Michael Santoro cuts the ribbon to open the facility.
HAMBURG —Autism Services Inc. opened a new resource center on Main Street in Hamburg with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 27. This resource center, located at 97 Main, will be the site of outreach activities, conferences, a gathering place for support groups, a gallery space, respite location and lending resource library. It is the first of its kind in the Southtowns.
Bob Brunner, founder of the JP’s Foundation, said that the center has been “a hope and a dream” in progress for several years. The foundation sponsors the “Run the ‘Burg” race for autism every year and has been instrumental in raising monies and interest in the center. “This is a great day for our community and a great day for autism services. It’s really a dream come true,” Brunner concluded.
Local parent and advocate Brenda Mikolajczak spoke about the need for the center, while executive director Veronica Federiconi looked on.
Paul Gaughan presented ASI Executive Director Veronica Federiconi with a plaque from the village and Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon presented her with a proclamation from the county, as well.
Local parent and autism awareness advocate Brenda Mikolajczak spoke on behalf of her son, a high school student who has autism. She said that when he was first diagnosed, resources and answers to her many questions about autism and how to help her child were difficult to find, especially locally.
“This resource center will make it easier for us to explore answers to questions and services,” she said. “This project is a dream for people with autism who not only need it, but deserve to have their voices heard.”
Local resident and Honorary Starter for the 2015 Run the ‘Burg for Autism Michael Santoro cut the ribbon, officially opening the building to the public.
“I’m just thrilled to be here,” Federiconi said, of the new building. “We wanted to be in the Southtowns many years ago, but the funding just stopped. I can’t say enough about the Brunners and about the JP’s Foundation, without whom we wouldn’t be here. We’re very excited for the community.
“There are a lot of people in the Southtowns who need our services,” the ASI director continued. “We hear from people all the time. Now, they’ll have resources closer to home.”
She said that it will take a couple of months to get respite services up and running in Hamburg, since direct service professionals will need to be hired and trained. There will also be resource trainings and support groups held at the center, for parents and siblings of those with autism, as well as those with Asperger’s Sydrome. A lending library and gallery space round out the 3,000 square foot building.
“Our next step is to start meeting with people and helping them navigate our services,” Federiconi said. “To have this year really is a dream.”
ASI exists in order to promote and protect the health and legitimacy of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, according to its mission statement, as well as to create environments where they can flourish and thrive. It also employs methods to teach people with Autism Spectrum Disorders new skills and abilities in ways that promote genuine internalization, generalization and development. It is a person-centered program that uses incidental teaching as a way to promote authentic, internally motivated growth.
For more information about the organization and the wide variety of services ASI will begin providing for the Hamburg community, visit http://www.autism-services-inc.org.