…a humanitarian legend (Bessie Payne). Bessie Payne was a remarkable woman. When she died in 1991 at age 96, she left Dutchess County with a much richer and more diverse array of services due to her involvement. She was instrumental and considered a driving force behind the development of many Poughkeepsie civic organizations – in 1913 along with her mother and 10 other women she created the Poughkeepsie Neighborhood Club. She is best remembered by The Arc of Dutchess as the Principal of “The Little Red Schoolhouse” in Poughkeepsie. When you talk about services for the developmentally disabled in Dutchess County – you might say it began right there; with her, and other educators in our community who devoted their lives to the “children” we serve today. It is in her memory, and with her vision of service that we present this award.
…a young professional (under the age of 35) who demonstrates boundless energy. Sarah Studler was an Arc of Dutchess employee who left our world much too soon. In the span of her 25 years she enriched all who knew her with her generosity of spirit. For us at The Arc of Dutchess, Sarah represented the very best of the new generation moving into our workforce. She brought a wonderful energy and spirit to our work place. She was confident, funny, always smiling, and ready to embrace the world. She cared deeply for her family, her friends, coworkers and her community; she had a way of making everyone and anyone feel special and valuable. Within her all too short tenure at The Arc of Dutchess she developed relationships in every department and at every level. To honor Sarah’s memory and her contribution to our collective community, this award celebrates an individual who demonstrates in word and action, those wonderful qualities we cherish and remember in Sarah … spirited, motivating, inspiring, limitless, and exceptional as a colleague, employee, community member, and person.
… an individual with disabilities who demonstrates a “no excuse, can do” attitude who perseveres through life’s challenges with grace, dignity and strength (Kenny Dixon). Kenny was an empowered spirit who persevered through mounting medical challenges with strength, dignity and determination. He inspired all of those who crossed his path with his wit, his heart and his “can do” attitude. Kenny made a concerted effort each day to lift the spirits of those around him and leave life’s complaints untold. He represented “live each day” by dwelling on today’s opportunities. Kenny just wanted to keep it moving whether it was making someone laugh, playing hoops or getting through his dialysis treatment. This award celebrates an individual who defies what others may have determined as their destiny, perseveres through life’s challenges, focuses on the good in the world and doesn’t let “life” get in the way of their dreams.
…a noble ally (Mimi Stambrook)
Mimi Stambrook was well known as a volunteer in our community. She worked at the Little Red School House and later with Rehab Programs. She was considered a leader in our field in the Mid Hudson Valley, throughout her career. Since 1989, the Board of Directors of The Arc of Dutchess has presented the Mimi Stambrook Award to a Board Member, staff person, or volunteer, whose work in the field goes far beyond the scope of their job or voluntary position at The Arc of Dutchess.
…a selfless pioneer (Katz Award)
The Katz Award was created by Phyllis Rosenfield, and her late husband Herb, in remembrance of Phyllis’s parents, Jean and Louis Katz. Jean Katz, was very involved in the development of AHRC in New York City, the roots of the NYSARC, Inc. organization, and a cohort of Ann Greenburg, the parent who placed the original advertisement in the NY Times which was the genesis of this movement. For her daughter Barbara, Jean worked to ensure services for all children with developmental disabilities would exist for a lifetime. It is with that in mind that we give this next award. Since 1993, this award has honored individuals who have made volunteering a lifestyle. These folks don’t see their activities as extra tasks in their lives, but rather, as essentials parts of their existence.
…a trailblazer (Peggy Martinko)
During a time when many women had not yet found their voice, Peggy Martinko stood out as a ‘renaissance woman’. She and her friend, Kay Seeberger created a cohort comprised of educators, family members, other community activists dedicated to ensuring a rich, productive future for individuals with developmental disabilities after their school experience ended. Concerned that the only services available at time did not adequately support those with more serious challenges, Peggy and this band of advocates took their message to County and State representatives and the Dutchess County community to ensure these individuals were not forgotten. This took courage, leadership, and perseverance. Peggy had it all; she was “a force to be reckoned with”. At the same time, Peggy raised her family, maintained an extensive circle of friends, and was active in many other community groups. She is described by her children as “gifted in making others happy.” Those who worked and socialized with Peggy tell us stories of a humorous and fun-loving person with a talent for playing the kazoo and making people smile. the Arc of Dutchess is forever in her debt.
…an impassioned parent (Frank Pessia)
In the early 60’s Frank Pessia and his wife adopted 3 little triplet girls. Sadly, Mrs. Pessia passed away when the children were only 3 years of age. About 2 years later in 1967, all three girls were diagnosed with developmental disabilities. One can only imagine this level of loss within such a short period of time, especially given that in 1967, half of the nation’s 25,000 school districts offered no classes for students with special needs. But Frank Pessia became an advocate for service development fueled by the love for his daughters. In 1971 Frank Pessia became the first Chapter President of The Arc of Dutchess. It is his dedication as a parent, and innovative spirit the early years of our organization that we honor in the presentation of this award.