Life’s WORC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism through its residential, community, and trust services, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 27 at its newest group home in Elmont.
The organization’s CEO Janet Koch was joined by board members Ron Aghassi and Ed O’Donnell and residents of the home. Senator Anna Kaplan and Kevin Devlin, director of community outreach for Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, both presented commendations to Life’s WORC acknowledging its 50th anniversary. Kaplan also presented a citation in recognition of the new group home.
Life’s WORC was founded by Victoria Schneps Yunis, president of Schneps Media, the parent company of the Long Island Press, and a fierce advocate for the rights of people with developmental disabilities.
Schneps Yunis is credited with being the catalyst behind the closing of the Willowbrook State State in Staten Island, where her young daughter Lara, who was severely challenged, had been a resident.
Willowbrook gained national headlines in the late 1960s when a young investigative reporter, Geraldo Rivera (then with WABC’s Eyewitness News) placed a spotlight on the deplorable circumstances at the school in a scathing report. After losing its state funding, the institution had fallen into a state of uninhabitable conditions which Rivera captured in graphic detail.
As a result of Rivera’s report, which won him a Peabody, and Schneps Yunis’ unwavering leadership and advocacy, the institution was forced to close in the face of diminished funds, its conditions, and public outcry.
On April 27, 1971, Schneps Yunis formed and incorporated WORC (the forerunner to what was subsequently renamed Life’s WORC) and went on to open its first home in Queens. It became the new home of several former Willowbrook residents, and in recognition of Rivera’s efforts, the residence was named in his honor.
From its notable beginning, Life’s WORC has evolved considerably. Now, under the leadership of Koch, the organization has 45 homes located throughout Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Manhattan, and offers a wide range of services. Both its headquarters and the Life’s WORC Family Center for Autism (FCA), which provides programs and support services to children and adults with autism and their families, are located on Franklin Avenue in Garden City.
In addition to its residential services, Life’s WORC offers behavioral analysis services, residential services, day habilitation programs, respite and family support services, customized employment programs, and trust and financial services.
The FCA also provides a wide range of programs from art camps, sports and fitness, music and movement programs to science and tech, salon and spa, and vocational programs for children, tweens, teens and adults. The goal of its programs is to help teach valuable life skills, while promoting socialization and recreational opportunities for adults and children with autism.
Life’s WORC will be celebrating its golden anniversary with various Celebrate 50! events and initiatives designed to further build awareness of its valuable services and programs. This campaign aims to engage Long Island, Queens and Manhattan residents and businesses to support the organization so that it can continue to fulfill its vital mission for 50 more years.
For more information about Life’s WORC and/or Celebrate 50 commemorative activities, contact Matthew Zebatto at 516-972-6053.
This story first appeared on QNS.com.