Celebration of Stars

Celebration of Stars

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Celebration of stars.

Here are the honorees at last year’s event.

The Peggy Martinko Award presented to: DR. PAMELA EDINGTON

An experienced educator and administrator with more than 30 years of service at community colleges in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Pamela R. Edington, Ed.D. assumed the presidency of Dutchess Community College in August 2014. After a nation-wide search she was chosen as the best candidate – “the right person at the right time” – a forward thinking leader with demonstrated accomplishments in key areas that include enhancing student success; developing community-wide partnerships; strengthening educational pathways in science, technology, engineering and math; and fostering campus collaboration.

Key educational initiatives that Dr. Edington is committed to advancing include increasing the number of Dutchess students who complete a degree, developing additional programs to meet emerging workforce needs, growing a service-learning program that offers opportunities for students to deepen their academic experience while helping to meet community needs, and enhancing strategic relationships with local partners to enrich the educational pathway from pre-K through college.

Dr. Edington has distinguished herself in both the community and on the campus as an accessible, energetic and passionate visionary who is gifted in creating linkages between people and organizations to leverage resources and facilitate positive change. She is committed to enhancing life in the mid-Hudson Valley. In 2001, the Community College National Center for Community Engagement honored her as a “Beacon of Vision, Hope and Action” for her commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.

Dr. Edington holds an Ed.D. in Educational Policy, Research and Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. in Sociology from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN.

The Mimi Stambrook Award presented to: Ms. MAUREEN KANGAS

Maureen Kangas is a vibrant, compassionate individual who was born and raised in the Hudson Valley. Today, she is the General Manager of the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel. Although Maureen has plenty to do overseeing a business that runs 24/7, she freely gives her time to help so many organizations in our community.

Maureen has participated on the Board of Directors of several organizations including the Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce, The Grace Smith House, and the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Chamber Foundation, and on the Board of Trustees for Hudson Valley Hospice. She has participated as a member of The Dutchess County Tourism Council, The Daughters of the American Revolution, The American Heart Association, and as a past President of the Vassar Brothers Medical Center Auxiliary.

Maureen puts her skills to work to increase awareness and raise funds for charities that are close to her heart. She has worked on the planning committees for many events but most notably she has been an active member of the planning committee for “A Night of Wine and Roses Gala”. Maureen has been a driving force behind this signature event of the Alzheimer’s Association, which has raised over $1,000,000.oo since its inception.

An Athena Honoree, Maureen was also honored as Woman of the Year by the Junior League of Poughkeepsie and as Volunteer of the Year by the City of Beacon among many other accolades. In 2011, Maureen became the first non-medical person to be honored by Vassar Brothers Medical Center.

Maureen, you are certainly a busy and giving person! And yet, you have found quality time to assist The Arc of Dutchess, too. Over the past five years Maureen has been a big supporter of our organization and has graciously donated to our annual “Partners At Work Breakfast” which is our opportunity to thank the many local businesses who provide work opportunities for people with differing abilities. In addition, she herself has also provided such opportunities to individuals seeking employment. She is truly a special person in our community who is so deserving of this recognition.

The Employer of the Year Award presented to: CHRISTOPHER ZIKOYANIS accepting the award on behalf of the Wappingers Falls Store of THE HOME DEPOT

Our partnership with the Home Depot started about 5 years ago and during that time we have worked with stores in Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls, Fishkill, and Brewster. The company’s commitment to recognizing that each person’s skills and talents vary, and their willingness to take time to match each applicant with the right job has been a rewarding experience for all involved.

We appreciate The Home Depot management for giving individuals the opportunity to be part of their team and for their support in defining people by what they can offer rather than by what they can’t. This positive attitude helps to make this partnership a success.

Their flexibility to “make it work” makes all the difference in the world, not only to the employees with differing abilities that they hire, but to our staff who offer supports as well. They clearly understand that everyone is different and “just like you” and me we all have different aptitudes and talents.

The Arc of Dutchess and The Home Depot work together to achieve the goal of helping people to sustain employment, and become productive successful members of our community. It is a win-win situation. Accepting the award on behalf of the company is.

The Katz Volunteer Award presented to: Ms. MICHELLE DANCEY

Michelle Dancey has worked at The Arc of Dutchess since 2006, first as a Residential Habilitation Provider then as a School to Work Job Coach and since 2011 as a Rehabilitation Counselor in the Clinic. Michelle brings a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to her position and is genuinely committed to the belief that everyone has the potential to achieve growth through knowledge and new experiences. She is always up to a new challenge and willingly extends herself to expand her own knowledge in order to facilitate the activities that bring joy and a sense of self-worth to the people she supports.

When Michelle introduced the idea of working with plants to people on her caseload she discovered that there was a genuine interest in pursuing this activity. So she learned how to garden right along with them and as a result Michelle and her group have taken up the responsibility for maintaining the Clinic therapy garden. This interest in gardening has expanded to include an annual plant sale that provides the group with the experience of finding interesting containers, potting the plants, pricing and selling them. This year the group made $300.oo that will go to supplies for the garden and the purchase of adaptive gardening equipment that will allow people with physical challenges to have better access to this rewarding pursuit. The experience has been transformative for the people involved and allows for many positive interactions and increased self-esteem. Through the Clinic, Michelle also brought her love of dance to the Health Promotion curriculum and choreographed a number for that group based on their abilities that met the group exercise goal in a motivating and fun way – and even inspired all of the therapists involved to dance along!

For even longer than she has been with The Arc of Dutchess, Michelle has been an integral part of the Youth Mission Outreach in Poughkeepsie. She spends countless hours volunteering in a number of different capacities. YMO is a not for profit, non-denominational ministry that provides support and services for at risk youth and their families and for individuals with developmental disabilities. The aim of the organization is to address the needs of the entire person – physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. YMO programs provide opportunities for academic achievement, job readiness, and development of social skills. Michelle embraces the opportunity to be a mentor and role model and is involved in all facets of the organization.

Through her work, volunteer, and personal pursuits Michelle, gives voice to her deep faith and exemplifies the ideal of utilizing one’s gifts and talents to give back to others and the community. It is apparent that she embraces the challenges in her life as a vehicle for self-growth and as a result is able to motivate and inspire many others through her example.

The Rising Star Award presented to: Ms. KAYLA SHAFFER

Kayla Shaffer began working for the agency in 2007 as a Direct Team Member. At that time, her supervisor described her as “ready for any challenge that awaits her”. That statement defines Kayla’s career with the agency. Kayla quickly moved into a supervisory role and for a short time, a clerical one. In each position she proved to be a strong advocate for the people we support. In 2012 she began working in a relief direct support position so that she could go back to school to become a Licensed Practical Nurse. She completed her schooling in 2013 and was hired as a nurse supporting people in two of our homes. Kayla’s blend of Direct Support, Supervisory and Nursing experience gives her a well-rounded perspective which helps her to work through some very complex issues. Kayla is well respected by others in the medical community and works hard to ensure people understand their medical needs and can advocate for themselves to the best of their ability. Kayla has developed excellent relationships with those she supports, their families and her co-workers. She is ready and willing to help wherever necessary and will, no doubt, continue to enhance the quality of life for the people we support.

The Sarah Studler “Smile” Award presented to: Ms. ASHLEY RUSSELL

Ashley demonstrates through her words and actions as well as her contributions to the community, the qualities that embody this award. Ashley has boundless energy and confidence, a motivating personality that has inspired students to continue learning to improve their work and social skills and has helped raise their self-esteem. She has encouraged and mentored many students to persevere when a task was new or difficult. She is a young entrepreneur who is willing to take the time to make a difference while under pressure to keep her business successfully meeting the demands of her customers.

A very generous person, Ashley has donated over her short time in business more than $4,500 in support of organizations such as the Autism Awareness, March of Dimes, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, and Wappinger’s Junior High School Career Day to name a few. From 2015 to present Ashley has contributed in excess of $8,500 to The Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, Lucky Orphan Horse Rescue, The Arc of Dutchess Golf Classic, and many more community organizations.

Ashley not only contributes money, she contributes her time, knowledge and baked goods. During the Roy C. Ketcham High School field trip for a special education class, she provided cupcakes, frosting, and tools. She patiently instructed the students how to frost and decorate 4 cupcakes each. They were taught to make decorations with fondant such as caterpillars, and flowers. This is not an easy task but Ashley made it fun for the students and her welcoming demeanor and friendly disposition made it a great experience for everyone.

Before going into the baking business, Ms. Russell was an operations manager for Edible Arrangements in Poughkeepsie. Ashley was enrolled at SUNY Rockland Community College and transferred to Dutchess Community College to complete her Associate’s Degree while working. More work and more school followed as she earned her Bachelor’s Degree while working full time.

Although successful in her current employment and moving into a management positions, Ashley knew in her heart that she really wanted to have her own business. She and her Mom started baking at home while she was still working full time. The first trial run was a batch of snowflake cookies she brought to work and as they say, “the rest was history” There was no stopping Ashley once her baked goods were discovered and so her business was born. But it is her positive attitude and her constant generosity to everyone in her community that really makes Ashley Russell truly special and deserving of this recognition.

The Bessie Payne Award presented to: Mr. VINCENT MILLER

Vincent J. Miller was born and grew up in Poughkeepsie. After High School, Vinnie went to Marist College studying Business.  He received his B.S. from Marist in 1980 and then went to Hudson Valley Community College to study and achieve his Associates Degree in Mortuary Science.  He entered the family business in 1983 and when his father, John E. Miller passed away in 1988, he became owner of the William G. Miller & Son Funeral Home, Inc. in Poughkeepsie.

As a lifelong resident of Poughkeepsie, Vinnie has been involved with many groups and organizations.  He is a member of the Poughkeepsie ELKS Club and has served on many boards including The United Way of Dutchess County, where he was the Chair of the Short Term Funding Committee. He served on and is a past President of the Dutchess County YMCA Board of Directors and is currently the Vice Chair of Hudson Valley Hospice. Active in local government he has served on the City of Poughkeepsie Planning Board. Mr. Miller served 2 terms as President of the Dutchess, Putnam & Ulster Funeral Directors Association and is also a member of the New York State Funeral Directors Association. He had served as Vice Chair on the St. Francis Health Care Foundation and presently is involved with Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital on the Board of Visitors. He was also Vice Chair of the Poughkeepsie Day Nursery and serves on several committees of the Community Foundation of Dutchess County and the Foundations of Dutchess Community College and Marist College. Vinnie is also on the Our Lady of Lourdes Alumni Board.

The individuals supported by The Arc of Dutchess are people. And just like any one of us they experience the triumphs, the good times and the sad times throughout their lives. They have friends and families that share in those life experiences. Sometimes the staff at The Arc of Dutchess is the closest thing to family some individuals have and when the life experiences come to a close it is felt deeply by that person’s family, friends and support staff.

Time and time again, Vincent Miller has made himself available during our many periods of grief. Although it is his profession, he has made an extraordinary effort to make the end of life planning process easier, more respectable, and reflective of what the individual would want and desire as a human being. His heart is truly filled with compassion for the individuals supported by The Arc of Dutchess; always treating them as deserving human beings. His efforts for advocacy and gaining the most respectable services for the individual who has passed far exceeds the greatest expectations.

In times of short funding, he has “stretched the dollar” to ensure the individuals and their families are treated with respect and dignity. He has generously delivered services for individuals that lacked the necessary funds. He has provided advice beyond the scope of his job duties providing information for County Resources and making the most of end of life decisions for individuals with special needs.

Vinnie understands the connections between the people who have made a career of caring for and providing supports to individuals with developmental disabilities and he has often gone above and beyond in providing support to staff during their times of grief.

In the dictionary a ‘humanitarian’ is described as one who practices goodwill toward all people; especially with efforts to promote human welfare; and one who provides charitable acts or gifts. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this also describes Vincent Miller.

The Frank Pessia Award presented to: Ms. JESSICA CHALLAN-SPERA

The Arc of Dutchess came to meet Jessica when we were planning our Annual Meeting program and were soliciting parental insight and perspectives on early intervention services in Dutchess County. One of our Service Coordinators who had worked with the mother of a youngster with a disability suggested that she might be willing to share her experience with early intervention and her story. It was Jessica. She spoke from her heart with passion, knowledge and an obvious willingness to explore and learn. Her excitement and energy was palpable and her message inspirational.

Much like Frank Pessia, it is clear that Jessica has assumed the title of advocate along with parent. She knows she will need to soak up every morsel of knowledge she can to ensure her daughter will get the education, social engagement and quality of life she deserves, and is expected for every child. Just like Frank Pessia, she knows she will need and value the support and contact with other parents who share her experience. But she also freely shares her own experience, knowledge, and support with other parents. Meeting Jessica and listening to her share her story and her dreams for her daughter reminded us of the passion and dedication of a father who also stood up to the challenge presented to him and played a significant role in our history. Jessica fits the description of an “impassioned parent” perfectly.

The Kenny Dixon “Spirit” Award presented to: Ms. CAROLYN NAUGHTON

Ms. Carolyn Naughton has been challenged with a wide range of obstacles her entire life. Nothing has stopped this intelligent, self-determined individual from advancing her education to a higher degree.

As a child she was not asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and in high school she was never encouraged to further her education.

Due to Carolyn’s disability she had a vision teacher, Mrs. Barry, who taught Carolyn how to read braille. When reading braille, you need to use eight fingers. But Carolyn had use of only one finger. So, being the determined person she is, Carolyn took a year off to learn braille after high school and then was accepted to Dutchess Community College. With strong support from family, Mrs. Barry, and the staff from The Arc of Dutchess, Carolyn will be receiving an Associate’s Degree in Humanities.

But that’s not all… Carolyn is inspirational to others and is willing to share her story to help others. So here is what she wrote when asked for some biographical information for tonight’s program:

“Dear Ms. Flavin:

My name is Carolyn Naughton and I live in Beacon NY with my parents and my sister Emily.  I am a part time student at Dutchess Community College pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences.  I have faced many challenges attending college but I have always lived by the motto, “never, never, ever give up”.  I hope to be finished with school in the spring of 2017.  My family and friends mean the world to me and they have enriched my life with their love and support.  ARC has also made many things possible for me and I thank them for all they have done and continue to do.

Sincerely, Carolyn Naughton”

Carolyn, it is your determination and perseverance that makes you the perfect recipient for the 2016 Kenny Dixon Spirit Award. Congratulations.