by Rachel Hunter
St. Lawrence NYSARC and New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. presented their highest honors to deserving community members during an awards luncheon at the Best Western University Inn, Canton, on Thursday, October 18.
The awards ceremony was held during the National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities throughout American history, and emphasizes the importance of ensuring that all Americans have access to the services and supports to enable them to work.
“A workforce that empowers everyone is good for job seekers as well as job creators,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Over the past year, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities has significantly declined. Continued steady job creation will provide even more opportunities for all Americans to get hired and provide for their families.”
St. Lawrence NYARC Assistant Executive Director of Community Relations Michelle Quinell-Gayle welcomed all in attendance after those gathered had enjoyed buffet luncheon. The floor was then given to St. Lawrence NYSARC Executive Director and Jefferson Rehabilitation Center Executive Director Howie Ganter who informed that the two agencies are in the final stages of the merger, and anticipate a January 1, 2019 completion date.
“It has been a great experience,” Mr. Ganter said. “I think the melding of the two organizations is going to be beneficial to all of us. We have no control over the rates, but we do have control over operational efficiencies and the expenditures, so that is the way we are going to try to save some money to reinvest back into staff salaries, benefits, and the support services for the people that we support. It has been a great experience and I have enjoyed it tremendously.”
St. Lawrence NYSARC and Jefferson Rehabilitation Center has used the Gouverneur Community Center, 4673 State Highway 58, Gouverneur, to hold the merger meetings.
Community Spirit Award
St. Lawrence NYSARC’s 2018 Community Spirit Award – the agency’s highest award – was presented to Casey Canell of Gouverneur.
The Community Spirit Award was established to formally acknowledge extraordinary efforts of community members who exemplify the spirit of integrated community. Over time the agency has honored several people who have made a lasting impression on the public’s view of people with disabilities – and this year was no exception.
“We are pleased to honor a person that promotes an environment the seamlessly engages people with and without disabilities. This recipient is a caring advocate for the people that we support, and insists that everyone should feel included and important. The community member encourages participation in all events, and makes special accommodations to ensure comfort and safety. Just a few of the meaningful projects fostered by this person include reading to children at Toddler Town and cleaning the building.
“This award winner has trained his staff on ways to provide meaningful leisure activities. The welcoming atmosphere makes the agency’s regular business at the Gouverneur Activity Center a lot of fun for people in the integrated day-hab program. The group has enjoyed countless parties, and bingo games because of their hospitality.
“Many positive changes have occurred for individuals since they have come to know Casey Canell. People have gained competence knowing that they are part of the community. Casey has shown the public that people with disabilities are productive members of society. Please join me in a round of applause for the 2018 Community Spirit Award Winner Casey Canell of the Gouverneur Recreation Center.”
A boisterous round of applause was offered as Casey Canell made his way up to the front to accept the award from Mr. Ganter. He was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Stacy Canell, Town of Gouverneur Supervisor Dave Spilman, Jr., Town of Gouverneur Deputy Supervisor Eldon Conklin, and Village of Gouverneur Mayor Ron McDougall.
Joslin Outstanding Performer Award
Tracy Hutton, St. Lawrence NYSARC’s Director of Contracts and Business Development, introduced Katie Tucci, New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID) Central New York Account Representatives for the presentation of the 2018 Joslin Outstanding Performer Award to Lisa Camidge of DeKalb.
“This year we would like to recognize Lisa Camidge as our Joslin Outstanding Performer of 2018,” Ms. Tucci said. “Lisa began her employment shredding at Department of Social Services in 1995. That’s a long time ago, Lisa.
“She was described as being extremely quiet, sitting off by herself during breaks and lunches. She went weeks trying not to socialize, but everyone was friendly and patient. Lisa’s supervisor never gave up trying to encourage Lisa to join in on the conversations. She assigned tasks that took her to different offices in the DSS building, which helped Lisa to feel more comfortable with her surroundings, and then one day Lisa finally joined in on the lunchtime conversations.
“As her confidence grew, so did her job responsibilities at DSS. Lisa moved from the shredding department to document scanning and later to indexing of the documents. We are very proud of her accomplishments. Lisa has formed so many relationships with DSS employees in the building that everyone knows her by name.
“She is active in an annual fundraising event that supports local daycare. Each year they have a huge garage sale, and she volunteers for the day. One of the DSS workers treats Lisa to dinner as a special thank you for her hard work and dedication to that event.
“Lisa also lived in California for a number of years doing document preparation in the probation department. She is a proud mother and grandmother, and loves to share stories about her adorable 6-year-old granddaughter.
“Lisa does a terrific job at the Department of Social Services and we are all so very proud of her. She is dedicated and hardworking, and she definitely makes the whole room smile. So this year’s Joslin Outstanding Performer of 2018 Lisa Camidge. We are so proud of you!”
The crowd’s applause was deafening as Lisa Camidge accepted the award – a certificate of accomplishment and a $500 check from NYSID. St. Lawrence NYSARC’s Tracy Hutton also presented her with a photo collage memento in recognition of the occasion. St. Lawrence NYSARC Executive Director Howie Ganter also offered a word of congratulations, saying: “Lisa is the perfect example of someone who has succeeded and done very well.”
Lisa Camidge was offered special congratulations by Department of Social Services Commissioner Chris Rediehs, Department of Social Services Coordinator of Information Systems Ann Margittay, her supervisor Darlene Friot, and her co-workers who were in attendance.
Many congratulations were extended to both Casey Canell of Gouverneur and Lisa Camidge of DeKalb following the awards ceremony.