Douglas J. Usiak, Chief Executive Officer
This year for WNYIL is proving to be a challenging one for the Family of Agencies as we have suffered personal, and professional losses to the spirit and heart of our Center. The loss of our long time President Dennis M. Kessel (37 years as a Board member and 30 years as president), came as a surprise to us, and has challenged the Board of Directors to pick up his vision and ensure that the Center continues to follow, practice, and facilitate the IL philosophy in all we do. To date I can proudly report that all the members of the Board are standing up to this charge and are stepping up on all fronts. The Community Engagement Committee is developing plans to expand our ability to reach all areas of the community, bringing in more partners in our Disability Pride celebrations, and making sure that we are at as many venues as possible to get the word out about the Family of Agencies.
The ever vigil Program Committee is reviewing all our programs, assuring that we are doing what we are supposed to do, evaluating our outcomes, seeking customer and visitors opinions on not only what we do, but how well do we do it, and how to empower the members in directing their programs and services. Many of the other committees of the Board are looking deeper and harder to make sure that WNYIL is solid, viable, and remains a leader in our promise of Education and Empowerment for people with disabilities in Western New York to achieve Equality.
This year has seen a long-time program of WNYIL, OAHIIO, pass from our family of agencies. With many of the purchase strings tightening up, WNYIL was not able to maintain the program. However, on the bright side, the sister agencies of ILC, MHPC, ILGR, and ILNC are able to ensure IL services to the OAHIIO consumers, and with the same staff that were providing the service at OAHIIO. Our infrastructure shrunk, but not our service, and for any of you that are reading this article, please contact the family member agency in your area and you will see, that WNYIL maintains a strong support for people with disabilities regardless of the name of the program.
Weather and the years have not been kind to our youngest member of the Family, the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service is in need of critical repairs. Efforts so far have been made to repair the roof, not just replace the shingles, but right down into the rafters and even some of the wall supports, as well. However, on the bright side, once we are able to raise enough funds to repair and upgrade the building and equipment, the award winning volunteers, who bring the local, regional, State, and national news to the person who is unable to read it, will have beautiful studios and facilities to support NFRRS. We also believe that in bringing the building to a fully accessible and state of the art office building, we will be able to rent out the additional space to provide a stable revenue stream to assist in supporting the Radio Reading service into the future. So, when you hear about the many events, appeals, and requests out there to raise the money needed for this job, get involved, participate, and by all means tell your friends, families, and enemies.
Even with these challenges that face us, as people with disabilities who wish to continue to live in our homes and communities, WNYIL still remains strong. While we take a few blows now and then like any Family, our Board, Volunteers, and staff remain committed to take on the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating equally in our communities. We promise you that our future of making positive changes in our region with our members will be as great and powerful as our history has been. Please get involved with WNYIL and its Family Agencies. Volunteer to be a member of our Board, our Councils, participate in our community events and ask how you can help our Family.
Contact any of the following agencies and speak with their Director and see what you can do:
Independent Living Center of Western New York, 3108 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14214
716-836-0822 ext. 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynnette Torgalski, Director
Independent Living of Niagara County, 746 Portage Road, Niagara Falls, NY 14301
716-284-4131 ext. 209 or email@example.com
Sarah Lanzo, Director
Mental Health Peer Connection, 3108 Main Street, Buffalo, NY, 14214
716-836-0822 ext. 162 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Maura Kelley, Director
Independent Living of the Genesee Region, 319 West Main Street Batavia, 14020
585-815-8501 ext. 406 or email@example.com
Rae Frank, Director
Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, 1199 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga, NY, 14227
716-821-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Benzin, Executive Director