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, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary – Celebrate 50! – held a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 27th, at its newest group home in Elmont, NY. In addition to Life’s WORC CEO Janet Koch, Board Members Ron Aghassi and Ed O’Donnell, and residents of the home, the event was attended by New York State Senator Anna Kaplan and Kevin Devlin, Director of Community Outreach for U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice, both of whom presented commendations to Life’s WORC acknowledging its 50th anniversary. Senator Kaplan also presented a citation in recognition of the new group home.
Pictured here are (left to right): front row: two residents of the home, New York State Senator Anna Kaplan and Life’s WORC Board Member Ed O’Donnell; middle row: Director of Community Outreach for U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice Kevin Devlin, Life’s WORC CEO JanetKoch and two other residents, one supported by a family member; and backrow: Life’s WORC Board Member Ron Aghassi’s son, Jacob and Ron Agassi.
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 45 homes located throughout Nassau, Suffolk, Queensand 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.
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.
More About Life’s WORC
Life’s WORC was founded 50 years ago after the closing of Willowbrook State School back in the early 1970s. As a young reporter, Geraldo Rivera exposed the deplorable conditions that existed within the then largest institution in the nation serving children with developmental disabilities. Rivera first learned about these conditions from Life’s WORC founder Victoria Schneps Yunis. Her daughter, Lara, diagnosed at an early age with severe brain damage, was a resident at Willowbrook. When cuts in state funding caused the institution to fall into extensive disrepair, Schneps, along with other concerned individuals, picketed to fight for the rights of Willowbrook’s more than 5,000 residents. Rivera’s report, which earned him a Peabody Award, ultimately forced the closing of Willowbrook. Schneps Yunis started Life’s WORC and opened its first home in Little Neck, Queens. Its first residents were former Willowbrook residents.
Today, Life’s WORC provides beautiful homes located across the region, from Nassau and Suffolk to Queens and Manhattan, in addition to community services, financial and trust services, and the programs and services of its Family Center for Autism.