News at RCIL
Issue 8 April 2019
Welcome LIFE at RCIL!
RCIL wishes to welcome its newest affiliate company, Living Independently is For Everyone at RCIL or LIFE at RCIL, to the corporate family. LIFE at RCIL will house the three Independent Living Centers in Amsterdam, Herkimer, and Utica as well as many programs that provide independent living services to individuals with disabilities such as NY Connects, the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, Family Support Services, Employment Services, and more. Transition of the programs to the new entity are in process and will be completed over the next few months.

The intent behind this reconfiguration of the corporate structure is to place direct focus of the LIFE at RCIL Board of Directors on individual and systems advocacy and independent living services and supports. The self-directed programs that provide financial support will remain as part of the Resource Center for Independent Living. Most importantly, there will be no changes to staff, location, or services in any program that would impact participants.

To lead LIFE at RCIL into the future, RCIL has hired Charles (Sonny) Greco to serve as its first Executive Director. With his experience as the Mayor of Utica's Chief of Staff and prior work with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mr. Greco will oversee administrative operations, advocate for individuals with disabilities, and promote pubic awareness of RCIL services. Mr. Greco will join the organization in May and help usher the organization through its other big change, a move to 131 Genesee Street scheduled to take place this Summer.

RCIL corporate headquarters will move into the former Boston Store before construction begins on the new downtown hospital being built by the Mohawk Valley Health System. The new location offers more space for programs and staff and will bring the RCIL organization into the heart of downtown Utica. Renovations on the adjacent parking garage and on the building are underway and will increase the accessibility, functionality, and security for the organization's staff and program participants.

An Open House will be scheduled after staff has been moved - watch for your invitation!
Legislative Day 2019
On Monday, February 11th, advocates for people with disabilities flooded The Well of Albany’s Legislative Office Building to discuss issues that impact the lives of individuals with disabilities across New York State.

Among those in attendance were 27 LIFE at RCIL staff members from Utica, Herkimer, and Amsterdam. Over a course of two-and-a-half hours, these advocates went to the offices of ten New York State representatives, expressing the need for homecare workers to receive a living wage and for Independent Living Centers to have a base fund of $18 million, as recommended by the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

Gene Hughes, LIFE at RCIL’s Director of Community Relations, organized the trip and led many of the discussions, stressing the importance of maintaining the autonomy and humanity of people with disabilities who, without Independent Living Centers, would face institutionalization. By connecting people to the resources that they need, they can regain control over their own lives, be productive members of society, and cost the state less money than if they were to relinquish their right to choose and move into long-term care facilities, according to the NYSED.

So far, LIFE at RCIL has walked away with one success as early voting legislation was recently signed into law by Governor Cuomo, thereby enabling more people with disabilities to have their voices heard.

LIFE at RCIL staff members who attended Legislative Day: Michael Yanney, Jolene Gerace, Lisa Mastracco, Colleen Geer, Jennifer DePasquale, Marvin Wright, Luis Martinez, LeAnne Ramey, Ryan Nolan, Krystal Pavlot, Ashley Mahler, Debbie Smith, David Spencer, Jennifer Walrath, Tracy Sommer, Jacqueline Marquez, Rochelyn Hernandez, Timothy Scharett, Gene Hughes, Roxanne Broadbent, Maura Carlson, Jill Toher, Jennifer Ross, Estelle Fosella, Carri Yager-Parker, Nilda Giraldi, and Cheyenne Dorsagno who submitted this reflection of the experience.
Caregiver Connections
The very popular Caregiver Connection events held by the Many Hearts Senior Care Center and funded by the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York continue to bring seniors and their caregivers together for some fun, food, entertainment, and learning opportunities.

The Senior Breakfast Club met in January to learn how to create LEAP Binders. LEAP stands for L ife E vents A ctually P lanned and the Binders include documents, pictures, and lists of important information that a person might need if admitted to a hospital, found in an emergency situation, or facing a natural disaster. These are the items you always wish you had close at hand and never can find when you need them! LEAP Binders make it easy to always be prepared when life happens.

Caregiver Appreciation Night took place in February with dinner, music, a professional massage therapist, and photographs. Attendees were able to leave a cold winter at the door and enjoy a fun evening with the friends made through the Caregiver Connections events.

St. Patrick's Day is always something special for the Caregiver Connections crew. Once again, Irish dancers graced the Dorothy Smith Center for Advocacy on Genesee Street with dancing while participants enjoyed a traditional Irish dinner and music.

These events are designed to bring families and friends together with the seniors in their lives. Events take place in accessible locations where RCIL staff will be available to assist and to provide respite care when needed.

For further information, please email or call Nicole Hediger , Manager of Adult Day Services,
at NHediger@RCIL .com or 315-797-4642 x 2553.
Putting the pieces together
More often than you might think, LIFE at RCIL staff members send newsletter stories that demonstrate the impact made by the programs offered through the organization. However, it is not often that we get a story that so truly illustrates the way programs complement each other to improve the life of a person with a disability - in this case, five different programs:

Melissa was a non-traditional nursing home resident in that she was much younger than most, admitted into the facility in her early 40s following complications from a car accident. She connected with the designated Ombudsman from the LIFE at RCIL Long Term Care Ombudsman Program in the hope of resolving some of her quality of life and care grievances. For three years she was not able to leave the facility or participate in appropriate activities for a woman her age: she had to argue to go outside to read a book on her own and was not able to attend outings because her wheelchair didn’t fit on the facility bus to transport her to Walmart and other trips residents enjoyed. Inside the facility, her wheelchair didn’t fit through the Activities Room door resulting in further isolation and withdrawal. Melissa felt imprisoned; she grew depressed and felt hopeless, struggling to maintain any sense of independence and dignity.

Working with her Ombudsman, Melissa learned about programs that would help to support community-based living for someone like her. The Ombudsman connected her with the LIFE at RCIL Open Doors Transition Specialist to get more information on her right to live outside the facility. Melissa started the process to transition back into the community and gained hope and confidence along the way; she was empowered and self-motivated and began working toward a healthier lifestyle so she could transition back into the community safely. The Transition Specialist connected Melissa to the services and supports she needed to move into an accessible apartment.

Melissa has been living independently in the community for about a year with in-home services through the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program , a housing subsidy provided by the LIFE at RCIL Olmstead Housing Subsidy Program , and additional assistance from a LIFE at RCIL program funded by the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation to purchase accessibility equipment. She has joy and happiness in her voice as she expresses how amazing it is to be out of the facility and even employed in a work-from-home program (another resource her Ombudsman shared with her). She claims if it weren’t for the initial meeting with the Ombudsman and the further connections to other LIFE at RCIL community-based living programs, she would still be in the nursing home today. 

To learn more about the programs mentioned in this story, please use the links provided or contact the following staff:
The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program : Krystal Curley, email or phone 315-797-4642 x3081.
Open Doors and the Reeve Foundation: Maxine Nasby, email or phone 315-797-4642 x2523.
Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program: Christa Makuch, email or phone 315-797-4642 x3108
Olmstead Housing Subsidy Program: Cliff Franklin, email or phone 315-797-4642 x2936.
3 rd Annual
Many Hearts, One Purpose . . . Dining for a Cause

Enjoy a delicious tasting menu from Chef Aaron Wratten of the Horned Dorset Inn , Chef Michael Letreille from Michael's Fine Food and Spirits , The Willows , ANCORA! , Irwin's Fine Food , and Yummilicious Cakes and Desserts while helping to benefit local Senior Citizens who would not otherwise have the ability to participate in activities at the Many Hearts Senior Care Center.

This valuable program provides participants with door-to-door transportation, on-site personal care, social activities, community outings, nutritious meals and the opportunity to socialize with peers in a safe and beautiful setting. 

Tickets are on sale now. $100 per person and all proceeds benefit Seniors in the Many Heart Senior Care Center programs. Buy yours now by visiting Many Hearts, One Purpose . . . Dining for a Cause Tickets or contact Michael Yanney, Events Coordinator at email or phone 315-272-2986.
Minutes in Motion
The Physical Activity Group of the RCIL Wellness Committee is launching a new Minutes in Motion challenge to all staff members. This time, all minutes of activity count and can be performed at work, home, or in the community. Walking, running, yoga, rehabiliative exercises, and stretching all count!

To join this year's challenge:
  1. Gather a team of 4 coworkers and choose a captain and great Team Name!
  2. Start tracking your minutes on April 15th and continue through May 13th.
  3. Encourage your Teammates to be active during work breaks.
  4. Submit your minutes to your Team Captain every Friday who will submit them to Gale Bergman.

The Wellness Committee will recognize the Team with the highest number of activity minutes at the end of the four-week competition.
RCIL’s 3 rd Annual
Children's Brunch and Character Party
On October 20 th , RCIL hosted the  3 rd  Annual Children’s Brunch and Character Party   at the Dorothy Smith Center for Advocacy. Children were enchanted by appearances of over 25 characters including favorites such as Beauty and the Beast, Elsa and Anna, Spiderman, Batman, a Storm Trooper, Snow White, Cinderella and even Mickey & Minnie Mouse! Families were entertained with face painting, a caricature artist, story time with a Princess and even a Magi cian. Volunteers thrilled the children as they enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet, once again featuring pancakes and waffles made to order by RCIL’s very own CEO, Zvia McCormick.

With over 100 guests in attendance, The Dorothy Smith Center for Advocacy was full of magic and excitement. Proceeds fro m this f undraising Event support the Many Hearts Senior Care Center at RCIL. Participants of the Senior Care Program receive door-to-door transportation, personal care, nutritious meals, community outings and the opportunity to socialize with peers.

Special thanks to our Magical Sponsors, Committee Members a nd RCIL’s S taff Volunteers whose hard work and dedication contributed to this Event being a success. We look forward to the  4 th Annual Children’s Brunch and Character Party  in October of 2019. If you would like to help with this Event, please contact Michael Yanney, Event Coordinator at 315-272-2986 or .