Category Archives: Uncategorized

Direct Care Workers’ Interviews To Be Held In Niagara County

For additional information, contact:
Elizabeth Cardamone, Director of Communication and Development                                        Office: (716) 297-0798, ext. 173, Cell: (773) 430-9499

TOWN OF NIAGARA, N.Y., January 8, 2018 – Empower, the not-for-profit organization formerly known as Niagara Cerebral Palsy, will host job fairs for direct care positions at several Niagara County locations in the month of January.  Dates, times and locations are as follows:

Wednesday, January 10, 12-2 p.m., North Tonawanda Public Library, 505 Meadow Dr., North Tonawanda, N.Y. 14120

Thursday, January 11, 12-4 p.m., across from Nike and Body Shop, Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA, 1900 Military Rd., Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304

Tuesday, January 16, 12-2 p.m., Lockport Public Library, 23 East Ave., Lockport, N.Y. 14094

Prospective job seekers may also apply in person at Empower’s administrative offices, located at 9812 Lockport Rd., Niagara Falls, NY  14304 or apply online at:

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are dedicated to helping individuals with developmental disabilities live safe, fulfilling lives.  Individuals with developmental disabilities are reliant on DSPs for basic care, getting out into the community and ensuring their choices and needs are met.  It is hands on and rewarding work in which DSPs and the people they serve get to know one another well, and become close.

“If you have a caring nature and are looking to make a difference, come join our team,” says Empower CEO Jeff Paterson.  “DSPs do important work.  They are the first-line caregivers to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and ensure that we as an agency are fulfilling our mission to help people to live their best lives.”

With 300 employees and a $14 million budget, Empower is one of Western New York’s 60 largest nonprofit organizations. The administrative offices, preschool, community clinic and service coordination program are located on Lockport Road in the Town of Niagara. The job training and day programs division is based in Niagara Falls, while residential facilities are located throughout Niagara County. Licensed by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the New York State Education Department, Empower is an affiliate of the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State.


Community Housing

Residents Get Out and Enjoy Seasons

Mapleton residents got out this summer and fall to enjoy local attractions, including Maid of the Mist and a field of sunflowers.

Kerry Warner’s Art Displayed at Lockport Businesses

Warner KerryLockport ICF resident Kerry Warner made this beautiful piece of art entitled “Owl Pastel” which was proudly displayed in the storefront windows of many Main St. shops in Lockport. Congratulations, Kerry!

Annual Halloween Spooktacular Party Held

On Saturday, October 14, Community Housing held their annual Halloween Spooktacular party at the Volare Lodge.  The event was well attended by residents and by members of Job Training and Day Program’s Family Support Group.

Residences Show Their Halloween Spirit

Community Health Events

Empower for Elders Ribbon Cutting

On Friday, September 8, Empower launched an entirely new program: Empower for Elders.  Empower for Elders serves older adults who live with adult children or spouses, and
who need assistance with personal care and daily activities. Participants receive individualized care, light exercise, assistance with personal care, socialization, activities that promote independence and feelings of self-worth, and morning and afternoon snacks and lunch. The program offers respite to family caregivers, allowing them to work, run errands or take a break from caregiving duties. In addition, a new caregiver support group will enable family caregivers to meet, share experiences, ask questions and receive support.

Empower for Elders is located at 8962 Porter Rd (Wayside Nursery Plaza) in the Town of Niagara. It is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 am to 2 pm, and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 am to 5 pm.  Spots are still available!  For more information or to set up a tour, please contact Karen Smith at (716) 297-0798 x163 or (716) 371-0728  or

Masons FC Dice Run Benefits Empower for Elders

On Sunday, August 27, the Masons FC held their annual Dice Run, an eighty mile motorcycle ride throughout Niagara County that concluded at Lewiston Firehall #2 with a classic car show, spaghetti dinner and basket auction.  The Masons FC selected Empower for Elders as the charity that would receive the event proceeds.

Praxair presentationIn addition, Praxair, a company that produces gases with an office in Tonawanda, NY, presented Empower for Elders with a $4,000 check during the Dice Run.

Dice Run check presentationOn Wednesday, October 12, the Masons FC held their annual gala, at which they presented Empower Director of Community Health Programs Karen Smith with a $5,000 check, which included all Dice Run proceeds.

A huge thank you to Sam and Jeannette Archie, the members of the Masons FC and Praxair for their generous support totaling $9,000 which will be used to offset Empower for Elders start-up costs!


Empower is delighted to bring the Kids’ Music Round program to Niagara County. Classes are open to children of all abilities and backgrounds. Classes are 45 minutes each week for a 10-week semester.

Kids’ Music Round is a singing, laughing, giggling, jiggling, clapping, dancing, bouncing, fun-filled, award-winning music and movement experience for infants and young children. With the KMR children’s music program, parents can help bring out a child’s natural curiosity about music in a playful, encouraging class environment.

Classes are held at 8962 Porter Rd. in the Town of Niagara on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings.  Fees are $149 for the first child, $89 for the second sibling and subsequent siblings and infant siblings are free.

For more information or to enroll in the next session which begins in January, please visit our website at

Job Training and Day Programs

Day Program Renamed Joseph O. Mineo Day CenterJoseph O. Mineo Day CenterOn Wednesday, October 5, Empower staff, Board members and the Mineo family gathered to celebrate the renaming of the Day Program building as the Joseph O. Mineo Day Center.

Mr. Mineo worked for Empower for 47 years, 45 of which were as the agency’s chief executive officer.   Under his leadership, Empower established most of the programs and services that exist today.

The Joseph O. Mineo Day Center is where people with intellectual or developmental disabilities can participate in daytime recreation activities and socialize with others. It is located at 7425 Buffalo Ave. in the City of Niagara Falls.

Congratulations to Joe on this well-deserved honor and a huge thank you to him for his longtime service.




Children’s Academy

Haunted Hallway and Halloween Parades

The best part about Halloween is seeing the kids in their costumes and hearing them say “trick or treat!”  Here at Empower, we are lucky enough to have a preschool on site and to get to see students parade around the building all dressed up in their costumes.  They are accompanied by parents, younger siblings and teachers who also dress up.  It is truly a treat to hand out treats to these amazing kiddos.

Also, a huge thank you to Children’s Academy teachers and staff for once again creating the haunted hallway!  It looked amazing.

Ms. Amy’s Class Reaches Out to School Impacted By Hurricane Irma

While learning about how people are the same and different and that we should all be kind and helpful to one another, Miss Amy’s class decided to send good wishes to an elementary school in Florida that had suffered some damage in the recent hurricane.  The students made an artistic banner with pictures of Niagara Falls and the inspirational quote:

“Promise me you’ll always remember…

You’re Braver than you believe,

Stronger than you seem,

Smarter than you think and

LOVED more than you know.”

—-Christopher Robin (literary character)

Ms. Shaila’s Class Learns about Hypotheses, Measurement and Farming

Ms. Shaila is really good at packing multiple disciplines into one lesson and engaging students so that they don’t even realize they are learning!  That was certainly the case this month.  Students learned about the fall harvests that are occurring on farms all around them, including equipment and animals that are an important part of this process.  They colored in pictures of farm animals and equipment and used soft cotton balls and string, which engaged their senses and provided an additional layer of learning.

Ms. Shaila also taught students about testing hypotheses and measurement by having the children guess how far a pumpkin would roll and measuring this distance.  Ms. Shaila then rolled the pumpkin and measured the distance again to see how close students’ predictions were.  Students had a ball doing this activity.

Open House for Children’s Academy Families Held

Families of Children’s Academy students had a chance to come in, meet teachers and staff, get progress reports and see first hand some of the projects their children have been working on.  It was a wonderful and well attended event.


Top Stories

Workforce Transformation: Changing With The Times

Since opening in 1961, the Job Training and Day Programs division has helped thousands of people with disabilities identify and express their unique abilities.  The program grew from donated space to two large facilities (30th St. and MacKenna Ave.) where people with a variety of disabilities worked doing contracted work for local companies.

When manufacturing companies left Niagara Falls, there was less contracted work to be had.  The division was challenged to expand its network of job sources to ensure workers continued to earn a wage and develop job skills.  In addition, laws became increasingly restrictive which resulted in: referral source decreases, fewer participants who met the qualifications to be supported, limitations on services that could be provided and sites being considered too segregated and therefore in violation with participants’ rights.

With the future of the division, once the agency’s highest revenue-producer, in jeopardy, Empower sprang into action, developing a plan for transitioning job training services to comply with these new legislative realities.  Empower was the first disability provider in New York State to submit its plan, and set an ambitious goal of it being complete by the end of 2017, three years ahead of the state’s deadline.

In fact, many of plan’s components have already been put into place such as Empties for Empower which is the agency’s first integrated job training site.  Although it has only been open for eighteen months, Empties for Empower has become an indelible part of the culture of both the agency and its surrounding community.  Customers say that before coming to Empties, they had never spoken to people with disabilities, and that they come back because of how helpful and friendly workers are.  Many more people with disabilities ask to work at Empties to earn a wage and gain the skills needed to get jobs in the community.

Empties has had a snowball effect of goodness that has surpassed everyone’s expectations.  It has been so successful that Empower will soon open another redemption center on Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Town of Wheatfield.

Through these expansions and contractions, the focus of the division as articulated by its director Kim Kiely remains the same: “to get out of bed, you have to have a purpose in life, and that is, for many of us, having  a job.  It doesn’t matter what the job is…people feel good about working.”

Here is a video explanation of Empower’s workforce transformation plan:


Empower Well Represented Among Honorees at Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State (CP of NYS) Conference

From left to right: Empower BOD member Tom Caserta, Charles Dieteman, Empower BOD member and Past President Bob DiFrancesco and KimKiely

Empower Board member Tom Caserta, Lewiston-Porter High School student Charles Dieteman, Empower Board member and Past President Bob DiFrancesco and Empower Director of Job Training and Day Programs Kim Kiely

All three of the award nominations submitted by Empower were honored at the annual Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State conference held in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State is a broad-based, multi-service organization encompassing 24 Affiliates and 18,000 employees providing services and programs for more than 100,000 individuals with cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities, as well as resources for families.

Kim Kiely, Director of Job Training and Day Programs, received the Natalie Rogers Employee of the Year Award, for her leadership in transforming Empower’s sheltered workshops to integrated sites for people with disabilities.

Charles Dieteman, a student at Lewiston-Porter High School who has cerebral palsy, received the Anthony J. Koenig Volunteer Award for educating his peers about cerebral palsy and conducting annual fundraisers, which have raised $4,000 that Charles then donated to Empower.

The Spectrum Theater Program was among three programs that were recognized as being innovative and that were invited to give presentations at the conference.  Autism services coordinator Robin Stevens and acting instructor Brianna Lanoye demonstrated how acting exercises and performing improve social skills in kids with autism.

In addition, New York State Senator Robert G. Ortt was recognized as the Legislator of the Year Award.  As chair of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, Senator Ortt is a strong advocate for people with disabilities.  In particular, he has worked to secure funding to relieve the staffing shortage in the disability field.



Communication & Development

2017 Annual Appeal Kicks Off

Empower’s 2017 Annual Appeal kicked off with 3,000 appeal letters sent to current and prospective donors.  We are hoping to shatter last year’s $7,000 giving total.  Donations will support programs like Empower for Elders that help people with and without disabilities to live their best lives.  To make a donation, click here or contact us at (716) 297-0798 x 173 or

2017 Living the Values Awards Luncheon

The second annual Living the Values Awards Luncheon took place on Friday, October 27 at the DoubleTree by Hilton.  Empower honored five people and organizations for their achievements and support of people with different abilities.  Honorees are:

Marshaun Walton, 2017 Inspiring Individual of the Year Award recipient, for his courage and determination shown while achieving his goal of greater independence through getting a job in the community and moving into his own apartment.

John R. Drexelius, 2017 Dr. Salvatore M. Passanese Leadership Awardee, for developing a voice for people with developmental disabilities in Albany through his work as General Counsel to the DDAWNY Government Affairs Committee and through the #bfair2directcare initiative.

KeyBank and KeyBank Foundation, 2017 Faith Funder Awardees, for being Empower’s steadfast financial partner all these years, including capital support, event sponsorships and investment in programs like the $24,719 grant received in 2017 to help start a scanning and shredding service.

Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, USA, 2017 Priceless Partner Awardee, for being an excellent charitable partner and for collecting bottles in receptacles set up around their food court and donating them to Empties for Empower with the goal  of donating a million cans!

Wegmans, 2017 Employer of the Year, for hiring many people with developmental disabilities through Empower since 2000 and maintaining ongoing communication with Empower’s Job Placement division to ensure workers continue to grow in their positions.

Empower Honors Its Own at Internal Staff Awards Dinner

Every year in September, Empower hosts a dinner where staff and people served are recognized for excellence and loyalty.

Each month, the Job Training and Day Programs division spotlights a person who receives services for their dedication and hard work.  These twelve individuals and their families are recognized at the dinner and received a plaque.

Division directors presented service awards to their staff who have worked for Empower for five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five and thirty years.  This year, thirty-five staff were honored.  It was heart-warming to hear Bill, Sherri and Kim relate personal accounts and stories of exemplary service as each honoree was introduced.  These folks are the very best of Empower, going above and beyond to ensure the people we serve are empowered to live their very best lives.

Sharon Walters received the Person of the Year Award for her hard work and personal growth.  Sharon has a great sense of self and is very caring.

Finally, the following four awards for overall excellence were presented:

The Community Housing division presented Deanna King with the George Optical Award for her leadership as an IRA Manager and for her incredible commitment to each person she serves.

Empower Board member and Past Present Bob DiFrancesco presented the first annual DiFrancesco Award to Daniel Kneeple for mentoring new staff and ensuring Niagara house residents are well cared for during his midnight shifts.

The Job Training and Day Programs division presented Jill Patterson with the Jacob Wozniak Memorial Award for her enthusiasm and dedication to ensuring the success of Empties for Empower.

The Children’s Academy presented the Tommy Caserta Award to Mary Mrowka for exemplifying Empower’s values in her positive interactions with students and staff.

The Children’s Academy presentedthe Family of the Year Award to Andrew Smith and Angelina Szopinski for their commitment to their son, Andrew’s education, demonstrated through their communication with his teachers on progress made at home and through their presence at every school function.

Annual Staff Recognition Awards at CP of NYS Conference

From left to right: JOb Training and Day Programs Activities Coordinator Danelle Hillman, Community Housing Administrative Assistant Cheryl Seelbinder, Board member and Past Present Bob DiFrancesco and Children's Academy Physical Therapist Margret Nawrocki

From left to right: Job Training and Day Programs Activities Coordinator Danelle Hillman, Community Housing Administrative Assistant Cheryl Seelbinder, Board member and Past Present Bob DiFrancesco and Children’s Academy Physical Therapist Margret Nawrocki

Each year, each division selects one staff member to be honored at the CP of NYS conference. This year’s honorees were:

Margret Nawrocki, Physical Therapist, Children’s Academy

Danelle Hillman, Activities Coordinator, Job Training and Day Programs

Marguerite Briglio, Payroll Supervisor, Administration

Cheryl Seelbinder, Administrative Assistant, Community Housing