2020 Fall Festivities

Ghosties and goblins, hay bales and pumpkins, black cats and ghouls, even Snoopy and Woodstock decorate the property for an area of Fall Fun and social distanced gathering.

Director of Residential Services, Terrance Harris, and the Somers Day program staff set up a fall menagerie on campus where individuals can visit, have cider and donuts, show off their costumes and take some festive fall photos.

Check out the costumes and camaraderie below:

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Voting in the 2020 Election

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. It allows American citizens to have a say in who will represent them. Every vote plays a vital role in choosing our leaders and changing laws on both a local and federal level, a privilege that shapes the future of our country.

Once denied the right to vote, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 granted voters with disabilities the right to vote. With appropriate support, individuals are able to make informed decisions about candidates and the impact of the issues, many which affect them directly. Inclusion in the voting process empowers individuals and guarantees their voice is represented in our democracy. 

Opengate is dedicated to ensuring individuals are given the opportunity to register and that their voting rights are respected. Individuals were provided information about voting by Krista Fucci, a social worker at Opengate. Krista verified the registration status of those who expressed an interest to vote, and assisted first time voters in registering. 

Opengate staff remain neutral while supporting individuals with knowledge they need to make self-directed, educated decisions about their ballot choices. The individuals receive unbiased information about the candidates and the issues. In addition, to become better educated they watch the news, the debates, and engage in discussions with housemates and staff who are available to answer their questions. They are provided with impartial information from reliable resources so they understand the agenda of each candidate.

Americans voting in the 2020 election face concerns surrounding COVID-19 and some of our individuals have requested absentee ballots so they can vote from home. Others have opted to vote in person. Many of these individuals will take advantage of early voting, which begins October 24. This alleviates concerns about long lines and crowded polling places. Individuals who are registered but have not yet committed to vote will continue to be given opportunities and support to vote in the manner that they choose to do so, up until election day. 

We are proud that the individuals that we support at Opengate take their right to vote and have their voices heard seriously. We recognize the power they have and encourage them to be agents of change in the country as well as their local communities.

Information from the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)

Exercise Your Right To Vote.

All Americans have the right to vote, including people with developmental disabilities, and there are federal and state laws to guard and guarantee that right. OPWDD is committed to ensuring that voting rights are upheld for the people we serve, and that every person is given the opportunity to register to vote.

How to Register

You have many options when it comes to registering to vote. The New York Disability Vote Network website has helpful information for people with developmental disabilities, as does the NYS Board of Elections website with tips on How to Register, Knowing Your Voting Machine, Meeting Voter Access Needs, and more.

Agency-Based Voter Registration

OPWDD offers assistance with voter registration for the people we serve. Anyone who would like information or assistance in registering may contact their nearest OPWDD Voting Coordinator.

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)

The “Motor Voter Bill” is the federal law that ensures voting rights to all Americans. This act was signed on May 20, 1993, and includes specific provisions all states must follow.

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Lynda Guzman: Director of Clinical & Behavioral Services

Lynda Guzman

Lynda Guzman joined the staff of Opengate as the Director of Clinical and Behavioral Services in 2019. Earning her Bachelor Degree in Sociology from Colgate University her love of sociology inspired her to become a social worker and she earned her Masters Degree from Columbia University. Her career as a social worker led her into every position available where she was exposed to all aspects of her profession.

Lynda’s choice to accept a position at Opengate was threefold; she wished to expand her knowledge of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the superb reputation of the agency, and the agency’s kindness and love shown towards the individuals served. 

“I’m happy that Opengate has their heart in the right place in all their decision making.”

Along with her staff, Lynda devises strategies to develop an atmosphere for each person to flourish and grow. In addition, she screens candidates for admission to Opengate’s homes and travels to meet individuals and their families before submitting her recommendations. Once a candidate has been accepted, she assists the family through the process and prepares them for the space and distance away from their loved one. To balance her recommendations, she includes individuals who currently live in the home ensuring a good fit with the objective of fostering an open, loving environment for everyone.

Lynda leads an annual general training to review best practices throughout the agency as well as regular training for staff to assess personal behavior plans, specifically how to comfort, calm, and de-escalate situational reactions for each individual.

COVID-19 changed everything!

From the first indications of COVID-19 in the area, Opengate staff responded to ensure the best care for individuals with the least amount of disruption. Additionally, only the most essential workers were allowed to be in the homes, leaving Lynda and her staff on the outside unless there was a crisis or individual support needed. 

Furthermore, outside programs and travel was suspended and no family visits were possible for candidates and placement. Lynda presented virtual home tours through video conferencing instead of personal meetings, helping families remotely to prepare for placement, sometimes the individual’s first time away from home and family.

Lynda stepped into the position of Direct Support Professional to cover shifts during staff shortages due to COVID-19. She fondly relates that she grasped the importance and value of the DSPs position and their close connections with individuals. She claims it was a highlight of her tenure to continuously interact with individuals allowing her to experience another dimension of their needs.

To balance her busy schedule, Lynda practices yoga as a self-care exercise that centers her and brings her peace. To fully find an escape she enjoys reading and traveling. 

To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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Get to Know the Impact of Your Donations

opengateinc.org

Opengate began as a grass-roots effort when a handful of courageous and committed parents sought a caring community solution for their adult children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Now, over 50 years later, Opengate relies on the kindness and generosity of our supporters to make our services successful. We are fortunate to have devoted donors who repeatedly, and abundantly, open their checkbooks.

The influence of each donation reaches out to every aspect of daily life for not only individuals in residence, but for those who participate in our community programs and services.

How Your Contributions Help

Beyond the operational costs, our donors make sure that we have funds to offer programs that enhance the lives of our individuals through recreation, education, and socialization. Our individuals take part in several outside sporting programs, like the Miracle League, enriching their team building skills and improving physical fitness.

Last year we were able to add a Music Therapy Program through the benevolence of one of our donors. We were able to secure a music therapist who organizes the weekly program for the benefit of our residents.

Maintaining, updating and furnishing several houses and facilities is another area we depend on for donations. Several of our houses require specialty furnishings to meet the needs of the residents. These items of furniture need to be customized which adds to the replacement cost.

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Opengate recognizes the importance of retaining quality staff members. We assist our employees to realize their full potential with the addition of staff development and training. We believe our staff is united with our strong commitment to person-centered planning, community inclusion, and quality outcomes for all individuals.

Donations also help us provide staff recognition. Each month employees nominate and vote for the Employee of the Month which honors the elected employee with a certificate, a gift card, and recognition on our website and social media platforms.

Each year Opengate hosts the Annual Awards Day Luncheon providing for families, staff and individuals to gather for dancing, socialization, and delicious food. Awards are presented to each individual for their personal achievements in areas such as gardening skills, socialization skills, advocacy and leadership skills.

As you can see, our reliance on private donations is what allows us to grow, yet maintain our mission for all of the individuals who reside in our homes or participate in our programs.

What can smaller donations do? A lot!

While we gladly receive generous year end donations, we realize not everyone is in a financial position to make one large contribution. To that end, we have created several ways to donate, including smaller recurring payments. We never want you to feel like you can’t give enough.

Smaller donations really do count. Example: If only 100 new donors commit to a mere $10 per month for one year it will earn $12,000!

A few of the areas at Opengate influenced by smaller donations are:

  • Events and outings for our consumers
  • Assistance with glasses, or other medical needs not covered by Medicare
  • Sensory items
  • Arts and craft supplies
  • Games
  • Electronics
  • Tickets to sporting or cultural events
  • Recreational equipment

How are you able help?

  • Talk about Opengate to other family members or friends in your community and encourage their donation.
  • Reach out to businesses or corporations for donations of needed goods and services, or monetary gifts
  • Set up a recurring donation schedule (monthly, quarterly)
  • Consider legacy giving in your estate planning
  • Host a fundraising event in your community

Opengate also has a walkway leading up to our beautiful gazebo at our Somers location. Bricks and benches may be purchased to honor or memorialize someone from Opengate, the community, or someone who stand committed to our mission.

We are proud to offer this casual donor impact report covering a few of the areas influenced by your giving. When you make a gift to Opengate you are reaching out to enrich the lives of our individuals and we thank you for your kindness, compassion, and ongoing generosity.


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To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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DSP Recognition Week 2020

A message from Brian Hulten, CEO to Opengate Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)

Annually we take a pause to recognize the essential job Direct Support Professionals perform. September 13-19, 2020 is designated as Direct Support Recognition Week as a national campaign to thank DSPs for all they do on a daily basis.

Join us in sharing our appreciation of the many unsung heros who truly make a difference in the lives of individuals.

Thank you to all of the Opengate DSPs who so compassionately care every day.

#DSPRW2020


To stay apprised of the activities taking place at Opengate we invite you to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribe to our Newsletter and Blog.

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