Newsroom

Spring 2020 Newsletter

Inside: Agency news and updates as well as our COVID-19 response efforts.

Special Citizens Featured by ABC National News!

Special Citizens and our response to the COVID-19 crisis was featured nationally by ABC News. We're thankful for the opportunity to shine a light on the autistic and developmentally disabled community during these trying times.

Welcome Parnelle!

Please join us in extending a very warm welcome to our new Senior Director of Programs, Parnelle Labonte!

Get the latest news and updates from Special Citizens in this edition of Voices & Visions.

Celebrate World Autism Month!

Dear Supporter,

Join us this April for World Autism Month in celebration of Autism Acceptance! As you know, each and every day, Special Citizens works to build loving homes and create inclusive and accepting communities for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Support #AutismAcceptance by donating to Special Citizens and have a direct impact on the lives of people with autism.

Throughout April, we will be celebrating the understanding and acceptance of people with autism. Through social media, we will be promoting the work of our talented artists and skilled chess players, sharing photos from "A Day in the Life" of the men and women we support in our Day Habilitation Programs, and highlighting the creativity and beauty that we see every day in the work we do.

Join us and post your stories 
of #AutismAcceptance. Tag us @SpecialCitizens so we can promote your stories! We would love to hear your stories and share your photos and, as always, we welcome your generous donations

Thank you,
 
Jessica Zufall-Guberman, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer

Vice President, Health and Quality Services Appointed to New York City Nonprofit

Vice President, Health and Quality Services Appointed to New York City Nonprofit

 

Bronx, New York  --  November 10, 2017

 

Special Citizens, a New York City based autism advocacy non-profit, is thrilled to announce the appointment of Alex DiMaio to Vice President, Health and Quality Services.  In this new and exciting role, Alex will be overseeing all clinical and quality assurance services and supports for the organization.  Upon issuing the promotion to Mr. DiMaio, Jessica Guberman, CEO of Special Citizens, stated that “Over the past five years, we have made great strides with our clinical and quality assurance/improvement supports and I know that under Alex’s direction moving forward, our clinical functions will be even more streamlined, advanced and aligned with industry best practices and standards.”

 

Since joining Special Citizens, Alex has offered an incredible amount of value into the development of policy and organizational development as well as helping to shape the manner in which Special Citizens conducts its internal auditing process on all programs, which has lent itself to successful annual audits with OPWDD (Office for People with Developmental Disabilities).  In addition, Alex has played a vital role in the integration of the agency’s Aging Out initiative and transitioning young adults with autism to adult services from various different states.  Beyond his consistent contributions to the agency’s strengths and overall success, Alex is widely respected and admired by his colleagues, coworkers, and most importantly, by the numerous people who are supported by the agency.

 

Upon accepting the new agency post, Alex stated “I am thankful for this great responsibility bestowed upon me.  In this new role I will continue to honor the mission of the agency; and in continued collaboration with the many talented and dedicated employees – across all departments – I am confident that Special Citizens Futures Unlimited will continue its exceptional work of providing outstanding services to the many men and women supported throughout the agency.”  Mr. DiMaio will officially assume his new role on Monday, November 13, 2017.

 

Any inquiries or requests for additional information can be sent to info@specialcitizens.org

Special Citizens to Hold Autism Acceptance Fundraiser on November 3, 2017 with Comedy Performance by Kirk Smith, Mike Gaffney, and Joe Fernandes

Bronx, New York

October 3, 2017

 

Special Citizens, a New York nonprofit organization that has supported adults and children with autism for over forty years, will host its annual Autism Acceptance Fundraiser on Friday, November 3, 2017 at 6:30 pm at St. John’s University at 51 Astor Place in downtown New York City.

 

The event will be an engaging evening bringing together Special Citizens’ friends, families, and supporters, to mark another year of tremendous growth and personal achievements for the men and women supported by the agency. Guests are invited to enjoy refreshments, comedy entertainment, and conversation with Special Citizens' staff and board members, as the organization honors distinguished guests and award recipients, Lisa Pesante, Bronx Administrator at the NYS Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, and Perry Cyprus, founder and CEO of Diet Delights; both long-time supporters of Special Citizens and advocates for people with autism.

 

The evening will also feature a comedy performance that will celebrate advocacy, service, and care in support of people with autism. Comedians Kirk Smith, Mike Gaffney, and Joe Fernandes will touch on themes that highlight the importance of autism acceptance.

 

“This fundraiser allows us to celebrate the work of two amazing advocates in the field of developmental disabilities while bringing together three incredible performers that will be sure to keep our guests laughing all night. This is a night to celebrate and memorialize Special Citizens accomplishments and the wonderful people it supports while raising acceptance of autism at the same time,” says Jessica Zufall-Guberman, Chief Executive Officer at Special Citizens.

 

Kirk Smith is a comedian/actor/writer. He has performed in over 100 different venues on five continents.  Smith is the author of the bestselling book, Rice Krispies with Ketchup: A Comedian's Journey with an Autistic Son, and the co-anchor of Autastic, a podcast ranked on iTunes.

 

Smith’s book, Rice Krispies with Ketchup, is an honest, painful and heartwarming account of a family's daily struggle with loving and caring for a special needs child. Through laughter and tears, Smith finds a way to come to peace with his son´s limitations, motivates his readers to live life fully and provides what families in similar situations need: HOPE.

 

Smith, who is excited about taking part in this event, “It is important that we begin to accept and embrace individuals with autism on a more equal level. I support Special Citizens and their mission to educate people and to encourage Autism Acceptance."

 

Mike Gaffney has been performing for over a decade. He has appeared on The Artie Lange Show on Direct TV, as well as on the first season of Gotham Comedy Live on AXS TV and was a semi-finalist on season 8 of Last Comic Standing on NBC. Executive Producer Wanda Sykes was so impressed with Mike, she used his clip to promote Last Comic Standing on the Ellen Show on NBC, as well as The View on ABC.

 

When Joe Fernandes is not escaping reality by hanging with his Welsh Corgi on hiking trails, he can be found in comedy clubs making fun of his unrelenting confusion with life. From stories of his struggles growing up to his adult struggles of being married with stepkids, Joe’s open book approach to comedy has an honest point of view that any audience can relate to. He has been invited to perform at the NY Comedy Festival & Gilda’s Laugh Fest.

 

About Special Citizens: Since 1976, Special Citizens Futures Unlimited has provided comprehensive, individualized and integrated services to adults and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in New York. Each year, our dedicated staff of over 200 professionals provides services to over 350 people in New York City, the Bronx and Westchester. At the core of our work at Special Citizens is a commitment to person-centered planning, which empowers each person with the tools to build a life of independence, inclusion, and individuality.

 

The Autism Acceptance Fundraiser will take place on Friday, November 3rd, 2017 at 51 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003 from 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm with a cocktail hour starting at 6:30 pm; program to begin at 7:00 pm. For more information on purchasing tickets, contact Alexandra St. Charles 212-643-2663 Ext: 222 or alexandra.stcharles@specialcitizens.org. For more information about Special Citizens, please visit www.specialcitizens.org.

Special Citizens Futures Unlimited Receives New Yankee Stadium Grant for 2nd Consecutive Year

For the second consecutive year, Special Citizens Futures Unlimited was awarded a $1,500 grant from the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, Inc. The purpose of this fund is to improve the quality of life in the Bronx by addressing civic, socioeconomic and/educational needs in addition to and providing social, arts-related, health, cultural, and recreational opportunities.

 

Special Citizens received this grant in 2016, thanks to the help of Tatiana O’Connor, Community Habilitation Supervisor. This grant will go towards recreational activities for all Special Citizens program participants.

 

“I am very excited and grateful that our program was awarded this grant again. This means more opportunities for the people we support and more integration activities will be available to them,” said O’Connor. 

 

Last year, with the help of Crystal DeLeon, Community Habilitation Coordinator, O’Connor was able to organize two events. “We organized a Summer Social and Holiday Luncheon in collaboration with the Pre-vocational program. These two events allowed for the individuals we support to socialize and meet other peers from the same program for the very first time,” said O’Connor. 

 

O’Connor described what they would like to do with this year’s award. She stated, “Now that spring is here and summer is around the corner, we would like to organize an outdoor event and take advantage of the beautiful weather.”

 

Adults with developmental disabilities often have difficulty finding social and recreational activities to participate in within their community. Awards like this one help to offset that trend and offer the individuals supported by Special Citizens the chance to engage with the greater world around them.

 

When asked about the importance of receiving an award from The New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, O’Connor stated, “These funds result in opportunities for the people we support, especially for those who can not afford to do activities that will enhance their socialization and recreational aspects of their life.” 

 

She added, “Awarded funds can expose these deserving men and women to new and exciting experiences, alleviate stress, and promote happier and healthier lifestyles, while aiding them in achieving higher aspirations and gaining confidence in order to promote independence.” 

New York Based Nonprofit Welcomes New Chief Financial Officer

Special Citizens Futures Unlimited, Inc. is pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Campione as the new Chief Financial Officer. Special Citizens is a New York-based nonprofit organization that has been supporting adults and children with Autism for over forty years.

Campione has been the Chief Financial Officer for various Human service agencies and has accrued 20 years of experience providing executive and financial leadership to community-based non-profits serving those with disabilities and disadvantages. He is experienced in all New York State Medicaid reimbursement models, Revenue Cycle Management and well versed in current NYS DSRIP initiatives.

Mark’s background encompasses all New York State offices servicing the disabled including Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Mental Health, and Office of Children and Family Services. Mark has worked closely with the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Housing and Urban Development, NYS 4410 SED Preschools and many Private and NYS grant programs.

“I am excited to join Special Citizens,” says, Campione. “I look forward to working with the team and help push Special Citizens forward to meet the needs of the individuals we serve,” he added. Campione received his BA in accounting from Queens College.

“I am thrilled to have Mark join the Special Citizens’ team and I am confident he will be a tremendous asset to the work we do on a daily basis,” says, Jessica Zufall-Guberman, Chief Executive Officer of Special Citizens.

For more information about Special Citizens, please visit us at www.specialcitizens.org or www.facebook.com/specialcitizens.

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© 2017 Special Citizens Futures  Unlimited, Inc.