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Empower Attends Rally in Albany, Calls for Significant Investments into Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

(Niagara Falls, NY) – Last week, Empower CEO Diane Baehre, Director of Education Kathleen Bailey, and Teacher Greer Claffey attended a rally at the Capitol in Albany to call for increased investments into support for the intellectual and developmental disability community after the Governor’s proposed budget failed to meet the needs of the field.

“Last year the Governor and the New York State legislature failed the intellectual and developmental disability community when they refused to make needed investments to insure quality care. This year the Governor’s proposed budget shows once again that decision makers in Albany are not placing a priority on caring for the most vulnerable in our communities,” Empower CEO Diane Baehre said. “We are facing a staffing shortage due to low pay, which will soon become a full-blown crisis across our industry unless legislators and the Governor act to raise wages to meet inflationary pressures. We rely on state funding, as does every other voluntary human services agency across the state, when the Governor and the legislature fail to hear our needs and act with the urgency we continue to communicate, they are putting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities directly at risk of losing the critical care they rely on.”

The rally was hosted by CP State and had many speakers ranging from NYS Assemblymembers and Senators, self-advocates, families, and direct support professionals. Specifically, Empower is calling for:

  • 3.2% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Direct Support Professionals (the Governor has only proposed a 1.5%, and FY24 budget she signed only had a 4% COLA when 8.5% was needed to meet inflationary pressures), 
  • The passage of Senator Mannion and Assemblywoman Seawright’s legislation (S.4127-A/A.5268-A) which would provide an average of a $2/hr raise to direct support professionals (or an average of $4,000 per year)
  • An 11% increase in the reimbursement rate for early intervention programs, 
  • And a 4.3% annual growth to 4410 and 853 special education schools to support the recruitment and retention staff and cover inflationary costs. 

“The sad truth is New York State has underfunded intellectual and developmental disability support programs for far too long. This looming crisis is of the Governor, former Governor, and the legislature’s own making and without serious and immediate investment support home closures, reduced service offerings, and reduced care capacity can be expected across the state,” Baehre said. “Investing in our staff and ensuring a fair and livable wage, ensures the most vulnerable in our community have the care they need. It is far past time for our leaders in Albany to take these issues seriously and act responsibly and make the needed investments our industry needs.”

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.