Author Archives: Elizabeth Cardamone

Call Your Legislators Today

  1. Senate switchboard – (518) 455 – 2800 – and ask for your Senator.  You can find your Senator at   Urge your Senator to BFair2DirectCare and fund the $45 million .


  1. Assembly switchboard (518) 455-4100 – and ask for your Assemblymember.  You can find your Assemblymember at   Urge your Assemblymember to BFair2DirectCare and fund the $45 million .


Giving Tree

Right after Thanksgiving, the Medicaid Service Coordination team put up a tree by the front door.  On the tree were ornaments with gift requests from families served by this division who cannot afford to make these wishes come true for their children.  Thanks to the generosity of Empower staff and a $700 grant from the United Way of Greater Niagara Student Fund, the tree was bare well before the holiday and an abundance of gifts were donated. Thanks to everyone who participated.

bikes Empower giving tree gifts 12.15.16


Halloween Spooktacular

Once again, Community Housing haunted the halls of an innocent and unsuspecting fire hall for our annual Halloween Spooktacular party. This was a great time for not only our residents, but also our friends from the vocational division. Everyone enjoyed great food, music and scary costumes and decorations.

Frank Rice Profiled in Living the Values Nominee Video

In January, Frank Rice, a nurse in the community Housing division, was nominated for a Living the Values award by his co-worker, Anna Stickney.  In this video, Anna explains how Frank embodies collaboration, one of Empower’s five core values.

Community Housing Celebrates the Super Bowl

Community Housing celebrated the Super Bowl as any family does, with lots of snacks, hollering and mixed opinions about who should win.

Steele Circle Super Bowl


Spectrum Theater Program: 2016 Final Report, Program will Continue in 2017

Joe Stevens (second from right) was a wonderful mentor to students, including (from left to right) Joshua, Brendan and Jacob

Joe Stevens (second from right) was a wonderful mentor to students, including (from left to right) Joshua, Brendan and Jacob

The Spectrum Theater Program, which provides free theater classes to children with autism, wrapped up its second session on December 3 with a final performance called Little Red Head that delighted the audience.  In reviewing the program, it was determined that students were better able to maintain eye contact, wait their turn to speak and show empathy as a result of their participation.  Click here to read the 2016 final report.

Empower again received a $1,500 grant from the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York to continue the program in 2017. Efforts to obtain additional funding are underway.

As In 2016, the program will run in two session, held in the summer and fall of 2017 at Empower Children’s Academy. To be eligible, children need to be between the ages of 7-15 and have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.  For more information, please contact Elizabeth Cardamone at 716-297-0798, x173 or

Empower Receives $299,133 Grant

The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York awarded Empower a $299,133 grant to replace the aging roof and heating and cooling systems at the 9812 location, that houses the school, clinic and administrative offices.  It was a very competitive grant process (of the 635 agencies that applied, 237 received grants) with organizations of Empower’s size needing to score more than 90 points to be awarded a grant.  This is the biggest grant in Empower’s sixty year history and is critical to the agency’s infrastructure and financial stability.

Annual Appeal Brings In $7,000

For the first time in years, Empower sent out an annual appeal in November to over 600 prospective contributors, resulting in 35 donors giving a total of $7,000 (average donation was $200.)  This money will be used to expand the fundraising program with the goal of increasing the organization’s capacity to cultivate donors and offer donors more options on how they can support Empower. 

Thank you to everyone who contributed, and to Matrix Imaging Solutions, Inc. for sending out the mailing.   If you have not yet donated, there’s still time.  Click here to make an online contribution, or contact Elizabeth Cardamone at 716-297-0798, x173 or

Living the Values Awards Luncheon

In October, Empower held its first external function recognizing eight individuals, companies and organizations in the community for their support of the agency and developmental disabilities.  Over 90 people gathered to celebrate the contributions of those being honored.  Videos about each awardee were shown in advance of award presentations.  Here is the video about Charles Dieteman who upholds Empower’s value of leadership for being a wonderful disabilities ambassador.  Every year, Charles raises cerebral palsy awareness and money that is then donated to Empower.  Each award was linked one of Empower’s five values.  The seven additional awardees are:

Empower Values Excellence

Inspiring Individual Award

Matt Minderler


Lewiston-Porter High School

Empower Values Leadership

Leading Luminary Award

Mark Laurrie


Niagara Falls City School District

Empower Values Leadership

Junior Leading luminary Award

Charles Dieteman


Lewiston-Porter Middle School

Empower Values Accountability

Faithful Funder Award

The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation

Empower Values Collaboration

Priceless Partner Award

The Parent Network of Western New York

Empower Values Dignity

Committed Contractor Award

Matrix Imaging Solutions, Inc.

Click here to see their videos.






Foot Pain? 

Take the First step towards a healthier future!

Dr. Caputi, our podiatrist, is kind and experienced, proving care in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere

Dr. Caputi, our podiatrist, is kind, patient and experienced, delivering quality care in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere

Empower’s Podiatry Clinic provides general foot care, as well as wellness and maintenance exams for at-risk patients, such as those with diabetes or circulation problems.  Our podiatrist, Dr. Richard Caputi, DPM, has been with us for over 3 years and patient care and satisfaction are always a priority to him.  We accept Medicare and Medicaid, some Managed Long Term Care Insurances as well as very reasonable private pay rates.  We are always happy to accept new patients.  For more information on scheduling an appointment or to see if we accept your insurance, please give our friendly clinic staff a call at (716) 297-0798 ext. 189.


Empower belongs to three alliances of developmental disability organizations: Coalition of Provider Associations, Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS) and Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY.)   One of the reasons for these collaboratives is to ensure the interests of individuals with developmental disabilities are heard by government so that when it comes time to approve the New York State budget, sufficient money has been allocated to fulfill these interests.

Direct service professionals (DSPs) work directly with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, ensuring their well-being, safety and health.  Despite this high-level of responsibility, pay is low and not enough to live on, resulting in high turnover and vacancy rates (Empower’s 10% vacancy rate is half New York State’s 20% vacancy rate.)  Agencies like Empower are working together to ensure compensation is reflective of the high level of decision-making and responsibility DSPs undertake, but we need your help.  Please contact your legislators and let them know that DSPs deserve a living wage.

#bfair2directcare is an joint advocacy effort spearheaded by CP of NYS and DDAWNY to lobby for $45 million to be added to the state budget for the next five years to support a living wage for direct care workers, teacher aides and other staff.  Empower has been doing its part, contacting Governor Cuomo, Assemblymember Morinello and Senator Ortt to remind them about individuals with developmental disabilities, direct care workers and the need for increased funding for wages.  This momentum will be kept up until the final budget is approved in April.

We value every Empower employee for upholding our mission: empowering those we serve to live their best lives.  Throughout this issue are examples of how Empower staff worked extra hard to make the holidays a special time for our individuals.  Every day, from Halloween through Christmas, people went above and beyond, promoting areas of need and answering that call through the delivery of gifts and good cheer.  Regardless of the budget outcome, we will prevail in being there for our workers and the individuals all of us are lucky enough to serve.  It is what we do, and as this issue illustrates, we do it well.


Sensory Room Renovations Complete

The popular bubble columns are once again captivating Children’s Academy students thanks to a renovation of the sensory room. Additional improvements include replacement of the mat around the columns, replacement of the fiber optic cascade and mat, and installation of new projection equipment and images.



The sensory room is an integral part of occupation therapy. It helps to calm or awaken Children’s Academy students and enables them to return to the classroom refreshed and better able to learn.

This renovation was made possible thanks to a small grant from the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, and a donation from Charles Dieteman, a student at Lewiston-Porter Middle School who has cerebral palsy and who raises awareness and funds for cerebral palsy each year at home with help from the Builder’s Club.

Sensitive Santa

Tristan and Adalyn tell Santa what they want most for Christmas

Tristan and Adalyn tell Santa what they want most for Christmas

Once again, Empower offered Children’s Academy students and families of children with special needs one-on-one, quiet time with Santa. Some children with disabilities, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder, are more sensitive to and are unable to process bright lights, loud noises or crowded areas that go along with this popular tradition. Sensitive Santa ensures that every child gets the chance to visit Santa, to share what they most want for the holidays and to preserve the memory by having a photo taken. Families appreciated having this fun, anxiety-free option.

Halloween Parade and Haunted Hallway

Everyone had a frightfully good time on October 31 when Children’s Academy teachers, students and parents paraded throughout the building in imaginative costumes for treats.  Bravery was required to enter the Haunted Hallway.  Students and even staff proceeded with caution, daring to enter the darkened hall between school wings in order to receive goodies from witchy teachers peering out from creepy classrooms.

Students Celebrate the Seasons


In honor of Veteran’s Day, students in Michele Senay’s class, including Alexis and Camden (pictured), made cards to thank veterans for their service.

Pictured left to right: Michele Dier, Jenna Carroll, Lorne Santoro, Bri Carroll and Romany Giove


Polo Ralph Lauren Family Brings Cheer to Empower Day Program

Pictured left to right: Michele, Jenna Carroll, Lorne Santoro, Bri Carroll and Romany Giove

Pictured left to right: Michele Dier, Jenna Carroll, Lorne Santoro, Bri Carroll and Romany Giove

Empower’s Job Training and Day Program staff would like to express their sincere appreciation to the Polo Ralph Lauren store for their generosity throughout the year.  Store Manager, Romany Giove and her elves visited Empower on holidays throughout the year, bringing with them yummy treats.  At Christmas, two individuals received coats, boots, gloves, sneakers, pajamas, socks, slippers, purses, book bags, hygiene products and arts and crafts supplies.  Thank you, Romany and your elves for brightening our year with your cheer.

Employer Spotlight: C&W Services

Empower employment counselors, Jennifer Burns (left) and Mike Marra (right) present Robert Gordon (middle), C&W Services District Manager, with the Employer of the Year award in October

Empower employment counselors, Jennifer Burns (left) and Mike Marra (right) present Robert Gordon (middle), C&W Services District Manager, with the Employer of the Year award in October

C&W Services is an integrated facility provider that employs five individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.  Each worker is supported by an Empower employment counselor who helps them gain job skills and find a job that matches their interests and abilities.  After being hired, workers and their coaches continue to meet biweekly for ongoing coaching and follow-along support.

Established in 2010, the partnership between Empower and C & W Services has been strong and mutually beneficial. Workers earn a wage, feel proud and self-sufficient and meet many people. C & W Services and their clients enjoy clean spaces thanks to the hard work of individuals who are conscientious and pleasant to be around.

C & W Services received the Exceptional Employer Award in October in honor of its collaboration with Empower and the individuals it supports.


Empower received 2 new trucks through the FTA Section 5310 Grant program

Empower received 2 new buses through the FTA Section 5310 Grant program

Empower’s Job Training and Day Program division recently received two new buses thanks to a grant funded by the United States Department of Transportation and by the Federal Transit Administration.  With the addition of these vehicles, Day Program participants can go on more community outings, and be transported to and from the Day Program, which is critical to those who live more than three quarters of a mile from a bus route and therefore cannot use public transportation.

Tree Decorated for Festival of Trees

Like the Children’s Academy, Empower’s job training and day program division also participated in the Power Vista’s Festival of Trees with this beautifully-decorated tree.

Job training/day program division contributed a beatifully decorate tree to the Power Authority's Festival of Trees

Job training/day program division contributed this lovely tree to the Power Authority’s Festival of Trees

Additional Resources that Are Needed in 2017

  • The Arts Services Initiative of Western New York agreed to continue funding the program in 2017 with a $1,500 grant. However, this is $1,400 less than was provided in 2016 to cover the acting instructor stipend and supplies/materials.  Empower is seeking this amount for these expenses in 2017.
  • An additional $2,900 is needed to cover the cost of a second acting instructor stipend.  Given the program’s success, we expect enrollment to grow.  We would like to accept up to 20 students per cohort, but based on what was learned in 2016, if the student to instuctor ratio exceeds 3 instructors per 8-9 students, key program benefits (individualized attention and positive reinforcement of desired social skills) will be compromised.  A second acting instructor, additional volunteers  and another older student with autism to mentor students and to assist during classes and final performances are needed to maintain and expand program benefits to students.
  • The provision of a larger space in which to hold dress rehearsals and final performances.  In 2016, these events were held in the Empower’s Children’s Academy teacher’s lounge and gross motor room.  Over 50 people attended both final performances; the room was overcrowded, and hot and stuffy.  Further, depending on where attendees sat, the view may have been obstructed due to a room divider that needed to be partially closed for set changes and for students’ comfort.  Empower is hoping that a nearby school will offer up its auditorium at no charge for two dress rehearsals and two final performances that will take place in late summer and late fall of 2017.  Meeting at the larger space prior to the final performance will allow students who are more sensitive to change due to their autism diagnosis time to adapt to the new space.  Further, larger accommodations will increase attendees’ comfort during final performances.

If you are interested in donating to the Spectrum Theater Program, or in offering up performance space, please contact Elizabeth Cardamone at (716) 297-0798, ext. 173 or  Online donations also are accepted by clicking here.