Thursday, December 19, 2013

ATTENTION ARC EMPLOYEES: Work Out for Free at Stanley Street Fitness Center

Q: What do athletes from the Rochester Red Wings, Baltimore Orioles, Buffalo Sabres, Olympic gold medal speed skater Cathy Turner, and Arc of Livingston-Wyoming employees have in common?

A: Our agency's own Gary Buchanan.

These days, Gary keeps busy as a Life Skills Assistant in our Recreation program.  But during the late 70s and early 80s, he was employed at a Rochester fitness center, where his duties included conditioning of top athletes during rehabilitation or their sports' off-seasons.

Now, Gary is bringing his world-class personal training and strength conditioning expertise to fellow employees as the newest addition to the Stanley Street Fitness Center.  His services are free to Arc employees, and available by appointment by calling 658-2828 ext. 335 or emailing

And that's just part of what the Stanley Street Fitness Center has to offer.  Located at 66 Stanley Street in Mount Morris, the facility features a full Nautilus equipment room; open gym perfect for walking or basketball; cardio room with treadmills, ellipticals and more; and free weights in a room that has also hosted popular yoga classes. 

Use of the Stanley Street Fitness Center is free to Arc employees.  December hours are 4pm until 7pm, Monday through Friday.  Visitors need only to show a valid agency ID, and read and sign a one-time health and safety waiver.

Since the Wellness Committee opened the fitness center on November 2nd, more than 25 Arc employees have worked out there.  The facility is currently in the middle of a 3-month evaluation period; permanent hours and availability will be determined by early February, based on facility usage and employee feedback.

The early word is positive, with Arc employees praising the casual, supportive atmosphere of the Stanley Street Fitness Center.

"Traditional gyms can be intimidating," says Judy Welch, Coordinator of Vocational Services at Hilltop.  "Some of the people working out can make you feel like you don't know what you're doing, and some people just hog the machines.  Those pressures don't exist at the Stanley Street gym.  People are encouraging of each other."

Hilltop Case Manager Crik Christophel agrees. 

"I was reluctant to go because I had never been to a gym, and I had no knowledge of how to run on a treadmill," says Crik, who gave the gym a try because it is on her way home to Nunda.  "I always had this picture of people decked out in special gym clothes.  It wasn't that way at all.  It's low key and relaxed."

Crik now goes to the Stanley Street Fitness Center about three times a week, and has even taken advantage of Gary's personal training expertise.

"I feel good after I leave," she says.  "The time goes fast.  I look forward to going, which surprises me."

Hilltop Office Manager Sally Urbonas, who previously worked at the Wyoming County YMCA, oversees operations at the Stanley Street Fitness Center.  The facility is staffed by participants in The Arc's Supported Employment program, creating jobs for people we serve.  In their positions as Fitness Center Attendants, their duties and responsibilities include opening and closing the facility, ensuring that users sign in and out, facility walk-throughs, and keeping the equipment clean.

Uptown Day Habilitation program participants have also enriched the gym, by creating motivational signs that are hung throughout the facility.  The posters were made with input and guidance from Life Skills Assistant Kristine Burdick, a regular user of the Fitness Center who also donated two televisions to help enhance the cardio and free weight areas.  Plans are to add DVD capabilities to play instructional videos for small group workouts.

"I'm just super excited that the agency is providing this," says Kristine, who was bitten by the fitness bug since embarking on her own weight loss journey.  Kristine lost 110 pounds from her peak weight of about 250 pounds, and has kept the weight off for about two years.

The Arc Wellness Committee is looking into adding new offerings at the Stanley Street Fitness Center in 2014.  Some of the possibilities include cardio kickboxing and/or Zumba sessions, Wellness Committee Chair Christa Hartigan says.

Whatever your preferred means of exercise, an important key to success is a smart, dedicated attitude — advice that applies whether you're an elite athlete or a first-time user of The Arc's Stanley Street Fitness Center.

"What you need to do is build a strong foundation, like you're building a house," Gary says.  "If you're not already used to exercise, then you should take it slow.  You need to learn the equipment to get the most out of it. Then you can advance to the next level, including adding new machines."

Questions or comments about the Stanley Street Fitness Center?  Contact Sally at 658-3311 ext. 255 or surbonas@

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

NYSARC Grant Keeps L-W Arc Dancing All Year Round

Program participants at The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming took to the dance floor all throughout 2013 for a series of special-occasion celebrations that were made possible with financial help from NYSARC Trust Services.

NYSARC Trust Services is part of The Arc's state organization, NYSARC. In 2013, its Trustees authorized a $6,000 grant to the Livingston-Wyoming Chapter for the exclusive purpose of funding Chapter recreational opportunities. 

The money allowed the Chapter to offset the costs of Valentine's, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, and Semi-formal dances, as well as a Bowling Banquet for individuals with disabilities throughout its service area.  On average, 110 people were in attendance at each event.

"Many of the folks didn't have the opportunity to do things like these when they were in high school. Now, with the help of NYSARC Trust Services, they've been able to take part in dances, banquets, and other social activities with their friends and peers," says Cathy Sullivan, The Arc's Day, Community and Intake Services Coordinator.

The Arc is a private, not-for-profit agency with various programs to benefit people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. According to Ms. Sullivan, the NYSARC Trust Services grant-funded recreational activities were open to a wide cross-section of program participants, including those who reside in Arc-operated homes and those who live independently in the community.

The activities kicked off with a Valentine's Dance on February 9th, followed by a St. Patrick's Day Dance on March 9th, a banquet for participants in The Arc's popular Bowling program on May 23rd, and a prom-style Semi-formal on June 29th.  Capping off the use of grant funding in "spooktacular" fashion was a Halloween costume bash on October 26th.  The events were held at the Moose Lodge in Dansville, NY.

"The grant allowed our recreation team to provide a year-long calendar of entertainment for a low cost to participants," Ms. Sullivan says, noting that the money was used toward food, building rental, and disc jockey services.  "We were able to offer the Semi-formal dance at no cost and the others at a very low admission price."

About NYSARC Trust Services   
The Trustees of the NYSARC Trusts provided The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming with a $6,000 grant to support recreational opportunities for Chapter consumers.  The Chapter used this grant to hold a series of dances and banquets.  The NYSARC Trusts administer supplemental needs trusts that enable people who have disabilities to remain in their home and community and retain their Medicaid eligible services. The Trustees utilize remainder funds to benefit other persons with disabilities including unfunded Chapter guardianship programs as provided by statute.  In addition to the recreation grant, the Trustees awarded $1,225,500 to support Chapter Guardianship programs. Information on how you may benefit from a NYSARC Trust is available by calling 518-439-8323 or 1-800-735-8924 or at

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Big Start for Little Library: Community Unites in Local Literacy Movement

Our region's newest library won't enforce due dates or rely on late fees.  After all, it will operate with extremely low overhead.

18 inches, to be exact.
The Little Free Library construction crew (L-R):
Keshequa Central School's Joseph Bennett, Bradley Bennett,
Phil Giambra, Austin Schmidt, Kylee Martindale,

and Woodworking/Rustic Furniture Teacher Jim Myers.

Friday, December 6th will see the public unveiling of this area's newest Little Free Library, a handmade miniature schoolhouse measuring 23- by 25- by 18-inches high.  The structure will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the general public to "take a book, leave a book," according to Sarah Matthews, Children's Librarian at Wadsworth Library in Geneseo.

"The goals are to share literacy materials for free with the community, and to reach people who are either not able to come to the library, or would not choose to come to the library," she says.  "We want to be able to provide — especially for children — early literacy materials right at their school."

The Little Free Library is a joint venture between the Wadsworth Library and KidStart, the children's services program of The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming.  It will be mounted on a post located just outside of KidStart's Lehman Building, at 5871 Groveland Station Road in Groveland.

Little Free Libraries are a national and worldwide movement that offers free books housed in small containers to members of local communities.  The idea was popularized in Hudson, WI when Todd Bol erected a wooden container designed to look like a schoolhouse outside his home as a tribute to his mother, who was a school teacher and book lover.

As of January of this year, there were well over 5,000 Little Free Libraries, the closest located in Livonia.

The newest Little Free Library was initiated by KidStart staff and parents.  Head Start Advocate Loni Todisco and parent Laura Rahn were inspired by a news report about the Little Free Library phenomenon.  The duo began stockpiling books, and forged a relationship with Friends of Wadsworth Library to further ensure that their key resource wouldn't dry up.  Todisco's co-worker Lisa Faulds connected the team with Nunda Lumber owner Dana Russell, who donated wood to be used for the frame of the yet-unbuilt library.

"I am an avid reader, and I have been since I was a little girl," Faulds says.  "So for me, it is really important to do whatever we can to get the community involved, try to encourage reading, and show just how much fun it is when you give it a try."

Constructing a library from the ground up — even a "Little" one — requires big effort.  So Faulds turned to Keshequa Central School teacher Jim Myers for his woodworking expertise.  To her delight, the woodworking/rustic furniture teacher and a group of his 10th grade students volunteered to build the library at no cost, for the love of literacy.

"I have a favorite t-shirt — none of my current students have seen me wear it because I've worn it out — and it says, 'When all else fails, read the instructions.' Another way to say that is 'Before we fail, read.'  That's a good saying that I believe in," Myers explains.  "For example, I write instructions on the board quite a bit, and the reason I do that is to get everybody to read more instead of just asking, 'What do I do next?'  Reading is very important."

Building the Little Free Library was a six-week process that allowed students to apply techniques learned in Myers' classroom, and to test new skills.  Working from a basic frame that they constructed from the donated lumber, the students crafted windows, a sloped roof, horizontal siding, weatherproofing, and various finishing touches, including a tiny bell tower.

"Pro-environment" joined "pro-literacy" on the students' list of priorities while building the schoolhouse.  The finished structure is made up of approximately 50 percent reclaimed materials, according to Myers.

"That's called 'going green,' and it's right up our alley," Myers says.  "Even before we took on this project, our students were tearing discarded pallets apart to reclaim wood for the rustic furniture building and the woodworking that we do.  Trees are just too important to our ecosystem.  If we can take pallets that would normally probably be thrown in a dump somewhere, and put that wood to good use, we can make a big difference in this world."

Myers and his students will be on hand to unveil the mini-library at an 11:00am ribbon cutting on December 6th.  Beginning then, the resource will be open to the community at all times, with an ever-changing inventory of books.

Initial offerings will mostly be children's materials, with a focus on birth through grade 8.  But young adult and adult books are also welcome, organizers say.

Exactly which types and titles of books visitors will find in the Little Free Library at any given time is anyone's guess — but that's all part of the fun, Matthews says.

"Our goal, of course, is that it will be self-sustainable, and as people borrow materials they will leave a book for others," she says.  "But at the same time, we really just want to be reaching people."

For those involved with this Little Free Library, a single, time-honored adage applies: Good things come in small packages.

"You know, this is called a 'Little' Free Library but it has a very large impact on who it is going to affect," Myers says.  "This local effort is  part of a national project; it's all around our country.  We're part of a revolution!"