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