Life’s WORC, (www.lifesworc.org), a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism through its residential, community and trust services, recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its 44th residential home. This particular home, located in Rosedale, New York, is unique in that it is Life’s WORC’s first home in which the residents are all women with autism. At the ribbon cutting, attended by Life’s WORC executives, staff, the families of the residents and other special guests, they celebrated not only the new home, but the 50th Anniversary of Life’s WORC.
Life’s WORC was founded on April 27, 1971, by Victoria Schneps Yunis, a fierce advocate for the rights of people with developmental disabilities. She is also credited with being the catalyst behind the closing of the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, where her young daughter Lara, who was severely challenged, had been a resident. Willowbrook gained national headlines in the late 1960s when a young investigative reporter, Geraldo Rivera (then with WABC’s Eyewitness News) placed a spotlight on the deplorable circumstances at the school in a scathing report. After losing its state funding, the institution had fallen into a state of uninhabitable conditions which Rivera captured in graphic detail. As a result of Rivera’s report, which won him a Peabody, and Schneps Yunis’ unwavering leadership and advocacy, the institution was forced to close in the face of diminished funds, its conditions, and public outcry.
On April 27, 1971, Schneps Yunis formed and incorporated WORC (the forerunner to what was subsequently renamed Life’s WORC) and went on to open its first home in Queens, New York. It became the new home of several former Willowbrook residents, and in recognition of Rivera’s efforts, the residence was named in his honor.
From its notable beginning, Life’s WORC has evolved considerably. Now, under the leadership of CEO Janet Koch, the organization has 44 homes located throughout Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Manhattan, and offers a wide range of services. Both its headquarters and the Life’s WORC Family Center for Autism (FCA), which provides programs and support services to children and adults with autism and their families, are located on Franklin Avenue in Garden City, New York. In addition to its residential services, Life’s WORC offers Behavioral Analysis Services, Residential Services, Day Habilitation Programs, Respite and Family Support Services, Customized Employment programs, and Trust and Financial Services. The FCA also provides a wide range of programs from art camps, sports and fitness, music and movement programs to science and tech, salon and spa, and vocational programs for children, tweens, teens and adults. The goal of its programs is to help teach valuable life skills, while promoting socialization and recreational opportunities for adults and children with autism.
On April 29, 2021, the honorable Nassau County Executive Laura Curran presented Life’s WORC with a Citation in recognition of its “significant contributions for the enhancement of our region and the betterment of our residents.” Also noted in the Citation was how “the members of Life’s WORC have contributed to the success and prosperity of all segments of our citizenry, and over the years, have demonstrated a selfless commitment to the community that warrants attention and gratitude.”
Life’s WORC will be celebrating its golden anniversary with various Celebrate 50! events and
initiatives designed to further build awareness of its valuable services and programs. This campaign aims to engage Long Island, Queens and Manhattan residents and businesses to support the organization so that it can continue to fulfill its vital mission for 50 more years. For more information about Life’s WORC and/or Celebrate 50 Commemorative activities, please contact Matthew Zebatto at 516-972-6053.