Friday, August 24, 2012

Walk, run and fundraise to support people with disabilities

The Heritage Christian Legacy Mile & 5K is an annual event which benefits Heritage Christian Services Foundation. Proceeds from the event directly benefit the more than 1,600 children and adults with developmental disabilities. Since 2009, 11-year-old Madison Legault, granddaughter of Ruth Benjamin, HCS director of health maintenance and services, has been raising money for the Legacy Mile & 5K.

It’s through involvement with many Heritage Christian events where she has developed a beautiful friendship with Laurie Otto, one of Heritage Christian’s founding children. Madison understands the importance of raising money to ensure that the people supported by Heritage Christian will always have access to the highest quality of care – and that’s in part because of the friendship she has with Otto and others, including those she’s met through her participation in Heart of Dance.

“Laurie taught me how to be a good friend,” Madison said.

Madison’s Legacy Mile & 5K team, Pink Cupcakes, has raised more than $1,700. Madison has a simple approach to fundraising. “I make phone calls, send emails and ask friends and family for donations.”

More than 1,200 guests are expected to attend this year’s Legacy Mile & 5K event on Aug. 25, where Madison will be the spirit coordinator, helping to kick off the one-mile walk with Otto. The event is open to the public and families and friends of loved ones supported by Heritage Christian are encouraged to attend.
Heritage Christian Legacy Mile & 5K
  • Saturday, Aug. 25
  • Monroe Community College, 1000 East Henrietta Road, Brighton
  • 5K registration 7 a.m.; race at 8:30 a.m.
  • One-mile walk 10:15 a.m.
  • Event highlights: live music, clowns, face painting, bounce house, yard games and more!
Register or donate at

Friday, August 17, 2012

Join mom and daughter team as they run 5K on Aug. 25

Michele Lowes and 10-year-old Isabel are participating in the Legacy Mile and 5K thanks to a grant from New York State's Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work, & Play. The grant pays race registration fees for Heritage Christian Services employees and their direct family members and also covers some pre-race training. Employees can still sign up using this form:

Lowes, a service coordinator at Heritage Christian, talks about the grant and running.

1.       What motivated you to register with your daughter? Is this her first race? If not, is this something you do together often?

This will be Bel’s first race. Last year I ran the 5K with my niece, Leah (age 12), who is running again this year. Isabel decided she might walk the 5k with my mom or my sister, but this has motivated her to join Girls on the Run this fall. When I asked Isabel about why she would like to do this with me she said she likes to spend time together. She also understands that being healthy is really important and that she will feel better when she is active and eats well.

Isabel was also motivated to try this because she loves to help people and thought this was one way she could participate. She loves to tell people that I help people at work and loves to be a volunteer. She has been coming with me to Heritage events for several years -- including volunteering at the Annual Dinner and Heart of Dance. I like that she understands that being part of a community means that sometimes you help your community.

2.       What have you done to prepare (as a pair)?

To prepare for this event, Isabel and I have been going on walks and jogs (along with Sofia in the jog stroller) a few times a week together.  We have been having fun exploring trails near our home and making out a weekly plan for when we can squeeze in a walk.

3.       What does a shared activity like this mean to you and Isabel?

Any time away from my family outside of work is tough -- we are a very close knit family. Being able to show support to Heritage as well as spend time with my kids is great. It is also important to me that my kids meet all kinds of people, including people that have disabilities. I want them to understand that just because someone needs help sometimes they are not less of a person -- we all need help sometimes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


In the past 17 years, Norma McLernon has brought joy and friendship to people with disabilities, raised money so that community pillars like the YMCA can continue to serve and has welcomed people to the Pieters Family Life Center and introduced them to a healthier way of life.

She has made serving others a full-time, volunteer job.

Through her church, Norma started the Winton Road Friendship Group when a group home opened next to Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church in Brighton. Each month for the last 17 years, Norma and others plan activities for the people who live at the home. Together they host baby showers, watch Super Bowls, create seasonal crafts and build friendships.

In 2008, she won the prestigious Gail Otto Community Service Award from Heritage Christian Services – in part because of her work with the Friendship Group but also because of her years of service at the Pieters Family Life Center, which is a community wellness center. At the center, she covered the reception desk, tabulated sign-in sheets and helped with any other task that came along, from making copies to setting up chairs. Now, she volunteers in the development office at Heritage Christian, where she documents the agency’s history and advocates for people with developmental disabilities. In just those two capacities – the Life Center and the development office – she has volunteered 136 hours. And that’s just a small sample of her busy volunteer schedule.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Local Agencies Work Toward Medicaid Solution

Nine local agencies – including Heritage Christian Services and Lifetime Assistance, Inc.– are drawing the attention of state leaders by working together to study changes in how Medicaid will deliver and pay for services for people with disabilities.
Lawmakers throughout the state are struggling to make Medicaid self-sustaining, and the coalition of local agencies, called Person Centered Services of Western New York, has invested time, intellectual capital and financial resources in being part of the solution.
Eventually the group may apply to be one of a handful of state-designated managed care organizations, which means that other agencies in Western New York would contract with PCSWNY to offer services instead of working through the state. Such changes are meant to shift away from one-size-fits-all care and move toward more customized options for people.
“This is a crucial step in advancing the Medicaid waiver redesign for people with developmental disabilities,” said Marisa Geitner, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Heritage Christian Services, which is piloting a new “universal needs assessment tool” for the state along with a new program for documenting the services that have been delivered. “We really want to learn as much as we can and then advocate and shape the system so people with disabilities are always treated with dignity and compassion. We’ve got to all be partners in this transition.”
Since the Office of People With Developmental Disabilities recently realigned its regions, some agencies find themselves working with partners in new geographic areas. The nine agencies that make up Person-Centered Services, for example, span both the Rochester and Buffalo areas.
The new 17-county region – and the partnerships – makes sense for an agency like Heritage Christian Services, which has significant operations in Rochester and Buffalo, said Geitner, adding that PCSWNY has held public information meetings in both cities.
Lifetime Assistance, which offers comprehensive services in the region, wants to protect and advance services throughout Western New York, said James Branciforte, president of the agency.
“Forward-thinking agencies need to be out front of the massive public policy changes that will occur in the next three to five years,” he said. “And Person Centered Services is demonstrating the leadership needed to assure the highest quality services for our neighbors with developmental disabilities."
It’s not too late for others to be involved, he added. Those who are interested can view a PowerPoint presentation at and learn more about the nine founding agencies.