsorship opportunities or to make a donation, contact Jennifer Robinson at or 716.817.7269.
Actress Jamie Brewer Visits
Last month, actress Jamie Brewer visited the Museum of disABILITY History, a project of People Inc.! While in town as the keynote speaker for the Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day Conference held in Niagara Falls, NY, Jamie visited the Museum. She received a tour of the Museum, met with staff and viewed the “In Celebration of Down Syndrome” exhibit, which includes a photo of Jamie.
A performer with a background in theatre, Jamie was born with Down syndrome. She is best known for her recurring roles in American Horror Story, an American anthology horror television series. In 2015, Jamie became the first woman with Down syndrome to walk the red carpet at New York Fashion Week. A promoter of global inclusion, she was the youngest to be elected President of the ARC of Fort Bend Chapter and is active with numerous organizations, including American Association of People with Disabilities of the United States and National Down Syndrome Congress.
To view photos from Jamie’s visit, click here.
Seeing Clearly Now: Creative Technology for the Blind in Saudi Arabia
What: Museum of disABILITY History Dialogues on disABILITY Speaker Series presents “Seeing Clearly Now: Creative Technology for the Blind in Saudi Arabia” with Mohammed Saad
When: Saturday, July 8, from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Where: Museum of disABILITY History, 3826 Main Street, Buffalo, NY
Info: Free event, co-sponsored by the Museum of disABILITY History and Middle East Institute. To RSVP, email David Mack-Hardiman at or call 716.629.3626.
In recent years, new adaptive technologies have been developed to allow people who are blind to fully utilize smart phones, tablets and computers. But for Mohammed Saad, there was a problem with these new programs. None of the apps designed to assist the blind were available in his native language of Arabic. Saad, who has been blind since early childhood, will share his story of how he has creatively transformed the available technology to design practical solutions for himself and others in his community.

Recent news stories that include information from People Inc. and agency representatives.
“Abandoned History: On Poor House Hill:” Series of abandoned history-themed research-based articles by Museum of disABILITY History Founder James M. Boles, EdD. Lockport Union Sun and Journal, June 8, 2017.
Diffability Hollywood featured at Museum of disABILITY History Film and Speaker Series:” Museum of disABILITY History event included. Buffalo Rising, June 5, 2017.
“Senior Wishes brings ice cream social to West Seneca seniors:” People Inc. Burchfield Commons Senior living included. West Seneca Bee, June 1, 2017.
Disability Scoop: Boy With Down syndrome Joins Reality Show Cast
“It’s been a year and a half since the couple watched the show’s debut and life feels good today, they say.”
Newsweek: Kate Winslet Shines a Light on the Abilities of those with Autism via The Golden Hat Foundation
“When Kate Winslet met with Margret during the recording of the documentary, Winslet also became touched by autism.”
USA Today: Wrestler with Down syndrome has no Limits Thanks to Coach
“Strzykalski has Down syndrome, but has always focused on all he’s able to accomplish. He recently hit a new personal best record for the amount of weight he can deadlift.”
The New York Times: You’re Probably Going to Need Medicaid
“Lowering Medicaid reimbursement rates lead to reductions in staffing, particularly of nurses.”