Want to be inspired? Keep reading!
Jeffrey Kautz is a young man with a wealth of talent. A well-educated, award-winning musician, a music teacher, and a mentor to students and adults with disabilities, Jeffrey is equal parts gifted and kind.
From a very young age, Jeffrey demonstrated a passion for music. A natural talent, Jeffrey garnered many awards both in his youth and in adulthood. In high school he received 19 NYSSMA Gold Medals in a variety of instruments including classical guitar, jazz drum set, snare drum, marimba, and timpani. He further received All-State recognition on Snare Drum, Marimba, and Timpani.
Despite all of these honors if you were to ask Jeffrey what his most treasured achievement in high school was, he would share that it is not music-related at all. Instead, Jeffrey would articulate that it is the time he spent while teaching, coaching, and mentoring students with disabilities in a weekly Physical Education class during his four years of high school.
After graduating high school, Jeffrey attended the prestigious Mannes School of Music in New York City. With the acceptance rate sitting at approximately 24%, garnering an invitation to attend this program is no small feat. As his course work was coming to completion at Mannes, Jeffrey concluded his experience by becoming the only solo timpanist to win the Mannes School of Music Concerto Competition. For Jeffrey, this was only the tip of the musical iceberg! An immense talent, beyond years and measure, on his twenty-first birthday Jeffrey would give the performance of a lifetime. Jeffrey was hand-selected to perform at the Czech Consulate in New York City for Drumming for the Bubny Holocaust Memorial Service. Following his riveting performance, Jeffrey attended a State Dinner with ambassadors from the United Nations.
Jeffrey continued to further develop his musical aptitudes attending graduate school at New York University Steinhardt where he received his Master’s Degree in Music. During his final semester at NYU Jeffrey performed as an actor, with a role as a drummer, in the HBO series “Plot Against America.”
This summer Jeffrey joined the team at the Winters Center for Autism as an Administrative Clerk. He recently lent his musical prowess to the center at a very special event. On October 4th, the Inaugural Joe Winters Golf Outing was held at the Old Westbury Golf and Country Club. To cap off the day’s festivities attendants transitioned to the evenings events honoring the life and legacy of the Winters Center for Autism’s founder, Joe Winters.
As the night progressed the time arrived for Jeffrey to bridge his love of music with his passion for giving. As he waited in the wings, to be introduced to a room of 400 guests, Jeffrey’s excitement grew in anticipation of his performance.
What transpired once he took the stage was nothing short of breathtaking. Jeffrey entered the room, approached his marimba, and with intricate detail positioned his mallets. Preceded by one deep breath Jeffrey meticulously, with extreme focus and precision executed his first piece, Yellow After the Rain composed by Mitchell Peters. He finished his first installment and was met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Humbly, Jeffrey thanked the audience only to quickly remind everyone of the genesis of the event, immediately acknowledging Joe Winters, and all that he has done for the autism community. Without pause he prepared for his next piece, Flight of the bumblebee by composer Rimsky Korsakov, again finishing to another standing ovation.
It was a beautiful day, complimented with a magical evening courtesy of the musical talents of Jeffrey Kautz!
To truly understand and appreciate the magnitude of Jeffrey’s accomplishments we leave you with a quote from Jeffrey.
“Sometimes in life, we are presented with obstacles that shape our lives forever. Autism has made me a hardworking, loyal and caring person. I hope I can inspire others to achieve their dreams.”
Feeling inspired? Do you own a business and want to partner with us and “Hire for a Higher Purpose?” Please contact the Winters Center for Autism at (631) 635-1169.
“One of the best feelings in a long time occurred after dropping Nicole off at Winters Bros. for her shift. Approximately two hours later Nicole sent me a text; ‘Hey Dad I’m at work hope you’re having a nice day’.” Elated, Peter went on to say, “There’s nothing better than that!”
- Peter, Nicole’s dad, July 2021 (three months after Nicole’s started the program).
In April of 2021, Nicole’s dad reached out to the Winters Center for Autism in search of an environment that would give his daughter the opportunity to receive a work training experience in an inclusive, productive environment outside of their home. Although Nicole had been active in many programs when she was in high school, things were far less accessible to her after graduation. After graduating high school with few options, even more narrowed by the pandemic, Nicole’s parents felt the WCFA seemed like a match for Nicole. After meeting with Nicole, and her dad, the team at the center felt it was evident that Nicole’s training would best be suited at Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 9am the atmosphere in Winters Bros. gets a little brighter upon Nicole’s arrival. Her beautiful smile and sweet demeanor radiate the lobby the second she crosses the threshold. What usually follows next is an exchange anyone would have with their coworkers when they arrive for a new day at work. For Nicole it begins with greeting Arlene at the front desk, and a brief conversation about their respective mornings. From there Nicole goes to her desk, checks her schedule, and begins the day.
Nicole has a variety of responsibilities at Winters Bros., and many coworkers that she enjoys engaging with throughout the morning. When she is working at her desk on a task for Marco in HR she is working alongside Raymond. When Nicole waters plants in finance it is Stephanie that welcomes her every Thursday as Nicole waters plants of all varieties, shapes, and sizes. Having worked on this task since May, she has developed quite a green thumb! This multifaceted young woman also helps ensure the safety for those that visit the Winters Bros Gym when she cleans and sanitizes the equipment in the gym, while also stocking and taking inventory on the cleaning materials and water bottles housed at the facility.
In a short amount of time Nicole has made her mark on the company. Sara from Human Resources communicated the impact Nicole has made at Winter Bros., “Nicole has been a huge help to Human Resources. Without her keeping our files up to date, we wouldn’t be able to carry out our HR processes. Nicole is a great part of our department!” Nicole feels equally happy with her experience at Winters Brothers. Working at Winters Bros. makes her feel, “Proud because I feel like I’m doing something good for the community.” When asked what was her favorite part about being at Winters Bros. her response is typical of anyone her age, “Hanging out with my friends!”
Nicole’s family has conveyed their happiness with the program and the positive impact of Nicole’s training experience on their family. “We are extremely grateful for the support and opportunity provided to Nicole by Winters Bros. She is able to join in family conversations on what we did that day and always has positive experiences to relate.”
The cumulative sum to all these parts; the coworkers, the tasks, and the experience of training at an organization that embraces neurodiversity, is the very reason Nicole was inclined to send her dad the text she crafted. Like anyone else her age she was just a young adult, checking in with a parent, wishing them well, from WORK!
If you are a caring community business that understands the significance of the text message Nicole sent to her dad, we ask you to join our mission to “Hire for a Higher Purpose”. In doing so we will grow closer to increasing the employment rate for adults with Autism. We thank Winters Bros. Waste Systems for their support and offer any business on Long Island the opportunity to work with us by contacting the center at 631-635-1169.
Michael (Mikey) began his work experience at Long Island Select Care (LISH) on March 3, 2021.
A leader on Long Island in providing state of the art health care to a neurodiverse community, LISH reached out to the Winters Center to provide job training opportunities for participants from the center.
As a participant of the Winters Center for Autism’s Work Experience Program, Mikey receives training in a multitude of vocational disciplines. From clerical work, of which he will tell you that shredding is his favorite task, to watering plants, as well as folding, sorting, taking inventory and stocking linens, Mikey completes each of these tasks flawlessly, and in a timely manner. Since the beginning of his tenure at LISH Mikey’s goals were to be both a member of his work community, as well as a paid employee.
Through the kindness of his coworkers at LISH which include Debbie, Doreen, Jessy, Carlie and so many more, Mikey achieved his coworker goal by leaps and bounds! As for the paid employment objective, it is with extreme pride that we share Mikey began his paid employment at LISH during the month of September. From the start of the onboarding process, to receiving his LISH employee badge, to his first paycheck, Mikey experienced all aspects of being hired as a LISH employee.
For many people the purchase after a first paycheck can be a memorable one. So, what is Mikey going to do with his first paycheck? Mikey’s emphatic response to this question was “[I am] Going to the bank, [then to] Wendy’s.” When he was asked what he would order, without hesitation he replied, “French Fries!”
Michael’s accomplishments could not have come to fruition without the support and opportunities provided by LISH. “Hire for a Higher Purpose” aligns with Chief Executive Officer of Long Island Select Healthcare, Dr. James Powell’s, vision for his organization. As the catalyst in bringing the Winters Center for Autism program to LISH, Dr. Powell explains the importance of Michael’s achievements. “We are so excited to see how our relationship with the Winters Center for Autism has grown. The vision of LISH is to transform healthcare by bringing communities and resources together to help individuals reach their fullest potential. Employing these young adults is an important part of our purpose. We look forward to expanding this to all our sites. Keep up the great work Mikey!” Janet Pepper, LISH Chief Operation Officer, echoes similar sentiment. “LISH is truly blessed to have such a dedicated staff member as Mikey, he is an inspiration to all of the LISH employees. We are so happy to have him on our team."
As new businesses join the mission to “Hire for a Higher Purpose”, we will reduce the staggering unemployment rate for adults with autism while strengthening our Long Island workforce.
We thank LISH for their support and offer any business on Long Island the opportunity to work with us by contacting the center at 631-635-1169.
On August 26, 2021, Yonida International Trading Corp. welcomed John from the Winters Center for Autism on his first day of job training. Yonida owners, Gabi and Gigi Aharoni, reached out to Winters Center for Autism and conveyed their desire to partner with the program to support the center’s mission to “Hire for a Higher Purpose.”
Yonida provided a memorable first day for John. He walked into Yonida for the first time and the employees instantly embraced him, welcoming him as a part of their team. As John’s coworkers, they have nurtured John with guidance, support, and encouragement as he learns to work in their warehouse and office. John is receiving training in a variety of skills including working in the warehouse labelling packages and boxes, while also working in Yonida’s offices doing clerical tasks including organizing materials and shredding. John’s family is equally pleased with John’s work experience.
His mom Lisa shares, “We are so grateful for the opportunity the wonderful folks at Yonida have given John. He looks forward to going and is doing so well.”
Similar sentiments are reciprocated by Yonida owner, Gigi Aharoni, “It’s such a pleasure to work with the Winters Center program to help these special, hardworking, kind and honest adults obtain work.” Passionate about the mission, she goes on to say, “I hope that more businesses expand their staff to include those with neurodiversity, It’s a win, win for us all.”
Currently the rate of unemployment for adults with autism is 90%. It is with the continued support of caring businesses, like Yonida, that we can change this statistic. When a supportive business gives us a platform to provide job training then we are a step closer to increasing meaningful and sustainable employment for adults with autism.
If you would like your business to be included in our journey to “Hire for a higher Purpose”, please contact The Winters Center for Autism at 631.635-1169.
The Town of Oyster Bay Sanitationmen's Benevolent Association presented a $3,500 donation check in support of furthering the Center's mission. In attendance were Senator Phil Boyle, Town of Oyster Bay Sanitationmen’s Benevolent Association VP and Veteran Recovery Coalition Robert M Cornicelli, Sanitationmen’s Treasurer, Tom Luongo, JoAnne Watson and Dominic Watson. Dominic (pictured) is a member of the DD community.
Captain Robert Cornicelli shared a story of Dominic and his mom JoAnne, who dedicate their time to the Veteran Recovery Coalition and happily deliver meals to the veterans to give back to the community.
Dominic’s kindness and tireless work commitment served as an inspiration to donate to the Winters Center for Autism – dedicated to helping adults with autism experience purpose and fulfillment through job training, placement and access to a variety of recreational, health and wellness programs.
A heartfelt thank you to all involved for supporting and believing in the Center's mission!
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.”
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.