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50 years of enriching the lives of people with disabilities

This year, 2012, marks the 50th Anniversary of Abilities First.

First known as Rehabilitation Programs and then, REHAB Programs, Abilities First was established in 1962 based on the recommendations of a Task Force, as the first step in providing a comprehensive program for multi-handicapped individuals. At that time programs included a school and Clinic with a work training component. According to disability history, this makes Abilities First, Inc. a model of its time when there was a new movement in the second half of the 20th century to transition people with disabilities out of institutional settings and create services that would allow them to be more a part of their communities. Over the past 50 years, Abilities First has continued to adapt and grow to assure that it holds to its mission to serve people with disabilities and their families by developing and providing innovative services, advocacy and support in a culture of dignity and respect.

Throughout 2012, Abilities First will illustrate its history, the programs it has developed and the people it serves, through the real life stories of its participants.

The first participant to be featured, Cora Ronk, is a woman with disabilities who received educational services through Abilities First fifty years ago. [Read her story here]

Cora was featured at the 50th Anniversary Launch event held at the Abilities First School on January 23, 2012

Abilities First 50th Anniversary  Abilities First 50th Anniversary  Abilities First 50th Anniversary   Abilities First 50th Anniversary  Abilities First 50th Anniversary   Abilities First 50th Anniversary

The 1962 Society
A Special 50th Anniversary
Abilities First
Circle of Friends Campaign

In honor of our 50th Anniversary, Abilities First has established the 1962 Society, a fundraising campaign that recognizes our history, allows others to be a part of it, and will provide the organization with much needed unrestricted funds to better serve our participants. “We invite you to be a part of this special group of donors!” Download the brochure here or call our Development Office at 845-485-9803 ext. 227 for more information.
Abilities First Timeline


“50th Anniversary Events and Activities”
To celebrate Abilities First’s 50th Anniversary, each of its program or service areas will be carrying out an activity or project during their chosen month in 2012:

Abilities First School (January): 50 Wishes for the School for its 50th Anniversary

Ferris Abilities First 50 Wishes

Human Resources:

Abilities First Wall Calendar Download Abilities First 2012 Wall Calendar - Click to download
The Human Resource Department has launched several projects that are being carried out throughout the year for the benefit of employees as well as 'friends' of Abilities First:
Abilities First Teddy Bears Abilities First Teddy Bear
Available for purchase at $10 each. Please contact Tracey Cox at (845) 485-9803 ext. 219

Abilities First Residential Program Hosts a Double Celebration

Abilities First Residential Program Hosts a Double CelebrationStaff in the Residential Department eagerly seized the opportunity to host a party in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Abilities First and the 30th birthday of Ermo House. What began as a fashion show event to showcase a participants’ sewing project soon expanded to include many additional interests and activities of the residents. Art instructor, Theresa O’Connor created wonderful displays of the residents’ creative works as well as historical pictures depicting Abilities First’s residential program over time. Ed Thorney, Recreation Therapist and musician, organized a lively band, with Waryas House participants on drums, that provided musical entertainment all evening. Beverages and snacks were donated by Hannaford and a delicious barbeque buffet was also served. Long time staff members Bill Carroll, Amanda Crowley and Linda Wiley were given the honor of blowing out the candles on two cakes that were donated by Price Chopper for the occassion. And, to truly make this a special event Donna King, Ermo House Manager, invited Cinderella and Prince Charming to be special guests and master of ceremonies for the fashion show and throughout the evening.

Work Training Center Holds An Open House

On August 30 Abilities First Work Training Center proudly hosted a very well attended and successful open house in honor of the organization’s 50th Anniversary. Guests were treated to scrap books depicting the Work Training Center’s history, creative displays celebrating the 50th Anniversary, tours of the Center’s programs and activities, and opportunities to meet the staff, volunteers and participants who make the Work Training Center the special place that it is.