At the recent Parents & Guardians Meeting at GTL on Monday, July 17th, Executive Director Cheryl Hennelly announced her plan to retire effective April 1, 2018. While the announcement was emotional, it comes with the full blessing of the Board of Directors, staff, and families of GTL. Cheryl has been at GTL for 32 years, starting as an Instructor in 1985 and then serving as Executive Director since 2003.
The Board of Directors, Cheryl, and senior staff have formed a transition team that will work to position the organization for continued success for the next leader of the GTL. As she stated at the Parents & Guardians Meeting, Cheryl will continue to support and be involved as much as she can after retirement. “I love this organization too much to just walk away; it’s my second home,” she said.
There have only been three Executive Directors in the 43 year history of GTL, with 42 of those years being lead by founder, Dorothy Hough, and Cheryl, currently. This is a sad and emotional moment in the history of GTL, but the Board and staff promise to use this as opportunity to strengthen their commitment towards the mission of GTL to assist individuals with intellectual disabilities reach their fullest potential.
In June, GTL launched a new fundraising and awareness event series called: “Cooking for A Cause”. GTL has a facility with five kitchens and training programs centered around those kitchens, so it only seemed natural to incorporate those assets while bringing the community in our doors.
The chef for our first event in June 2017 was Chef Joey Beato, Community Tavern. Chef Beato and his sous chef (who is also his wife) demonstrated key techniques and discussed ingredients with 18 attendees for an Asian-fusion themed three course meal. The attendees then dined in Dorothy’s Can-Do Café on the delicious meal before touring the facility to learn more about GTL. The money raised through this event series will be earmarked for the purchase of new commercial grade appliances for the facility.
Thank you to Chef Beato, his wife, and all of the individuals who attended our first event!! We also would like to thank our sponsors: Mary Beth Nebel—Owner, I know you like a book New & Used Books; The Chopping Block; The Freehling Pot & Pan Co.; Oglesby Construction, Inc.; Mariano’s Fresh Market; Trader Joe’s; Community Tavern; Victor & Penny Bernstein; Kimberly Oglesby; John Ratzenberger; and Paula Moscinski.
Debra Cassino experienced her calling to work with people with disabilities back in elementary school. There was a little girl in her third grade class who was seen as “different” from the other children. Debra didn’t see her that way. She saw a classmate who needed just a little extra help, and Debra was there to give it. Many years later, Debra looks back on that pivotal relationship that brought her to Gateway 23 years ago as a teacher’s aide. There she learned how to get into the world of individuals with intellectual disabilities. She learned sign language, listened more deeply, and developed a patience for their learning process. After four years in that position, she moved on to becoming a Developmental Specialist, the position she still holds today. Her specialty is working with adults with autism.
Debra works to change the expectations of educating adults with intellectual disabilities. She firmly believes that every individual is capable of moving to a new level of skill and/or cognitive performance. She does not allow her participants to stay comfortable in what they know and can do. She continually is raising the bar on their capacity to learn and perform. There are more times than not where families are amazed at their children’s achievements from when they first entered Gateway’s program.
Debra would like to thank the families and friends of Gateway who stand behind and uplift the staff in their educational endeavors. “The work is challenging at best, but knowing that we’re not doing it alone is a great gift.”
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