LACONIA — Over 100 guests gathered for the Lakes Region Community Services (LRCS) Annual Celebration on April 10 at the LRCS Main Office in downtown Laconia. The attendees included board members, employees, individuals served by the agency, family members, community partners, business partners and friends and supporters who together enjoyed celebrating the agency's accomplishments and learning about 'Success at Work' initiatives with area business people talking about their experiences partnering with LRCS to offer training internships for individuals with disabilities.
Keynote speaker Christopher Mongeon, GM of SODEXO Dining Services at Plymouth State University stated, "The STRIDE Internship program at PSU is not only a success for the interns but for its impact on our staff. The positive attitudes and hard work of the STRIDE interns rubs off on our employees who themselves step up to become mentors. As a result of this program we have a stronger work force all around." This sentiment was reinforced by other area businesses on the 'Success at Work' panel representing Centerplate at Gunstock Mountain and Biederman's Deli in Plymouth.
But the strongest voice for employment opportunities for adults with disabilities came from panelist Ashley McClay, a young woman who shared her personal story through a digital presentation showing just how important employment is to a person's quality of life. The video of 'Ashley's Story' began with her just out of High School facing many challenges and few prospects. Through Ashley's determination and with support from LRCS, she completed training internships and has made remarkable strides. Ashley now has a job at Biederman's Deli 'the coolest place to work in Plymouth', her own apartment, a fiancée, a drivers license and is saving for her first car.
Christine Santaniello, Executive Director of LRCS and Gary Lemay, President of the Board of Directors thanked everyone for their support over the past year- a year that saw LRCS receive the prestigious Dunfey Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, grow its programs and services, and expand its community connections, donors and supporters. "We don't do any of this work alone nor should we, noted Santaniello, as our mission is to serve the community by promoting independence, dignity and opportunity. Tonight we want to especially recognize Community Partners – businesses, organizations and individuals, who were nominated by our employees for supporting our mission in an extraordinary way this year."
Community Partner Awardees:
Biederman's Deli and Pub of Plymouth and Patti Biederman led the list of Community Partners awardees for their work with employment internships and support to graduates to help them find successful employment.
Centerplate at Gunstock Resort in Gilford received recognition for the CRAVE internship program a twelve –week program that just recently graduated its first class. Accepting the award were managers Mary MacDonald and John Timbrook.
Curt's Caterers of Gilford was recognized for supporting the LRCS Family Resource Center's Annual Young Author's Tea – a family event that promotes early childhood literacy. Curt's has donated their catering service s to this event for the last three years offering a wonderful children's tea presentation. Julia Chesley accepted the award on behalf of her family's business.
The Region III Family Support Council was cited for their tremendous support and efforts to build employer awareness and job opportunities for adults with disabilities including an ad campaign and financial support to employment initiatives. Council Chair Susan Gunther thanks the Council members for all their hard work.
City of Laconia Police Department was recognized as a valuable community partner and supporter of the LRCS mission. The LPD provides support, assistance and training to those served by LRCS and to the staff and is understanding and collaborative in its approach to problem solving. Chief Adams accepted the award.
Julie Moore, Manager of Normandin Square Apartments received a community Partner Award for her efforts and patience, knowledge and caring in helping those served by LRCS to successfully live independently.
Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative (PAREI) organized a community solar raising together with the NH Electric COOP to install a solar hot water heater system on a residential home in Plymouth supporting individuals with disabilities who require 24/7 care lowering energy costs for LRCS. Co-founders Sandra Jones and Peter Adams were on hand to receive the recognition.
Smoke N Barley of Tilton and Ryan Dickson, co-owner was recognized for hosting the LRCS business DAWGS2GO hot dog cart outside of his store, providing support and opportunity for several paying jobs.
Bob Manley, Co-founder of Hermit Woods Winery in Meredith joined the award presentation by Skype from his new Meredith store opening. A former LRCS employee, Bob lent his expertise to the planning of the LRCS signature fund raising event- Lakes Region Uncorked a celebration of locally produced and hand crafted products.
The LRCS Annual Celebration concluded by honoring long term employees and Shared Family Living (SFL) providers who hit milestones this year in their service to the community – 25 Years: Gladys Mooney, (SFL); 20 Years: Cynthia Adams and Scott Fox; 15 Years: Debbie Judd; Cheri Ann Kenneson; Darlene MacPherson; Karen Potter (SFL); Kathleen Sharp (SFL); and Doran Tibbets 10 Years: Linda Clevesy (SFL); Steve Copithorne; Jane Cote; Nicole Cutter (SFL); Cheryl Geiger; Nancy and Norman LaBrecque (SFL); Kerri Lowe; Richard Maltais (SFL) ; Dawn Watson; Patricia Sirles ; Irene Tyler and Sue Woods.