Jawonio wants to put some of its strongest supporters to work. The organization brought together about 50 former board members, program participants, volunteers and representatives of founding families for Wednesday’s inaugural Jawonio Foundation Alumni Association (JAA) meeting.
Jawonio has been around for 60 years and has changed considerably over that time. Sandy Sewell was the guest speaker at the meeting and she shared memories of the organization’s beginning and how it provided her with assistance over the course of several decades.
Sewell said “moms and dads who had these little kids who couldn’t do normal things” started Jawonio at someone’s kitchen table to help the disabled. There were 10 founding families.
“Through the years Jawonio has provided me with many services and opportunities,” recalled Sewell. “I went to school here. I had therapy here.”
Sewell, who is physically disabled, came back to Jawonio to work after graduating from college with a degree in social work. She noted that she has been connected with the organization for most of her life. Currently, she works at Target assisting shoppers and receives job coaching from Jawonio.
“I’m still out in the community doing my thing, living my life,” said Sewell, whose association with Jawonio goes back to 1949.
She stated her reason for attending was because one of her dreams is to be able to help parents realize that a disability can be an ability. Her desire to help was shared by the others at the gathering who took turns talking about their memories of Jawonio and what brought them back.
Joining Sewell in recalling some of Jawonio’s early days was Marjorie Tummins, one of the original founders of "Camp Jawonio." Tummins, who is 94 years old, said her daughter, now 65 years old, attended the camp.
“I thank you all for doing something so wonderful,” she said.
Tummins brought a green and white Camp Jawonio pennant for the archives and several photos from that time period.was started in 1947.
People attended who were associated with Jawonio in the 70's, 80's and 90's. They were asked to invite other people to get involved with supporting Jawonio.
The JAA will be part of the Jawonio Foundation. Its chairs are Len Birbrower and Aury Licata. Birbrower served as the first chairman of the Jawonio Foundation and expressed excitement about this new initiative.
"I believe that all of these folks who are coming back to Jawonio still have great affection for the work they were part of,” said Birbrower, who is an attorney and, a principal of Birbrower & Beldock, PC. “What we want to do is to create a group of people who will join with us today and become part of an exciting future for Jawonio; most importantly to recognize and thank them. It was their caring that has made a difference in people's lives."
Co-chair Licata, who is president of Licata Management Corporation, said, "When I was on the board, Jawonio served hundreds of individuals with disabilities and now it is in the thousands, and they are located in Rockland, Lower Westchester and New Jersey. I was amazed at the scope and depth of their programs, and am excited to be part of the Alumni Association in any way I can be of assistance."
Jawonio CEO Jill Warner said members of the group made invaluable contributions.
"Jawonio is embarking on a plan to engage and renew old friendships and partnerships on a path forward, “ said Warner. "We are looking to bring back the friends and supporters who built the Jawonio of yesterday and today and acknowledge their contributions.”
New City-based Jawonio provides lifespan services throughout the Hudson Valley for people with developmental disabilities, mental illness and chronic medical conditions. Anyone interested in joining the Jawonio Alumni Association can contact the organization by email: Irene.Goldstein@jawonio.org or phone at 845-708-2000, extension 1332