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.
Ellen Griffin serves as the Chief Financial and Administrative Officer and oversees Human Resources, Finance, Maintenance, Program Development, and IT. Ellen has had a distinguished and progressive career of over 30 years committed to the financial development of Abilities First, Inc. as its Assistant Director of Finance, Director of Finance, Controller, Associate Executive Directors, and Assistant Executive Director.
A graduate of Marist College, Ellen has always focused her career on accounting and financial reporting, with the majority of her time spent in the nonprofit sector. She describes herself as a translator between those who do and do not speak numbers. Ellen is the first member of Abilities First to be a graduate of the National Leadership Institute on Developmental Disabilities. Ellen was a member of the January 2017 class.
Ellen values her time spent with other local nonprofits and has served on several Boards of Directors, including service as the current Treasurer of Hudson Valley Hospice. She is also a certified CQL trainer.
A lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley, Ellen frequently hikes, skis and kayaks, is an avid sports fan, and enjoys spends time visiting with her children.
Dina Menzie joined Abilities First as Chief Program Officer in January 2018. Dina is responsible for day-to-day operational oversight of all residential, service coordination, community habilitation, day habilitation, employment, and educational services and programs.
Dina Menzie is a futurist, change management innovator and businesswoman. She most recently served as Chief Operating Officer for Seamen’s Society for Children and Families, a $20M charity in New York City where she led a multi-office IT transformation, agency-wide implementation of evidence-based practice and opened three new business lines. Dina has also worked as Chief of Staff for Special Projects to the CEO and COO of The Children’s Village, a $90M charity doing work in NYC and surrounding areas, Michigan, Australia, The Netherlands and Iraq. Dina’s experience in the for-profit sector includes working on IT and software development teams in the financial industry at companies such as Spear, Leeds & Kellogg (acquired by Goldman Sachs) a leader in trading, execution and clearing technology and Credit Suisse Asset Management in NYC.
Dina has a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and recently completed a Value in Health Care certificate through Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program.
Melissa McCoy joined Abilities First as Chief Advancement Officer in December 2014. Melissa leads the Advancement initiatives, including: marketing, communications, philanthropy, community relations & business development.
Prior to joining the executive team at Abilities First, Melissa served as Vice President of the Elant Foundation, with three decades of experience in community service, fundraising, event planning and project management. Her earlier career was in the design & construction industry as Project Manager for Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, and as Principal for Design Perceptions.
McCoy, a graduate of Marymount College, has received her international professional certification as a Certified Fund Raising Executive. She is a graduate of the Leadership Dutchess, Patterns for Progress Fellows Program and Leadership Orange. She served the Association of Fundraising Professionals, as Mid-Hudson Chapter President, board member, event chairperson and mentor, and to the AFP International Committee on Directorship (International Board selection committee) as well as – Northeast U.S. District Representative, and event presentations.
Her former board and committee service includes: American Cancer Society – Eastern Division, YMCA of Newburgh, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, Junior Achievement of the Hudson Valley, Orange County Ballet Theatre, Special Olympics, and as a founding member of the Arts in Healthcare Committee of the Orange County Arts Council. She has served as a grant reviewer for the United Way of Orange & Dutchess, mentor for AFP and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce Career Mentorship program. Melissa is a member of the Poughkeepsie Arlington Rotary Club, Garden Club of Orange & Dutchess and serves on the Board of Directors of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce.
Melissa is the recipient of the 2018 ATHENA Award, Leadership Dutchess 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award, 2014 Woman of Achievement Award by the YWCA of Orange County and the Girl Scout Council Heart of the Hudson, and in 2008 while Alumni Association Board President she was awarded the Marymount College of Fordham Universities – Centennial Award for leadership.
Shawn Philip Carlson joined Abilities First in 2015 and serves as both the Compliance and Quality Assurance divisions, as the Chief Compliance Officer. Shawn previously served as the Corporate Compliance Officer and the Director of Quality Assurance. The mission for both departments are to teach, assist, and support the programs in achieving excellence, and maintaining compliance with all of our state oversight agencies.
In 1993, Shawn accepted his first of many positions supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. He found that supporting people was not a job, but a passion and a career. In his 25 years of service Shawn has been a direct support professional, supervisor, and a regional administrator for several programs, serving both in both residential and day habilitation services. In 2002, Shawn moved from the program side of support to quality assurance where in 2010 he became the Director of Quality Assurance.
He was awarded his Masters of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Iona College. Shawn initially started his professional life as a paralegal and worked in civil law. Shawn has become the second member of Abilities First to graduate from the National Leadership Institute on Developmental Disabilities. Shawn was a member of the January 2019 class.
Leann Coyle is the Vice President of Educational Services for Abilities First. Leann was recently promoted to the position and now oversees the Abilities First early education programs including UPK and the Preschool and the Abilities First School in LaGrange and Cornwall, totaling an enrollment of over 300 students. She was previously the Director of Preschools and UPK. She came to Abilities First in 1998 as the Head Teacher at the former Beacon location.
She received her undergraduate degree from SUNY Oneonta and her Master’s in Special and General Education from Mount Saint Mary’s College. After teaching preschool special education she went on to obtain her School District Administration Degree from SUNY New Paltz in 2005.
For more than 25 years, Leann has been dedicated to providing quality educational experiences for preschool children with special needs and fostering life-long learning.
Leann lives in Dutchess County with her husband and twin boys, and enjoys the beach, kayaking, and photography.
Mark Nace is the Senior Director for Day Habilitation and Employment Services. 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.
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.
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.
Gina L. Carminucci is the Director of Community Initiatives. Gina became employed with Abilities First 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 her transition into Director of Family Support and Advocacy. Recently, Gina was promoted into the new position of Director of Community Initiatives, overseeing the growth of the Family and Support Services programs, day camp services, and Community Habilitation services. She will continue to be an advocate and liaison for families and individuals. Her interest in and dedication to working with individuals with special needs stems from her younger sister with multiple disabilities. She graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 2006.
Karyn Lange is the Principal of the Abilities First School in Lagrange. She joined Abilities First School in 2017, following nearly three decades of school service after earning degrees in both Elementary and Special Education.
Karyn obtained her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from SUNY – College of Old Westbury and her Master of Science in Education and Certificate of Advanced Study in School Administration and Supervision from SUNY – College of New Paltz. Throughout her career, Karyn has taught in varied settings, leading her to take on roles in school administration, including Data Coordinator and Chairperson for the Committee on Special Education.
Karyn enjoys advocating for her school-age students in a truly specialized environment within Abilities First Inc.
Jessica Lovinsky has a B.A. in political science from Howard University in Washington, D.C., a M.S. ED in educational leadership from Pace University with NYS school building leader certification and is currently pursuing a ED.d from Hofstra University in Education Leadership and Policy.
She passionate about providing high quality education services to students with disabilities in all settings.
Kelly Martinez is the Director of Human Resources 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.
Darcy McCourt is the Director of New Program Development. After Graduating from SUNY Potsdam she has spent the last 35 years working in a variety of roles to help people live the life they choose to have. She has three teaching certificates (K-12) but found that real life education and advocacy for persons with disabilities became a passion. How do we want to live? How do others want to live? What opportunities can we work together to provide?
Darcy has worked in, managed, directed and developed small and large programs for adults and children with many types of disabilities. She has also worked to blend teams that will focus on the person, education, the residence, the social life and the work life. Recent opportunities in development have lead to partnerships on local, state and federal levels. Darcy has worked with NYS programs including OPWDD, OMH, OASAS, Dept. of Health, and recently the Dept. of Education. She has also worked with HUD and HCR. As our Director of New Program Development for Abilities First she has assisted all Abilities First Programs in the development, expansion and growth of their programs that support the individuals in our programs.
When not at work she spends time with family, kids and pets. She travels whenever possible and has run 38 half marathons and one marathon.
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 first grandchild.
Maria Darby is the Director of Philanthropy for the Foundation for Abilities First NY. Maria will work with our leadership and the board to further develop and implement the organization’s community relations and fund development strategies throughout the Hudson Valley, with a focus on garnering the financial resources to preserve, strengthen and support the ever-changing climate and needs within the human services industry. Maria formerly provided philanthropic leadership at Comfort Zone Camp and CarePoint Health Foundation, and most recently as the Director of Philanthropy for Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.