Colleen is officially a HOMEOWNER!! - thanks to the collective efforts and kindness of community members near and far, Colleen’s home and job at Home Depot are safe and secure.
Back in December 2020, we shared a story of Colleen, an East Islip resident of over 40 years and a veteran Home Depot employee of 23 years, who was in danger of losing the only home she ever knew.
Losing a home goes far beyond becoming homeless for Colleen. Her parents dedicated tireless years to helping Colleen master day-to-day activities and her independence as an adult is strongly tied to her ability to navigate her neighborhood. Colleen, now in her forties, can walk to her doctor, food store, bakery, laundromat and most importantly, she can get to work.
Colleen walks to a nearby bus stop and takes the bus to Home Depot where she has worked for the past 23 years. “My mother and I practiced the route to work for years” shared Colleen.
In April 2018, Colleen’s mother suffered a massive stroke leaving her in need of nursing home care and is currently on life support. Due to costly medical bills, Colleen could no longer afford to keep her forever home.
Spearheaded by Susan Palladino - Home Depot Manager, Colleen’s coworkers and East Islip residents, initially raised more than $15,000 in just a few weeks. Hopeful and determined to help Colleen preserve her home, Susan reached out to Boomer Esiason, a retired NFL quarterback, to share the story of Colleen, a fellow East Islip native in need of help.
Esiason who is deeply rooted in the East Islip community, was touched by Colleen’s Story and promptly reached out to Joe Winters, of Winters Center for Autism. As a founder of an organization dedicated to helping people with autism gain purpose and fulfillment through employment, helping Colleen preserve her home was of utmost importance to Joe. Because for Colleen, losing her home would have resulted in losing her job, her support system and the only life and routine she ever knew.
The two entities quickly combined their efforts to help. In addition to urging the listeners on his show, The Morning Show with Boomer & Gio, to give what they could, Esiason pledged to match the first $25,000 raised. “It’s not the amount we each give, it’s the amount of people who give.” Tweeted Boomer.
In today’s global pandemic it is important to keep our humanity and remain connected through kindness and generosity. We are happy to tell you that thanks to your generosity, Colleen will be able to remain in her home, maintain her job and the safety and security she had worked so hard to achieve. We are eternally grateful to all the kind-hearted people who supported the WCFA Relief Fund to make this happen. Your incredible kindness made a world of difference for Colleen and serves as a powerful reminder of what a community can achieve when people come together for a common cause.
Utmost gratitude goes out to Susan for recognizing a problem and advocating for a colleague in need, to Boomer and Gio at WFAN Sports Radio for utilizing their platform to spread the news about Colleen’s predicament and to Joe for never turning his back when given an opportunity to help.
Sadly, Joe Winters passed away following a brief battle with COVID-19, early January of 2021 and is not here to celebrate this news with us. His big heart and spirit of giving will always be our organization’s guiding light. His legacy will live on forever in our hearts as we continue to create a more inclusive and meaningful future for adults with autism.
You can hear more about the story in the link below.
Pictured from left (Christine Ponzio, Executive Director, Winters Center for Autism, Lauretta Majuk, Secretary and Grant Writer, Smithtown Elks Lodge, Raymond Berrios, Administrative Clerk, Winters Bros. Waste Systems, Michele Winters, Founder, Winters Center for Autism, Patrick Winters, Board President, Winters Center for Autism)
In recognition of #NationalReadAcrossAmericaDay, we are happy to share some exciting news...
February 25, 2021 marks the date Lauretta Majuk of Smithtown Elks Lodge#2036 awards The Beacon grant to Winters Center for Autism.
The Order of Elks is an organization of American citizens who love their country and desire to preserve its cherished institutions, who love their fellow men and seek to promote their well-being, and whose primary objective is the practice of charity.
This year, the Elks of Smithtown Secretary and grant writer, Lauretta Majuk, has secured a record amount of money to be disbursed to organizations in our community. The Winters Center for Autism, in honor of Nicholas Luizzi, has been designated an organization of distinction by Mrs. Majuk and has received one of the largest grants, The Beacon.
The Beacon Grant will fund literacy software and materials needed for employment preparedness and success. Children with ASD don’t always develop early literacy skills in the same order or timeline as other children. While some children with ASD may be fluent in reciting the alphabet and identifying letters, they may lack the understanding of why people read and write. If this problem persists into adolescence, it creates an additional barrier to employment. The unemployment rate for individuals with autism is 85% and the Winters Center for Autism is committed to changing that.
The grant is in honor of Nicholas Luizzi. At 3 years of age, Nick was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder and at 21 graduated from the life skills program at Smithtown High School. Shortly thereafter he joined a cooperative residential housing program where working at a local supermarket is part of his therapy. Nick is proof of the importance of life skills and job preparedness programs, such as at the Winters Center for Autism, to help people with ASD live to the fullest potential.
Literacy skills are essential for getting into the workforce. Less literate individuals have disadvantages coming into the workforce including limited ability to complete a job application and limited computer experience. At the Center, we teach adults with autism a variety of literacy-based skills including vocabulary, learning to read, reading fluency and print awareness. Employees with higher literacy skills earn more income and are less likely to become unemployed which is what makes literacy an essential component of job training and preparedness.
On this #FeelGoodFriday we wanted to honor #WorldKindnessDay by giving back. We came together with Winters Bros. Waste Systems to sponsor a food drive to help our neighbors at Gerald J. Ryan Outreach Center located in Wyandanch, NY. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this food drive so successful and for helping us give back to our wonderful community.
“How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time” – Unknown
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Highlights The Need For Job Opportunities For People With ASD
Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, pledges his support to combat the issue of high unemployment rates amongst adults with autism on Long Island.
“We all have the obligation in this community, this society and country to do what we can to make sure that every human being has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Chris shares his employment story as Winter's Bros' very first employee with autism and highlights the impact of his coworkers support on his success at work.
Find out what Ray says is his favorite part about working at Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island.
In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we would like to introduce you to our founders, Joe and Michele Winters. Please click the link below to learn more about their incredibly inspiring story and how important it is to #HireForAHigherPurpose
October 1st marks the first day of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. We would like to kick this month off featuring Sean, a hardworking, dedicated, and inspirational Winters Bros. employee. He shows up to work to take on his recycling route with a purpose and a sense of fulfillment.
In September, Winters Bros. provided Sean with a truck of his very own. If you have seen Winters Bros. trucks on the road, you know that each and every truck has a theme. Sean chose Winnie The Pooh, and The Jungle Book for the theme of his truck. The sense of pride and happiness that Sean had when he was presented with his truck is truly unmatched.
Sean is the perfect example of when given the right opportunity and the proper support, people with autism and other disabilities can do anything that they set their minds to.
Austin and Chris share their experience in staying connected, engaged and productive while embracing the flexibility of working from home during this pandemic.
These radiant smiles are behind the powerful reason that propels us to advance our mission each and every day.
The Winters Center for Autism is committed to enhancing the quality of life for adults with autism through job creation, training and placement while helping businesses to develop and implement programs to employ people with autism.