Microsoft hosts workshops about careers and assistive technology

Microsoft hosts workshops about careers and assistive technology

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Microsoft hosts workshops about careers and assistive technology

Microsoft recently partnered with Community Services to present a workshop for our Pre-Vocational programs and to host an accessibility presentation for the public last month.

Emily Rautenstrauch, Community Development Specialist at the local Microsoft Store, spoke to our Pre-Vocational programs about what it’s like to work for the company and the different types of jobs available. She explained some of the responsibilities of various positions and the qualities Microsoft looks for in an employee.

Afterward, Emily passed out several Microsoft laptops so everyone could play a game that helps teach coding techniques.

The following week, Microsoft held a free workshop for the community to discuss the tools available to support people with hearing, vision, mobility and learning disabilities. This included how to use tools in Windows 10 such as adjusting display settings, using a screen reading app, the Dictate setting in Word, customizing audio and more.

After the presentation, attendees had a chance to try out some of the tools on laptops, such as enabling the Dictate setting in Word. This tool allowed everyone to speak out loud and watch as the words appeared as text on the screen.

We look forward to providing more opportunities like this for the people we support and the community in the future!

First hospitality training course at Jefferson a success

First hospitality training course at Jefferson a success

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First hospitality training course at Jefferson a success

Our first hospitality training class graduated in June at our Jefferson Career Exploration Center. In partnership with The Service Collaborative of WNY Inc., we started our first cohort of classes in April with a small group of students to provide them with the opportunity to explore careers in the hospitality industry and develop the skills needed for specific jobs in that field.

The classes focus on two main areas of hospitality: housekeeping attendant and front desk representative. Classes are held four days a week at Jefferson and instructed by Joelle Amico, our Hospitality Workforce Development Specialist. A certified curriculum is used to guide the classes and teach students the fundamentals of the hospitality industry.

“The students who have signed up for these classes want to better themselves and want to explore the opportunities that are available to them,” Joelle said.

Over the duration of the course, students received hands-on practice in our mock hotel room at Jefferson, toured hotels in the Western New York area, and had the chance to job shadow professionals in the field.

A small graduation ceremony was held in June where students were presented with their certifications from the American Hotel & Lodging Association. We are thrilled that our first class passed their testing with flying colors and look forward to working with our next group of students!


Paul takes a trip of a lifetime

Paul takes a trip of a lifetime

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Paul takes a trip of a lifetime

After nearly 10 years of planning, Paul finally walked into the warm, tropical air on the big island of Hawaii. Since 2009, Paul had wanted to make the trip, but circumstances had postponed it until he moved to his current home.

“I wanted to go there for a long time,” Paul said. “Now I want to go back!”

Desmond Handley, Process Improvement Specialist, said at the time Paul had an extensive behavior support plan and had to have staff with him at all times.

“He had made so many great strides, and I really worked with him and the staff really worked with him,” Desmond said. “He really could do a lot more for himself than people were giving him credit for.”

After working hard with his team, Paul and Desmond began planning the trip. They set off for Hawaii in late December of 2018.

As a big fan of the show Hawaii 5-0, one of Paul’s favorite parts of the trip was seeing the Iolani Palace, which serves as police headquarters in the show. He and Desmond visited Pearl Harbor as well. A boat took them around the USS Arizona, which is submerged in the water and still leaking oil from when it was first hit during the war. They also boarded the Battleship Missouri Memorial and see the surrender deck where World War II formally ended.

Paul also wanted to see the volcanoes, but due to a recent eruption, the state park was closed. So he booked a helicopter tour to fly over the volcano field.


Ridgeway Commons provides affordable, quality housing

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Earlier this month, we held a ribbon cutting for our brand new affordable housing complex, Ridgeway Commons, located on Ridge Road in Lackawanna. This complex offers 32 units to families and individuals, as well as 8 set aside for people with developmental disabilities. Handicapped accessible apartments are also available.

Joel, a tenant at Ridgeway Commons, spoke during the ceremony about how Community Services has helped him and his wife get settled in the Buffalo area. They had previously lived in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit. Joel said it was devastating, and they had no electricity or water. His daughter brought them back to Buffalo where they eventually heard about Ridgeway Commons. They were able to move in earlier this spring.

“I love it here. My wife and I are so happy and grateful,” Joel said about their new apartment.

The new complex has also helped Shanon and Charlene. Shanon had lived in a group home his entire life. Now he has moved into Ridgeway Commons, his first apartment! Charlene also moved in, becoming more independent and is “loving her new place.”

This project was made possible by NYS Homes and Community Renewal, with funding from the Federal Low Income Housing Credit program, NYS Housing Trust Fund Corporation and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

We are so thankful to our partners who helped make this project possible and are thrilled to be able to provide this wonderful new place to people in our local community.

Ridgeway Commons’ applications are available here.


You can read news stories about the opening by clicking the following links:

New affordable housing comes to Lackawanna

New housing complex opens in Lackawanna



March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, giving us the perfect opportunity to educate our community about the unique talents of the people we support.

This year’s theme is “See Me, For Me,” which encourages everyone to focus on each person and get to know more about them as an individual. The theme calls on our community to recognize people for their abilities. Here at Community Services, we celebrate the people we support all year long. Our Agency accepts people of all abilities and promotes their inclusion in the community. We’re committed to providing quality, person-centered services that are tailored to each person’s needs and creating individualized plans to help every person we serve accomplish their goals.

For example, our Jefferson Career Center offers hands-on learning suites where the people we support can explore different career paths and develop job skills to connect them with employment opportunities. The learning suites offer training in a variety of fields, including hospitality, office work, and automotive detailing.

We’ve also had countless examples of those that we support achieving a greater level of independence. Jason, a participant at one of our Day Habilitation programs, worked hard to gain the skills and independence to be able to go to the store and walk around without needing someone there to hep him.

Our mini-grant program, which fills gaps in funding, is another way we help the people we serve celebrate their talents and discover what they’re passionate about. Mini-grants have helped fund several programs and experiences, including camping trips, an indoor garden, a recording studio, transportation supports and more.

We also celebrate and thank our employees, advocates, families and partners for helping raise awareness in the community and for making a difference in the lives of the people we support.

If you’re interested in hearing our success stories or want to learn more about the Agency, follow us on social media and sign up for our e-newsletter here.



Why businesses should hire more people with developmental disabilities

Why businesses should hire more people with developmental disabilities

Businesses who are looking to hire capable, reliable and committed employees should consider hiring people with developmental disabilities. Employers will be hiring someone who is dedicated and hardworking while at the same time enabling that person to become more independent and involved in their community.

Some of the benefits of a hiring a person with a developmental disability include, but are not limited to:

  • A more diverse workforce
  • Increased productivity
  • Motivated employees
  • Less employee turnover
  • Reduced recruiting times
  • Fewer training costs

There are also tax credits available for businesses that employ people with developmental disabilities. The first potential credit is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). Employers can receive up to $2,400 in federal tax savings for hiring people with low incomes. The Workers with Disability Tax Credit (WDTC) can earn employers up to $5,000 for hiring people with developmental disabilities to full-time positions and up to $2,500 for part-time jobs.

According to the 2016 Disability Statistics Annual Report conducted by the University of New Hampshire, only 35% of all people with disabilities are employed. By employing more people with disabilities, their dependence on governmental supports decreases.

At Community Services, we know a job is so much more than a paycheck. It’s about learning new skills and being a part of the community. Our Vocational Services provide a wide range of opportunities to ensure people who want to work are prepared and have the supports necessary to succeed.

Read more about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities here as well as the possible tax credits here.