News And Events
What's Going On At Unity House
UNITY HOUSE PROMOTES NEW DIRECTOR
Judi Magee promoted to lead mental health housing program
Auburn, New York – Unity House’s Chief Operating Officer Darlene Podolak has announced that Judi Magee has been promoted from assistant director to program director of Unity House’s mental health residential program. Judi has been with the agency since 2017, and began her new duties in May. She replaces outgoing director Sue Morley, who served in this role for 18 years.
"I am excited to take a fresh look at running this department,” said Darlene. “Judi has a lot of experience inside and outside of the agency, and she is wonderful at supporting individuals with chronic mental illnesses. She is very forward-focused, and already has goals laid out for the next six months to three years."
In her new role, Judi has oversight of about 110 residents in the supportive housing programs located in Wayne, Tompkins, and Cayuga counties. She also manages 47 treatment apartments and supervises nearly 40 employees. Judi monitors all person-supported service planning, budgets, policies and procedures, and programming.
Judi holds a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY Oswego. Prior to coming to Unity House, she was an outpatient treatment care manager, a health home care manager, and an intensive case manager at other agencies in central New York.
"I am very happy to be given the opportunity to direct Unity House’s mental health residential programs and to work on growth and quality programming,” said Judi. “My goals are to ensure that program participants are satisfied with the services they are receiving, and that our staff feel valued and appreciated. It’s important for people to hear they are doing a good job."
UNITY HOUSE RECEIVES COVID GRANT
Cayuga Community Fund awards $700
Auburn, New York – Unity House of Cayuga County, Inc. has been awarded a $700 grant from the Cayuga Community Fund. This year’s grant round was conducted in collaboration with the United Way of Cayuga County, and specifically targeted COVID-related needs of local non-profits.
The funds will be used to purchase $20 pre-paid phone cards for use in Unity House’s PROSperity and Grace House programs. These two programs serve individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders. This population is particularly adversely affected by the isolation and social distancing required due to coronavirus. Being alone and unable to access recovery resources in person increases anxiety; staying connected literally keeps them alive.
The pre-paid phone cards will enable clients to participate in Zoom check-in calls, telehealth meetings with practitioners, video calls with medical staff, and online classes. PROS now offers about 23 remote classes a week for its service recipients, including such topics as Anxiety & Depression, Emotional Eating, Anger Management, The Art of Recovery, and yoga and book club.
UNITY HOUSE ANNOUNCES 2020 AWARD WINNERS
9th annual OPEN ARMS AWARD: Lt. Michael Wellauer of the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Department. Lt. Wellauer was nominated by Unity House employee Alyssa Militello. He was selected from nine nominees by a staff committee for his patience, kindness and compassion to our individuals, and for his time and efforts spent with them to understand how 9-1-1 works, giving them tools to de-escalate stressful situations, and develop more constructive coping skills.
10th annual ATKINS COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD: Timothy Donovan of Auburn is a lifelong resident, and volunteers with a wide range of non-profit organizations, including Unity House, homeless shelters, food pantries, and more. Tim is a former Unity House service recipient, and has made it his life’s work to now give back to all the agencies in town who helped him in his recovery. He gives from his heart in helping Unity House, the mental health and recovery populations, and much more.
Unity House was to honor these outstanding community members at its annual board / award dinner on Monday, April 27. Sadly, the event has been cancelled due to coronavirus. We will gather next April 2021 to celebrate these two worthy individuals and two more 2021 awardees.
UNITY HOUSE WELCOMES NEW DIRECTOR
Ryan Morrell Joins Agency To Lead Mental Health Program
Auburn, New York – Unity House’s Chief Operating Officer Darlene Podolak has announced that a new director has joined the agency’s staff. Ryan Morrell, director of the PROSperity mental health program, began his new duties in October.
“I am looking forward to working with Ryan at PROS and Peer Empowerment Services,” said Darlene. “He brings experience in the field and a commitment to his local community that will provide leadership and growth to the services we offer.”
In his new role, Ryan Morrell is responsible for direct oversight of six staff and monitoring of all operations for the agency’s Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) program, located at 146 North Street, Auburn, NY. Ryan holds a B.A. in Psychology and Biology from SUNY Cortland, and an M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from SUNY Oswego. He was most recently the Director of Criminal & Family Court Programs at Cayuga Counseling Services, Inc.
“I have been watching Unity House grow exponentially over the past 10 years and am proud to help it continue in this direction,” said Ryan. “Over the years, I have collaborated with Unity House staff on multiple occasions and always been impressed. The staff and participants at PROS have been receptive to the adjustment, and I am looking forward to providing the agency 100% of my time and effort to further the mission of enriching and empowering the lives of those in our community.”
UNITY HOUSE WELCOMES NEW BOARD MEMBER DAVID C. WILDER
David C. Wilder, president of the St. Thérèse of Lisieux Foundation, has joined the agency’s board of directors. He began his new duties in August.
“David is engaged in this community and brings new insights to the board, especially in terms of fundraising and development,” said Liz. “He brings fresh eyes to our processes, and his experience on other boards will be in sync with ours. His expertise is most welcome as we continue to make progress on our strategic plan.”
David C. Wilder is the current president of Illinois-based St. Thérèse of Lisieux Foundation, a non-profit that fosters national programs to create and enhance what Pope John Paul II called a “culture of life” and a “civilization of love.” Mr. Wilder is the former managing director of Lumen Institute Inc. in New York City, an international organization providing highly personalized formation in character, faith and leadership for hundreds of Fortune 500 C-Level business executives and cultural leaders.
Wilder is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship with degrees in political science and business administration. He has also worked in sales and sales management within the transportation industry, and is a sought-after operations and development consultant for non-profits. Wilder has been a past Board of Education member (Andover Regional / NJ) and currently sits on the board of Champions for Life Inc. in Auburn.
“It’s been said that service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth. Well, I am, in essence, paying rent to an area that really needs these services,” said David. “I am honored to serve on the Unity House board that ensures a stronger and more vibrant CNY community for all.”
UNITY HOUSE INVITES PUBLIC TO ANNUAL AWARD DINNER
Special evening takes place on April 29 at Auburn Holiday Inn
Auburn, New York – Unity House of Cayuga County, Inc. welcomes guests to attend its annual board and award dinner on Monday, April 29. The special event takes place at the Auburn Holiday Inn, 75 North Street, beginning at 5:30pm. Cost is $50 per person. The public is warmly invited to attend. RSVPs are due by April 22 at www.unityhouse.com/RSVP/boarddinner.asp or by calling 315-253-6227 x310.
There are three special components to the evening:
Guest speaker Kayla McKeon will tell her story: “Advocacy and My Journey to Becoming the Nation’s First Registered Lobbyist with Down Syndrome.” Kayla resides in Syracuse and travels to Washington D.C. frequently for work. She is a member of the National Down Syndrome Self Advocacy advisory board. Prior to joining the NDSS team as the manager of Grassroots Advocates, Kayla interned for Congressman John Katko (R-NY) of the 24th district. She attends Onondaga Community College, and is a Special Olympics athlete. Kayla is the 2016 recipient of the Self Advocate of the Year award, and was named to Syracuse’s Forty Under 40 in 2016.
The 9th annual Fred Atkins Community Service Award will be presented to Mr. Donald Poole of Auburn. Don was a corrections officer at the Auburn Prison for 28 years before becoming the superintendent of Fort Hill Cemetery for 25 years. Don also served two, 4-year terms on the Auburn City Council. Now retired, Don spends his time helping others. He is a past Grand Knight and former trustee of the local Knights of Columbus. He spent many years coaching for Babe Ruth Little League, Mt. Carmel baseball and basketball, Pop Warner football, and CYO basketball. In addition to about seven years as a volunteer for Matthew House, Don has also served on several boards over the decades, including the Booker T. Washington Center, Neighborhood House, Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), Pop Warner, United Way fundraising campaign, and Chapel House. He worked for Unity House briefly in the early 1990s.
The 8th annual Open Arms Award will be presented to Naomi Bernheim, owner of Cup O’ Jo Café in Ithaca Mall. Unity House’s Open Arms Award recognizes a community member or organization that truly welcomes the people with disabilities we serve, in public and/or at their place of business. The award winner demonstrates empathy and genuine delight when interacting with these individuals, helping them to gain a sense of place and inclusion within the community, a hallmark of Unity House’s work. The Open Arms Award exemplifies caring, compassion, and a commitment to recognizing ability, not disability.
UNITY HOUSE ANNOUNCES OPEN ARMS AWARD WINNER
Naomi Bernheim of Truxton to be honored at April 29 dinner
Auburn, New York – Unity House of Cayuga County, Inc. is pleased to announce its 8th annual Open Arms award winner, who will be honored at the agency’s annual board and award dinner on Monday, April 29 in Auburn.
The Open Arms Award committee has selected Ms. Naomi Bernheim of Truxton, owner of Cup O’ Jo Café in Ithaca Mall, as its 8th annual awardee.
Naomi Bernheim was nominated by Fred Nichols, a quality assurance specialist at Unity House. Naomi has been the owner of Cup O’ Jo Café in the Ithaca Mall for three years, where many Unity House clients visit for good coffee, food and smoothies.
Unity House’s Open Arms Award recognizes a community member or organization that truly welcomes the people with disabilities we serve, in public and/or at their place of business. The award winner demonstrates empathy and genuine delight when interacting with these individuals, helping them to gain a sense of place and inclusion within the community, a hallmark of Unity House’s work. The Open Arms Award exemplifies caring, compassion, and a commitment to recognizing ability, not disability.
According to Fred, Naomi is “very accommodating and goes above and beyond to get to know our consumers. Her genuine kindness combined with the fact that she remembers our individuals’ names and what they order creates a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere which helps our service recipients feel important.”
Naomi has gotten to know two Unity House clients especially well. She begins making their regular selection as they walk in the door and before they even place their order. She also advises them on healthy food choices and assists with using the credit card machine to make their purchase.
“I have always been a service person,” said Naomi. “I worked here at the café for three years before the owner wanted to sell, so I decided to buy it. I love to make people happy; for me, it’s all about the friendships and making those customer connections. It makes my day to come in here and see ‘my people’.”
Unity House’s annual dinner takes place at the Holiday Inn, 75 North Street, Auburn beginning at 5:30pm. Cost is $50 per person. Guest speaker will be Kayla McKeon of Syracuse, the nation’s first registered lobbyist with Down syndrome. The public is warmly invited to attend. RSVPs are due by April 22 at www.unityhouse.com/RSVP/boarddinner.asp or by calling 315-253-6227 x310.