The employees of Abilities First are the ones that open doors for people trying to succeed in life. They are the ones that break down barriers for people with special needs. Our committed staff members provide enriching and meaningful experiences to those we support every day. See how remarkable they are.
Jeffery Fox joined Abilities First as Chief Executive Officer in July 2013. As the Chief Executive Officer of Abilities First, Jeff now has the privilege of overseeing programs and services that touch the lives of many children and adults across our region. He is proud to say that the mission of Abilities First overlaps heavily with his own personal mission.
Jeffery has been working with people with intellectual and developmental challenges since he began volunteering at the Newark Developmental Center in the 1980’s. Since then, he has held many different paid and unpaid positions in the Finger Lakes Region, Western New York and now in the Hudson Valley. He received all of his degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo, including his doctorate in Educational Psychology in 2008. He has co-authored numerous articles and research papers that were published in peer-reviewed academic journals, such as Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Child Psychiatry and Development and Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.
Jeff’s community service is also related to his personal mission. He is on the Board of the Child Care Council of Dutchess and Putnam and the Advisory Board for the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum. He is also the Vice Chair of Hudson Valley Service Providers (HVSP), which is a coalition of 22 organizations across the Hudson Valley that collaborate to meet the challenges of New York State’s Medicaid Redesign. As part of his role in HVSP, he is a member of the Board of Directors of LIFEPlan Care Coordination Organization (CCO), which is one of seven CCOs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities that are authorized by the NYS Department of Health. He was selected in 2016 by the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce as an Athena Honoree for empowering women in leadership.
Mark Nace is the Chief Program Officer. Mark received a B.S. in Political Science in 2001 from SUNY Oneonta and his Master’s Degree in Human Services in 2017, Suma Cum Lauda from Kaplan University.
In 2001, Mark began his career in a direct support role and held a variety of management positions with progressively more responsibilities in residential services. In 2005, he joined Abilities First as an Assistant Director of Day Habilitation Services and was later promoted to the Director of Day Habilitation Services in 2013. Mark became the Senior Director of Day Habilitation and Employment Services in 2018, overseeing both adult day and vocational programs. Mark has been an active member of the New York State Association of Day Services provider for several years and currently sit on the board of directors. In 2019 Mark became the Vice President of OPWDD & Community Services.
Mark works with his management team to oversee an array of services and supports provided by Abilities First Inc. He and his team strive to ensure optimum service delivery through a person-centered approach that incorporates the CQL.
Kelly Martinez is the Vice President of Human Resources and Corporate Compliance where she leads the continually expanding employment base for the agency. She spent ten years’ in corporate human resources before joining Abilities First in 2010 as Human Resources Coordinator, by her desire to help others, and inspired by a close family member with special needs.
Kelly received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a concentration in Human Resource Management from SUNY Empire College. Kelly holds both her Professional in Human Resources and Society for Human Resource Management-CP Certifications and is a member of the Mid-Hudson Society of Human Resources Chapter.
Kelly enjoys baking as a hobby, and is known around the office for her cupcakes. Her taste testers at home include her three children.
Kim Ryder is the Director of Finance for Abilities First. She joined the agency in 1999 as a Staff Accountant, from which she was continually promoted to Accountant-A/R Manager, then to Accounting Coordinator and now as Controller. Kim is committed to develop strategies and help navigate and ensure the financial strength of the organization. Her interest and commitment to the industry began when her younger brother was born with Down’s Syndrome, which engaged her to volunteer at the age of 16 at the Abilities First summer school program where her brother attended.
Kim serves as the Treasurer of the Vassar Warner Home Board of Trustees and previously served as Treasurer of Dutchess County Special Olympics Board of Directors. She volunteers at Special Olympic Events when possible.
She lives in Lagrange with her husband of 35+ years and is enjoying her three grandchildren.
Donovan Ashe is the Director of Residential Services. Donovan joined Abilities First, Inc. in 2001 as the Program Manager at the Ermo IRA residence. Since that time, he has served in various roles in Residential Services including Program Coordinator, Administrative Program Coordinator and Assistant Director of Residential Services, leading to his appointment in his current role.
Donovan has over 27 years in the human services field and has worked with people of all ages and disabilities including at-risk adolescents, individuals with Autism and individuals with varying levels of intellectual and physical disabilities. Donovan is dedicated to helping support people with special needs in achieving their goals.
I started working at Abilities First, Inc in November 2019 as the Youth Transition Coordinator for the School to Work Program (Employment Services Department). My background is as a Special Education Teacher and Math Teacher at the middle School level. I began working in the field of human services in January 2014 and have held positions as a DSP, QIDP, Youth Transition Coordinator, and Assistant Director for Employment Services.
I am fortunate to have been employed in industries where I have the opportunity to impact the lives of individuals with special abilities. As a mom of a son with autism, I like that I am able to help families transition to adult life/services and find/keep employment which truly impacts their lives positively. The individuals we support feel accomplished when they are able to work and I am grateful that I get to be involved in the process. I look forward to continuing to support individuals to get and keep jobs, and ultimately live their best lives!
Gina is the Director of Community Services. She graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 2006.
Gina became employed with Abilities First, Inc. as a Medicaid Service Coordinator in 2007 where she worked closely with participants and families to link them with various community agencies and resources. In 2013, Gina was promoted to MSC Supervisor and in 2015 promoted to Director of Service Coordination, where she served until the transition into her current position.
Gina oversees family support grant programs, family education and training, Community Habilitation and Respite services. Her interest and dedication to working with individuals with special needs stems from her younger sister with multiple disabilities.
Brenda Douglas is the Director of Day hab services. Brenda received her Master’s degree in Human Services Management in 2018, from Kaplan University.
In 1984 Brenda began her career in a direct support role and held a variety of management positions with progressively more responsibilities in residential services. In 2012, she joined the Abilities First Inc. as day habilitation coordinator, was later promoted to Assistant Director of day habilitation services. Brenda became Director of Day habilitation services in May of 2021.
Brenda is a SCIP-R, CPR/First Aid, certified CQL, and Front line supervisor trainer. Brenda enjoys time training and mentoring staff to develop future leaders. Brenda is dedicated to assisting with supporting the individuals we serve to meet their goals.
Marcy Handler, MBA, the first Director of Grants at Abilities First, brings a wealth of professional experience in strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, organizational development and program design to support the philanthropy focus at FAFNY. Educated at Cornell University, San Francisco Art Institute and Marist College, her grant writing has resulted in excess of $29 million in awards to Hudson Valley organizations to strengthen their human services and economic development programs. With the ability to develop creative, long-term strategies to add new resources and fill gaps in funding, Handler works to enhance programming at Abilities First to better serve the community.