Tag Archives: life’s worc

Geraldo Rivera continues to win for Life’s WORC on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Douglas Gorenstein/NBC

Geraldo Rivera raised more money for Life’s WORC during the latest episode of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” winning almost $300,000 as a team leader.

The broadcast journalist’s team, Vortex, won two challenges during the Jan. 12 episode of the NBC reality competition show.

After the men’s and women’s teams competed against each other to create a four-page fitness advertorial for Cosmopolitan magazine, host and judge Donald Trump switched up the teams.

Rivera, as a project manager for the new Vortex, had a chance to win money for his cause during a fundraising challenge where the contestants had to open a bridal boutique.

Both teams raised an impressive amount of money, totaling almost $600,000, with a $2,500 difference between the two. Before finding out who won, Rivera and the other team leader, Ian Ziering, decided to each keep their own team winnings, rather than having the winning team leader take all the money.

“If the money was going to Ian, I would roll the dice,” Geraldo said, adding that since the money is for Ian’s charity, “It would be a reckless ego play for me to go for the whole thing, even though I am confident that we won.”

Though they decided to keep their own winnings, Vortex defeated Infinity by totaling $294,780 to their opponent’s $292,547.

On the show, each celebrity contestant has the opportunity to compete for the charitable organization they choose. Before the Jan. 12 episode, Rivera had earned nearly $280,000 for Life’s WORC.

Established 44 years ago by The Queens Courier newspaper publisher Victoria Schneps with help from Rivera, Life’s WORC provides services to some 1,400 people with developmental disabilities in eastern Queens, Nassau County and western Suffolk. The agency is based in Garden City.

Rivera, known for his advocacy of the developmentally disabled community from the time when he worked as an investigative reporter at WABC-TV Channel 7, has demonstrated loyal, steadfast support for Life’s WORC throughout his career.

Life’s WORC founder and board member Victoria Schneps urges everyone in the developmentally disabled and autistic communities to watch future installments of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” airing Mondays at 8 p.m.


Geraldo Rivera makes Life’s WORC his cause on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Victoria Schneps

As NBC’s latest installment of “Celebrity Apprentice” kicked off on Sunday, Jan. 4, the stars appeared to be lining up in favor of local nonprofit Life’s WORC.

Established 44 years ago by The Queens Courier newspaper publisher Victoria Schneps with help from broadcast journalist icon Geraldo Rivera, Life’s WORC provides services to some 1,400 people with developmental disabilities in eastern Queens, Nassau County and western Suffolk. The agency is based in Garden City.

Geraldo Rivera, known for his advocacy of the developmentally disabled community from the time when he worked as an investigative reporter at WABC-TV Channel 7, has demonstrated loyal, steadfast support for Life’s WORC throughout his career.

“Geraldo attends many of the organization’s fundraisers including an annual golf tournament he personally spearheads. He never fails to talk up the agency and impress upon many of the movers and shakers he encounters the importance of Life’s WORC,” said Janet Koch, the agency’s executive director. “We were so gratified when we discovered that Geraldo had designated Life’s WORC as his beneficiary in host Donald Trump’s famous challenge. Everyone associated with Life’s WORC is excited by the prospects here because this show is known for providing millions of dollars in contributions to a number of nonprofit organizations.”

Each celebrity contestant has the opportunity to compete for the charitable organization they choose. Geraldo’s passion for Life’s WORC was on full display as he led all of the celebrities by generating more contributions through his pie store enterprise. Vortex, the entrepreneur project created by the male team, raised $185,322 on the first night of the show. Therefore, Geraldo has earned $280,000 for Life’s WORC so far, and who knows how much more Geraldo will raise in the upcoming episodes!

Life’s WORC founder and board member Victoria Schneps urges everyone in the developmentally disabled and autistic communities to watch future installments of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“Since Geraldo is here for us once again, we need to rally our spirit for our hero by posting expressions of gratitude and comments to encourage him through the show’s website,” Schneps said.

This $280,000 windfall based on Geraldo’s leadership comes at a key period for the agency, according to Janet Koch. “This enables Life’s WORC to gain some breathing room in its budgeting and finances since New York State has been economizing, reducing funds available in the developmental disabilities field.”


Successful charity auction at LIC Flea, Ping Pong Open this weekend

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

The LIC Flea & Food saw great success this past weekend as the LIC Flea Charity Auction raised $1,000 for autistic and developmentally challenged children in Queens.

The popular Long Island City flea market, located at the outdoor lot on the corner of Fifth Street and 46th Avenue, held a charity auction on Aug. 16 with the duo known as The Locker Rockers and auctioneer John Luke of A&E’s “Storage Wars: New York.”

The Locker Rockers are made up of Cary “The Flipper” Zimbler and Thomas “The Nose” Preston. Just like in “Storage Wars,” the duo finds units that are being foreclosed or seized and they bid to win the contents of the storage containers. The duo currently has storage facilities of their own with items such as jewelry, furniture, sports memorabilia and antiques.
Auctioneer John Luke, born and raised in North Harlem, has been in the auction business for 15 years.

During the charity auction, the group auctioned off vintage and unique items they have found in storage lockers and also items furnished and donated by LIC Flea vendors Frittering Away, Jewel Dripped, Fiza Fashion, C3Brix, Bazaar à GoGo, Imran Jewels, A Spoonful of Brownies, Drink More Good, Razor Day, Queens Pop Photo and The Locker Rockers.

They were able to help raise $1,000 which will all go to support Life’s WORC, a private, nonprofit organization offering care for people with developmental disabilities in Queens and Long Island.

This upcoming Saturday, Aug. 23, the LIC Flea & Food will be holding its 2nd Annual Ping Pong Open just days before the US Open launches in Queens. Winners will get great prizes and bragging rights. To sign up click here.

LIC Flea & Food is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be back on Sundays starting in September.

In Astoria, the Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios will only be open for two more Sundays at the outdoor backlot of Kaufman Astoria Studios at 36th Street and 35th Avenue.
The flea market offers the best in food, drinks, antiques, clothing, art, accessories and much more.

Initially the Astoria Flea was expected to run for only eight consecutive Sundays starting in May, but it now will stay open until Aug. 31.

The market is open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This weekend Astoria native DJ Johnny Seriuss will be spinning tunes once again at both flea markets.



Op-Ed: Ensure services are there

| oped@queenscourier.com


The word “autism” conjures up many images and emotions. We have all witnessed the pandemic growth of this disability and it is hard to keep track of the incidents among newborn. Whether you subscribe to the 1/88 births or the more recent 1/50 births, the facts are clear, this is an extraordinary event. As we celebrate Autism Awareness month it comes to mind that we are grappling with a phenomenon for which we have no current solution. The rate among newborn infants dwarfs comparison to any other disability grouping. What has brought us to this point is of great conjecture and much is being done in the way of research and education. But as this population works its way to maturity, one wonders what supports they will have when they leave the comfort and security of the school system where services are mandated and supports are readily available.

The adult sector poses a whole new set of unique challenges and Gov. Cuomo’s most recent budget priorities gives us some indication of future public policy. New York State has a long proud history of providing support for people with all types of needs. The traditional group home model for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism will however no longer be available. The future will require a different partnership between government and families to ensure that adequate supports are in place as parents age and the needs of their children become more challenging.

In these tumultuous economic times agencies such as Life’s WORC and its sister organizations have long been asked to do more with less and quite frankly, most of us have gotten very good at it. It has become self evident that the old ways of doing business are gone and that we will have to adapt to a new fiscal environment. Most organizations who support individuals with disabilities embrace this challenge but we encourage those in power to realize that the services currently provided did not emerge overnight. It is our hope that as we partner with governmental agencies the dismantling and redesign of this system will be given ample time to develop new alternatives consistent with the needs of each individual’s level of support. Clearly there are different ways to provide supports and it is our intention to take advantage of whatever opportunities exist in this new philosophy.

Given the extraordinary growth in the number of individuals that will need to be served over the next few decades our lawmakers face a significant ethical and moral dilemma. What will the role of government be in helping to support thousands of families as they confront this personal crisis?  Whatever new systems are planned will need the full attention and cooperation of families, individuals requiring support, voluntary providers, lawmakers and governmental agencies. We must embrace the best models of support available while concurrently acknowledging the extraordinary system that was created over the last four decades.

Willowbrook did not occur overnight– it was a lack of governmental will and poorly managed public policy that eventually led to its demise.

Peter Smergut is CEO of Life’s WORC, whose mission is to provide services that facilitate an independent and productive life experience for individuals with
developmental disabilities and autism.



AUDIO SLIDESHOW: First annual Queens Kids’ Expo

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


It was all fun and games – with an emphasis on families and education — at The Queens Courier’s first annual Kids’ Expo this past weekend.

Close to 1,500 people attended. Hundreds of children were able to play with games and interactive models at the New York Hall of Science while their parents absorbed useful information from 50 various vendors about summer camps, children’s health, deals, tutoring and fun activities and places, such as the Queens Zoo.

“You come here and you find a lot that you need as a parent,” said Laura Reyes of Forest Hills.

Reyes was talking to New York Life Insurance about setting up an account for her five-year-old daughter, LeAnna Baez.

“I get information, she has fun, it’s a win-win situation.”

Children indulged in cotton candy, face painting, airbrush tattoos, spin art and a photo booth provided by Frankie’s Carnival Time. There was also kite making and entertainment by a clown from the Big Apple Circus.

A live minion, the short, yellow creatures from the movie “Despicable Me,” and Snoopy from the Charlie Brown cartoon greeted kids as well.

The event was sponsored by EmblemHealth, Party City, jetBlue, Rapid Realty, the Big Apple Circus, Frost Valley YMCA, North Shore Animal Hospital, Fidelis Care, Happy Family Foods, Frankie’s Carnival Time, American Style Baby and Caliper Orthodontics.

Vendors had the opportunity to talk with parents and introduce their products and services.

The expo “is giving us great exposure,” said Morgan Chen, head trainer at Title Boxing Club. “We’re due to open May 1. We came out here to get our name out there and get some pre-registrants.”

Some attendees went home with raffle prizes including gift cards, gift baskets, a stroller, Big Apple Circus tickets and Broadway tickets donated by Queens businesses.

And there were grand prizes to raffle off as well. Sharon Seales won a five-day, four-night trip to Cancun, Mexico, donated by The Creative Group, while Nneka Wharton won an iPad donated by Rapid Realty and Shanae Barrett won a two-week stay at Frost Valley YMCA sleep-away camp.

One hundred percent of the raffle proceeds will go to Life’s WORC.

“I think what made the day so successful was the variety of vendors – everything from baby products to home improvement,” said Amy Amato, VP of Events. “We gave parents the opportunity to speak to experts and receive a lot of information under one roof while children had fun. The giveaways and prizes added great energy and excitement. Everyone left with a smile!”




Program directors say restored funds for disabled not enough

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The looming cuts to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) have been restored, but only by a fraction.

Initially, the state’s budget called for a total slash of $240 million from OPWDD services, but the final budget gave back $30 million. Program administrators say this is still not enough.

“The challenge our industry faces is a growing demand with a diminishing revenue stream. The work force now has to shrink,” said Peter Smergut, executive director at Life’s WORC.

Life’s WORC, a program geared towards assisting developmentally disabled individuals lead active and independent lifestyles, has a 76 percent cost of labor. Now, because of the cuts, they have had to “freeze” employee positions, not fill other positions and also look to reallocate resources in ways they would not have traditionally thought to do, Smergut said.

Disabled services organizations rely heavily on funding from OPWDD, and without it, some groups find it difficult to make any concrete adjustments in their spending.

“It’s tough to be in an environment when you’re relying on this funding, and the funding is constantly changing,” said Dr. Susan Provenzano of The Shield Institute.

Initially, the State Senate and the Assembly voted to restore $120 million to the OPWDD budget. Assemblymember Nily Rozic said that along with community groups such as the Queens Centers for Progress, they attempted to bring the necessity of a full restoration to the forefront.

“Through subsequent negotiations, we were able to secure $30 million for these critical services, but not nearly enough,” Rozic said. “I will continue to speak out on the need for a greater restoration to avoid program closures, staff layoffs and irreparable harm to some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

Rozic did say however that the state budget provides a balanced spending plan that addresses fundamental issues facing families, including increasing the state’s minimum wage and providing schools with the funding needed for children to receive a quality education.

“Any cuts are devastating,” said Provenzano. “We have to provide stability. We have to constantly be advocating, and it leaves a lot of questions for us approaching the future.”



Cuomo’s proposed cuts to developmentally disabled would be ‘devastating’

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Carol Goldstein doesn’t know where to turn.

With the threat of budget cuts looming, she fears her autistic son will not get the services he so desperately needs.

Her son, and those living with developmental disabilities will be “devastated” by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget cuts, say activists.

Advocates have been sending letters and holding protests to stop the cuts, which some say will reverse years of progress.

The proposed cuts, effective April 1, will strike $240 million from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities’ (OPWDD) budget: Cuomo’s cuts taking $120 million, and the other half that is traditionally matched by the state, according to Peter Smergut, CEO of Life’s WORC.

“This is going to have a dire consequence,” said Smergut. “The repercussions are going to have an impact on the people that we support every day.”

“It makes me feel devastated. It kills me,” said Goldstein, of Bayside.

Life’s WORC, along with over 600 organizations citywide, aims to provide disabled individuals with services that facilitate an independent and productive lifestyle; now, the groups are deciding where to make cuts.

Additionally, federal funding that comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would slash $1.1 billion from total Medicaid funding sent to the state, which includes funding for OPWDD as well as other state agencies, amounting to “the largest funding cuts ever” according to the Coalition of Families for Direct Support Staff in Services for People with Developmental Disabilities, which has sent out an alert to supporters, contending, “Our services would be decimated.”

“Our family has been [in New York] for three generation, and now the state can’t take him?” said Goldstein. “Where does my child go?”

Smergut noted that there is not a lot of bureaucratic fat in his organization. “Where are our cuts supposed to come from?” he asked. “It’s people doing people work. It’s extremely frustrating.”

Additionally, OPWDD funding was not exclusively for people with developmental disorders, but for all kinds of other safety programs, according to Smergut, such as programs for drug and alcohol abuse.

“At the end of the day, all of our consumers are going to end up without the kind of support that they traditionally had,” he said.



Life’s WORC named one of ‘50 Most Engaged Workplaces’

| MKirk@queenscourier.com

Life’s WORC, a private, nonprofit organization offering care for people with developmental disabilities in Queens and Long Island, was recently awarded a spot on the Achievers 50 Most Engaged Workplaces Award for 2012.

The Achievers is a company that provides reward and recognition software to organizations to use as a more modern means of employee incentives. According to Achievers’ website, the 50 Most Engaged Workplaces Award is presented to companies that exude leadership and originality in connecting with employees.

A panel of judges made up of executives from various companies based its decisions on Achievers’ “Eight Elements of Employee Engagement,” which include communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values and corporate social responsibility. Life’s WORC, along with the 49 other Most Engaged Workplaces were honored at a ceremony on October 25 in San Francisco.

Life’s WORC was started by Queens Courier publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis in 1970s in part as a response to the exposure of the abusive practices of the Willowbrook State School in 1971. With a mission to provide productive services to people with developmental disabilities, the organization went on to establish a number of programs. Its residential services offer individual and group homes along with 24-hour staff support every day of the year. Its community services include support provision and skills training to over 1,000 children and adults who live independently or with their families. Additionally, the organization’s clinicians provide occupational, physical and speech therapy, implementing psychology, nursing, and adaptive equipment technology. Life’s WORC also partners with other therapy and habitation organizations in Queens and Long Island.

This is the third time Life’s WORC has been acknowledged for employee engagement. In 2009, it made the Crain’s New York Business list of the “Best Places to Work in New York City” and the Society of Human Resource Management’s list of “Best Companies to Work for in New York.”