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Award-Winning Early Childhood Music Classes Coming to Niagara County

For additional information, contact:

Elizabeth Cardamone, Director of Communication and Development

Office: (716) 297-0798, ext. 173, Cell: (773) 430-9499


Award-Winning Early Childhood Music Classes Coming to Niagara County

TOWN OF NIAGARA, N.Y., August 24, 2017 – Empower, the not-for-profit organization formerly known as Niagara Cerebral Palsy, will now offer music classes for children from birth to age 6, starting in September at 8962 Porter Rd.

Kids’ MusicRound is an award-winning music and movement experience for infants and young children of all abilities. Classes will meet once a week for 10 weeks at a cost of $149 for the first registered child, $89 for second sibling, and no cost for third sibling or infant with registered sibling.  Families can choose classes on Tuesday evenings or Saturday mornings.

Linse Sullivan is the instructor.  She has a master’s degree from the University of Buffalo at New York in music education.

“Every child is born musical, and this program draws out those abilities,” said Empower Chief Executive Officer Jeff Paterson.  “This is the only music class of its kind being offered in Niagara County, and we are thrilled to provide it to the community.”

Online enrollment is available at Families may also contact Karen Smith at (716) 297-0798, extension 163, or for information.

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.


Award-Winning Early Childhood Music Classes Coming to Niagara County



Self direction enables people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) to decide which supports and services are needed to live their best life.  It is available through Empower’s Medicaid Service Coordination (MSC) division; MSCs help people with IDD who want to self direct their services.  Examples of services that can be self directed are consolidated supports and services, respite and community habilitation.  Those who elect to self direct have greater authority over their service providers and payment.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about self direction, please contact Karen Korn at (716) 297-0798, x303 or



Marshaun solo

In July, Marshaun moved from a group home to his own apartment.  This was a major step towards his goal of becoming more independent.  Empower staff, family and friends held a house warming party for Marshaun on moving day!  During the party, when asked how he felt, he replied “proud of myself!”  What a beautiful moment for Marshaun and for the Community Housing staff, including Deanna King and Robin Stevens, who helped Marshaun achieve this goal.

Another person present at the party who helped ready Marshaun for this step is Jill Patterson.  Jill was Marshaun’s work site manager at the redemption center for the past eighteen months.  In the beginning, he was shy with customers and reluctant to smile or make eye contact.  Jill knew from observing him in other settings that Marshaun was actually outgoing and friendly with those he knew.  He needed to develop confidence in himself to bring out those innate tendencies, which are so critical to customer service, at work.

Just prior to completing his job training, Marshaun was the first person to greet customers when they came in to drop off their bottles and cans!  Now Marshaun is working with a counselor in the job placement division to get a job in the community.

Jill says Marshaun contributed to the redemption center’s success in two ways: his friendliness built up a strong customer base and he inspired his housemates and others with intellectual or developmental disabilities to try working at the redemption center.  Now, there are more than a dozen workers at the redemption center each day, which is good as there are lots more bottles and cans to be sorted than ever before.

Marshaun is an excellent example that anything is possible with hard work and determination.  He also shows that individual success has a ripple effect, leading others to aspire to similar results.


In July, Mapleton House staff and residents created a memorial garden to remember loved ones who have passed away. A combination of annuals and perennials were planted around the house’s exterior and a small plaque was placed in the garden which marks the garden’s purpose.  Residents now have a beautiful and peaceful place to visit when they go outside and want to remember loved ones.


wildwood dining set

Wildwood’s new dining set, refinished by Deanna King, to make meals even cozier for residents



On September 5, Empower for Elders will open at 8962 Porter Rd. in the Town of Niagara.  Recognizing that more services are needed for older adults and their caregivers, Empower developed this program which will provide meaningful day activities and assistance with personal care to older adults.

The program will operate Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.  Breakfast, lunch and a snack will be included.  Participants can socialize with peers and take part in activities that promote independence and feelings of self-worth.  Assistance with personal care will also be provided to those that need it.

In addition, Empower for Elders offers support to caregivers, giving them respite during the day while their loved one attends the program and support group meetings where they can meet and talk with others who share their experience of caring for an older adult.

Please stop by the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, September 8 at 1 pm.

For questions about Empower for Elders, please contact Karen Smith at (716) 297-0798, x163 or x189 or




On Friday, July 21, the Job Training and Day Program division held their annual picnic at Hyde Park.  It was hot and sunny with temperatures almost as high as people’s enthusiasm.  The crew enjoyed delicious food from Melloni’s and being together while playing games like bean bag toss and soccer.  It is always such fun to be with them.


Empower will begin offering a scanning and shredding service to the public at the 4701 Military Rd. location.  Individuals, nonprofits and small businesses looking to purge backlogs of paper can hand the task off to Empower workers.

Like the redemption center, the scanning and shredding service is an OPWDD Community Pre-vocational Program that provides paid job training to people with developmental disabilities.  The goal for these workers is to go on to get jobs in the community.  The training they receive will provide the skills and experience needed to make this happen.

Although not open yet, the venture promises to provide another meeting place for people with and without disabilities to interact, achieving integration mandates and improving the public’s understanding and acceptance of developmental disabilities.


Mike Marra always has a smile on his face and is willing to lend a hand.  That’s why Kim Kiely nominated him for a Living the Values award in June.  Mike embodies the value of collaboration in everything he does. From January through June, Mike worked with other staff in the planning of an open house for job placement.  He also serves on the golf tournament planning committee, providing essential golf knowledge and relaying key event information to the Niagara Frontier Country Club.  For these reasons, Mike was subject of June’s Living the Values video profile.



September 6, 2017 Through June 21, 2018
Half Day Classes: 8:40 – 11:10 a.m., 12:00 – 2:30 p.m., $10 per day per student
Full Day Classes: 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., $20 per day per student
Before- and After-School Options from 8:00 a.m.- 5 p.m., $5 per hour of care

***Empower staff receive a 10% discount if they send their kids to Empower Children’s Academy.

Before- and after-school care is an affordable and enriching choice for working families.  Special education teachers engage students in games, reading and outdoor fun that compliment classroom learning.


Parents of typically-developing children are encouraged to consider Empower Children’s Academy for their child’s preschool education.  Empower Children’s Academy offers:

      • Small class sizes
      • Rich student-to-teacher ratios (6 students with a disability and 6 students without a disability per instructor)
      • Lead teacher is always a special education teacher with a master’s degree in early childhood education and who is assisted by two to three teacher aides per class
      • School-like atmosphere: with 2 hallways, 9 classrooms and 7 treatment rooms, students get used to a bigger, more organized education setting, which makes the transition to kindergarten that much easier
      • Access to specialized therapists and equipment: speech, occupational and physical therapists and equipment are on-site and available for typically-developing students to use. Of special interest is the sensory room and the cool bubble columns that help relax and rejuvenate students.
      • Experience of learning alongside preschoolers with a disability fosters acceptance of differences and greater maturity, which also helps smooth the transition to kindergarten.


Beginning Tuesday, September 19, Empower will begin offering 10-week music classes to parents and children ages birth through six at 8962 Porter Rd. in the Town of Niagara.  A music instructor will lead participants through movement and music activities including: playing rhythmic instruments, having fun with finger plays and singing and dancing to music of different meters and tonalities.  This is a fun opportunity for parents to bond with their child and foster their child’s social, physical and language development.

Classes are offered once a week for 10 weeks with several different time options.  For children birth through age 6, class meeting options are: Tuesdays, beginning 9/19, 6-7 pm or Saturdays, beginning 9/23 at either 9-9:45 am or 10:15-11 am.  A class for children ages five and six will be offered on Tuesdays, beginning 9/19, 7-8 pm.

To get more information, please contact Karen Smith at or (716) 297-0798, x 163 or x189.

Kids Music Round flyer


Fourteen students with autism attended the Spectrum Theater Program’s summer session, which concluded with a performance entitled The Sneetches.

On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Ms. Bri assisted by Ms. Robin, Ms. Brandie and Mr. Joe led students through warm-ups and individual and group exercises focusing on gestures, eye contact, voice projection, leadership, listening each other’s perspectives and improvisation.

The idea to base the final performance on Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches came out of the students love of a tongue-twister exercise.  Also, the story’s themes (we are more alike than different and that character vs. outside appearance is what is important) reflected the growth that occurred in students’ confidence and social skill development during the five week session.

Here are some highlights of the Sneetches production:

The next Spectrum session begins Tuesday, September 19.  Contact Krystal at or 297-0798, x120 to enroll.

Spectrum Fall Flyer






The 25th Annual Matthew J. Murphy, Jr. Memorial golf tournament took place on Monday, June 19 at the Niagara Frontier Country Club in Youngstown.  94 golfers, twice as many as last year,  enjoyed mild temperatures and friendly competition with colleagues while supporting a great cause.

The event culminated in a dinner and auction attended by 135 guests, again almost double last year’s attendance.  In honor of Neil and Mary Gruppo’s longtime service to Empower and the golf tournament, the Chairman’s Award was renamed the Neil and Mary Gruppo Service Award.  Neil’s family and friends were on hand for the celebration and gave Neil a standing ovation.

The 2017 Neil and Mary Gruppo Service Award was presented to Fran and Gary Hall for their humble philanthropy to Empower and the Niagara region.

In total, over $19,000 was raised in support of Empower’s Job Training and Day Program division.  This money will fund programs that provide job skills’ training and placement to people with disabilities.

We would like to thank everyone who participated, especially the following sponsors:

Gold Level ($2,500): KeyBank

Silver ($1,500): Integrity Auto Service and Schlaak Enterprises Property Management

Bronze: ($1,000): Crown Benefits Group, Inc. and Bond, Schoeneck & King Attorneys


In the second week of July, CEO Jeff Paterson and Director of Communication & Development Elizabeth Cardamone met with golf tournament sponsors one-on-one to express appreciation for their support and gain feedback on the event.  This is part of an effort to build relationships with funders beyond their donation and obtain perspective on needed improvements and/or strengths that should be continued.




Spirits were up and everyone was dancing to the excellent music by Universal Mind at the annual spring tenure event, held at Mackenna on May 19.  The break was well earned after many successful job placements and over 800,000 bottles and cans sorted at Empties for Empower, which celebrated it’s one year anniversary in April.  Here’s to another year of accomplishment and excellence by this wonderful division!


Kim Kiely nominated Angela Gantt for excellence in the Living the Values employee nomination program for ensuring the renewal of the Family Services Program grant.  This required adding personal outcome measure interviews and tracking measures to ensure the program is helping participants, who are individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, improve their social and advocacy skills.


15 bags of bottles and cans collected by the Outlet Mall and ready for sorting

15 bags of bottles and cans collected by the Outlet Mall and ready for sorting

When the Outlet Mall learned about Empties for Empower, they saw an opportunity to promote recycling while also being a good neighbor to a worthy cause.  Recycling containers labelled Empties for Empower were put in the food court and in 11 store break rooms of the Outlet Mall, one of the area’s biggest destinations.  All returns from bottles and cans that are collected will be donated to Empower.  So far, 15 bags have been delivered.  Many thanks to John at the Outlet Mall for his commitment and support.


Special Needs Trusts and Guardianship Information Session Held

Anthony Restaino and Neil Reddein from the Restaino Reddein law firm presented information on special needs trusts and guardianship to parents on April 4th.  

A special needs trusts allows an individual with a disability to receive public benefits, but still have funds to supplement those benefits, enhance their quality of life and improve their situation.  Families of people with disabilities make special provisions to ensure their loved ones are cared for after their death and that the money stays in the family.

Guardianship is a legal process done through the court that appoints someone to make decisions on behalf of an individual who has been declared legally disabled because of an inability to make competent decisions about their finances, health care or daily living.

The event was well attended, and attendees found the information presented to be helpful.

2 New MSCs Join the Team

Annette Pierce and Kayla Briggs recently joined the Medicaid Service Coordinator (MSC) team. Annette began in January and comes with over ten years of experience as an MSC.  Kayla was promoted to MSC and worked previously as a direct service professional at one of the agency’s residences for five years.

Self-Direction Services Available

Self-direction is an OPWDD program administered by the MSC division that enables people with disabilities and their families to create highly individualized services and supports to meet their specific needs.  Individuals can have the authority to choose, hire, train and employ their own staff to work on goals and skills that are most important to them.  If interested, please contact Karen Korn at (717) 297-0798, ext. 303 or