TRC Foundation holds second annual celebration

Since it was established 20 years ago to raise money to meet the unfunded needs of individuals with disabilities and their families, The Resource Center Found-ation has experienced tremendous success. This is evidenced by the Foundation’s ability to award $72,000 in grants annually, and by the fact TRC Foundation’s net assets top $2 million.

That success wouldn’t have been possible without the combined efforts of many individuals and organizations. On March 13, TRC Foundation took time to salute some of its champions at TRCF’s second annual celebration, which was held in the Conference Center at The Resource Center’s Administrative Offices on Dunham Avenue. More than 80 people attended the event, which saw TRC Foundation recognize individuals and businesses that, during 2013, achieved milestone levels of cumulative financial contributions to TRC Foundation, The Resource Center and Filling the Gap, Inc. Awards also were given to people who have made exceptional efforts in supporting TRC Foundation.

Paul Cesana, The Resource Center’s executive director, welcomed audience members to the event. He said that the roles of The Resource Center and TRC Foundation are to help improve the lives of people with disabilities, and that with support from the community, The Resource Center and TRC Foundation have been able to accomplish great things.

Cesana emphasized that every person is unique, regardless of whether he or she has a disability. “Some of us do have the opportunity and the privilege to get to know the value that each individual has,” he said. “We really get to know and appreciate the fact that everyone has abilities, they have strengths, they have skills.”

He said people with disabilities have aspirations and want to be part of the fabric of the community. “Most importantly,” Cesana continued, “they all want to be appreciated. They all want to be valued. They really all want to be somebody that people pay attention to and are recognized as an individual that has something to offer.”

He noted that everyone in the room had been motivated, in some way, to do something to support people with disabilities, and he encouraged more people to become engaged in the missions of The Resource Center and TRC Foundation.

“More than ever, for us to support people with significant disabilities, we have to rely on the community,” he said. This support could take the form of helping people with disabilities to find work, or advocating on behalf of those with disabling conditions.

“As we get to appreciate the value that people have, the potential that they have, the accomplishments that many of them exhibit, it gets easier to be able to speak up,” Cesana said. “And we need to speak up sometimes on behalf of people that are most vulnerable, especially some of the individuals that don’t really have the ability to articulate their own issues and their own desires, and to be represented in our democratic process in terms of what they need to be assisted with and supported with.”

He concluded, “Thank you for what you have done, thank you for what you are doing, and let’s keep it up. It’s just a fabulous, fantastic opportunity together to experience a world that can be so much better if we continue to work together.”

Greg Peterson, a member of TRC Foundation’s board of directors, shared some of his remembrances and observations from his 37-year affiliation with The Resource Center and TRC Foundation. He said one of the most striking changes to have occurred since 1977 is the way The Resource Center is now embraced by the community.

“We as an organization were unknown, unwanted, as if we were unwashed,” Peterson said in summarizing some people’s opinions of The Resource Center when he became involved with the organization in 1977. Today, he said, “we are known as being wanted, we’re known, and we are washed and desired.” He said that turnaround is due to the efforts of The Resource Center’s employees and service recipients, as well as the backing of the organization’s volunteers and donors.

“It is really something extraordinary to have seen this metamorphosis that has occurred during this period of time,” Peterson said.

Randy Ordines, the chair of TRC Foundation’s board, gave a brief history of the foundation. “We were set up in the mid ’90s, basically to develop and grow a pool of assets that could support The Resource Center. So our goal over time is to increase those assets and be able to have an increasing impact on The Resource Center through annual distributions supporting the mission,” he said.

“There’s all kinds of gaps and holes in funding, whether it’s from the State, the federal level, foundations, individuals. So the Foundation has the opportunity to fill those gaps, to plug those holes, to help individuals and groups of people in places where there is no help other than the Foundation. So it’s very nice for The Resource Center to have the Foundation to count on for the long term.”

Ordines noted that during the past year, TRC Foundation raised $43,000 through fundraising efforts and received contributions of more than $84,000. The foundation distributed $72,000 in grants. TRC Foundation’s investments earned about $340,000, enabling the Foundation to cross the $2 million threshold in assets for the first time.

“We hope that the first two million’s the hardest, and the next two million will come much quicker,” he said.

Dr. Todd Jacobson, the president of The Resource Center’s board, noted that the past three years have been difficult for the organization financially due to changes in the ways TRC is reimbursed by the federal and state governments. This has made TRC Foundation’s work even more critical.

“We’ve more and more become dependent on the foundation support for those programs that are necessary for individuals, but are running at a deficit,” Jacobson said. “A donation to the foundation not only affects this year, but will affect for years to come as far as support to individuals that we take care of.”

Several times during the evening, speakers and award recipients praised the work done by The Resource Center, and in particular TRC’s direct-support workers, on behalf of people with disabilities. Ordines noted that his late sister had lived in a TRC home.

“The last five years of her life were spent with The Resource Center, and I can’t tell you how much better they made her life for those last five years,” he said. “For that, my family’s in great debt to The Resource Center.”

Several awards were given to people who have made exceptional efforts in supporting TRC Foundation. A TRC Foundation Inspiration Award was presented to members of the Flying Flamingos, a group of people from Northern Chautauqua County. Each Thanksgiving morning, the Flamingos dress in pink and participate in the Turkey Trot running race in Buffalo. In addition to doing this for fun, they raise money for TRC Foundation’s “Dream On” Fund, which supports people with disabilities who have urgent needs. Over the past three years, the Flying Flamingos have raised more than $15,000.

Six members of the Flying Flamingos were on hand to accept the award. “It really is an honor to be here to help out,” said Pam Benchley, the group’s founder. “We really feel blessed, and to be able to use all the opportunities that we have to give back, that’s really the point.”

The “Dream On” Fund is named in honor of Kathy Seastedt, a TRC employee who died unexpectedly in 2008. Her sister, Andrea Tramuto, is a member of the Flamingos.

“Tonight just really has comforted me to know that her memory is still very much alive,” said Ms. Tramuto. “Thank you so very much to all of the TRC employees who continue to serve out everything that she believed in, advocated for and fought for. I truly appreciate all your hard work.”

A second TRC Foundation Inspiration Awards was presented Aaron and Crystal Peelman of Randolph and their extended network of family and friends. Over the past four years, the Peelmans have raised more than $7,500 for the Step Up for Autism walk. Besides raising money, “Team Mason” (named in honor of the Peelmans’ youngest son, who is on the autism spectrum) draws a number of participants to the annual Step Up for Autism walk.

“We’re honored to be able to be here to accept this award on behalf of Team Mason. We’re humbled to have such overwhelming support year after year,” Aaron Peelman said upon receiving the award. “Each year, TRC does so much for so many families in the area, and we’re just proud to be able to have the support to be able to do this and give back to them year after year, and I just can’t express how proud we are of everybody that helps us out and everybody here that helps TRC.”

Ron Hasson, communications and community outreach manager for WCA Services Corporation, received the Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of his contributions to the annual Street JAM three-on-three basketball tournament. Hasson has been in charge of the medical tent every year since the tournament began in 1997. He coordinates a group emergency medical service personnel and EMS students who provide first-aid services for players, spectator and volunteer during the three-day event.

“The Resource Center and TRC Foundation have a lot of different fund-raisers throughout the year,” said Hasson, referring to Street JAM, Laurel Run, Step Up for Autism, and the TRC Golf Classic. “To think that someone chose me out of all the other hundreds of volunteers that participate, that’s very humbling.” He thanked his supervisors for allowing him to serve on the Street JAM planning committee, and he credited other EMS and fire department personnel for their contributions.

One of the main purposes of the evening was to recognize individuals and businesses that, during 2013, reached milestone levels of financial support. Those honorees were:

$300,000 – Anonymous

$25,000 – Independent Health, INX International Employees, Moore & Myott

$20,000 – Brand & Oppenheimer, Brown & Brown Insurance, Premier Consulting Associates

$15,000 – Alstar EMS, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Johnson, Mackowiak & Associates, United Refining Company

$10,000- Dr. Harry & Dodie Glatz, R. Michael Goldman, Esq., National Fire

$5,000 – Cummins Employees Combined Charities, S.M. Cristall Company, Michael & Laura Felice, Graf Realty, Dr. Todd & June Jacobson, Jamestown Savings Bank, Denise & Steve Jones, T. Meyers Enterprises, Doris Schultz, R. Erik Seastedt, Donald & Joan Yost

$2,500 – Gary Bennett, Fessenden, Laumer & DeAngelo, Vineyard Group

$1,000 – AT&T, AXA Advisors, Debbie & Phillip Brown, Heather Brown, Marialina Cesana, Geer-Dunn Company, William Gullotti, Joanne Hagberg, Stephen Manning, Esq., Greg Peterson, Esq., Real Estate Advantage, Gregory & Barbara Stewart, Veracity Benefits

Contributors at the $25,000 level received paintings made by individuals with traumatic brain injuries in TRC’s “Creations’ art program. Contributors at the $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000 levels each received a trophy. Contributors at the $2,500 level received a plaque, while $2,500 contributors were given a certificate and a pen-and-pencil set. Contributors at the $1,000 levels received a certificate.

The awards were presented by Cesana, Jacobson, Ordines and Peterson.

By virtue of their level of contributions, all of the individuals and businesses recognized are members of “The Legacy Circle” that was established by TRC Foundation to honor those who have reached significant levels of giving. The Legacy Circle was created from the realization that consistent periodic or annual giving provides a contribution that, over time, grows into a significant legacy that will support individuals with disabilities for years to come.

The TRC Foundation Celebration was catered by Miley’s Old Inn. Dinner was preceded by a social hour featuring music played by Jacobson, Carol Svensen and Curt Barnes.