Learn more about our Homes with Heart capital campaign at HCSHeart.org

Fall 2023 Spirit Newsletter

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Dear friends,

Three decades ago, I began my journey with this organization as a caring professional working directly with those in need. I take incredible pride in the work we have done as an agency in that time.

In recent months, the Homes with Heart campaign and the incredible support behind it has inspired me. As we enter the cold months once again, the concept of home has never been as important. People want to be able to live in a place that is familiar to them, surrounded by the people who matter most, especially in the twilight of their lives. This is the “why” behind Homes with Heart.

There are so many wonderful people to thank for making the campaign a success so far, but I especially would like to thank the Larrabee family for their matching gift challenge, which has helped us triple the impact of donations since its public launch in June.

We continue to lift the frontline care profession, an industry that is primarily driven by women. Women account for 67% of the global health and social care workforce, supporting around five billion people worldwide. We cannot elevate women without elevating care professionals, which is why we are proud to be one of the recipients of the first-ever Rochester Business Journal Elevating Women awards. At the ceremony, we shared our hope for a better and more equitable care industry.

The work continues, but as always, it is work worth doing. Thank you for helping us build with compassion.

Sincerely, Marisa Geitner

President & C.E.O

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Katie Chapin has cherished her home for most of her life. At just 17, she moved into the renovated 100-year-old farmhouse operated by Heritage Christian Services in Penfield. Now 41, Katie adores her home, but as she and her housemates have aged, the layout featuring three bedrooms upstairs and three downstairs, steep stairs and narrow hallways, has become challenging to navigate.

Sue and Bob Chapin, Katie’s parents, were thrilled to learn that Katie and her five housemates will soon have a fully accessible single-level home just down the street. The home is one of 12 Heritage Christian homes to be renovated or newly built under the Homes with Heart campaign. Homes with Heart benefits not just Katie and her housemates, but more than 50 others currently living in homes operated by Heritage Christian throughout Finger Lakes and western New York—and an estimated 400 people total over the next 60 years. Knowing the impact a gift to Homes with Heart will have for years to come, the Chapins knew they wanted to make a personal financial contribution.

Sue and Bob shared, “visiting an already built Homes with Heart home reaffirmed our decision to support the work. Katie’s new home will be very open with lots of natural light. Having space to spread out is a plus for Katie. There will be much more room for storage and staff will no longer have their office on the second floor, allowing them to be more accessible.”

To donate and learn more about Homes with Heart visit HCSHeart.org.

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VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Gail Otto Award Winners “The Debs”

The 2023 Gail Otto Community Service Award was given to a dynamic duo that embodies the spirit of giving back – the beloved “Debs,” otherwise known as Debbie Buckner and Deb White. At Heritage Christian Stables, where their paths first crossed, their volunteer journey began, igniting a friendship and commitment that shines brightly.

Tara Kuba, the director at Heritage Christian Stables, emphasized how volunteers like “The Debs” infuse the therapeutic riding program with heart, enabling the staff and horses to make a meaningful impact. Their unwavering dedication paints a vivid picture of the transformative power of volunteerism.


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Homes with Heart Kicks Off – Heritage Christian Services kicked off the Homes with Heart campaign by hosting events in Rochester and Amherst. There were guest speakers and the exciting announcement of the Larrabee Family Matching Challenge, along with a virtual tour of the homes. You can see the tour at HCSHeart.org/virtualtour.





October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month – October is recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness month. These Project SEARCH graduates now work at places such as RIT, Wegmans and Olive Garden, just to name a few. We also thank the U.S. Department of Labor for their support in recognizing employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and Eleversity for their work promoting employment across New York.

NADSP E-Badge Academy Celebration – Heritage Christian Services celebrated staff members who completed a certification within the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) E-Badge Academy during the first half of 2023. The E-Badge Academy is a program that gives frontline staff the opportunity to receive additional training and national certifications for their knowledge, skills and talents.


Sheep Shearing Festival Returns to Springdale Farm – Springdale Farm welcomed back the Sheep Shearing Festival in April. Over 900 visitors enjoyed shearing demonstrations, the petting zoo, robotic dairy barn tours and much more. “It was wonderful to be able to host our Sheep Shearing event again, and for our barnyard animals to meet the hundreds of families who attended,” said Farm Director Debra Carson.



Family Night at Rotary Sunshine Camp – Friends and family gathered at Rochester Rotary Sunshine Camp on Aug. 23 for an evening filled with music, activities, food and fun. It was wonderful to have 700 of us back together again.




Wheelchair Pickup for Guatemala Mission – Heritage Christian Services collected over 50 wheelchairs and more supportive items to be distributed to people in Guatemala. The supplies were sourced from Rochester and Buffalo families, NuMotion and donations to our thrift store A Second Thought Resale Shop, shipped to Guatemala with other donations collected by Bethel Ministries, and arrived in time for distribution at the annual camp ministry.


2023 Women of Color Summit Celebrates Intentionality – The 2023 Women of Color Summit, presented by Eleversity, welcomed 308 attendees over the course of three dates. The virtual event’s theme was “Intentionality, Commitment and Urgency: Pushing the Needle Forward and Upwards.”




TUESDAY, NOV. 28 #GivingTuesday – HeritageChristian Services.org/GivingTuesday

SATURDAY, DEC. 9 The Polar Express movie screening and more holiday fun at Springdale Farm in Spencerport – SpringdaleFarm.org/events

THURSDAY, DEC. 14 Holiday Gala Pops Concert with the RPO at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre in Rochester – RPOwithHCS.org

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As part of our efforts to strengthen the workforce that has lifted our agency, we have hired 13 people into directorial roles in recent months. Of these, 11 were promotions.

Anne Brett, Director of Administrative and Governance Operations

Theresa Buick, Director of Talent Acquisition

Deborah Campbell, Director of Eleversity

Debi Hill, Director of Day Services

Catalina Johnson, Director of Health Home Management

Michelle Kenville, Director of Quality Advancement

Lisa Kulp, Director of Clinical Services

Felicia Lewis, Director of Community Services

Kamia McCullough, Director of CDPAP

Charissa Moll, Director of Customized Supports

Heidi Montondo, Director of Workforce and Education

Stephanie Prunoske, Director of Behavior Services

Nate Williams, Director of People and Culture


New VP of Finger Lakes Customized Supports – Julie Owen was named the new vice president of Finger Lakes customized supports. Julie has over 30 years of leadership experience within the agency, and most recently served as the director of customized supports. She leads our high quality, person-centered approach to service delivery.




New VP of Education and Employment and FL Day Services – Joanie Parker has been named the new vice president of education and employment and Finger Lakes day services. She provides leadership and oversight to the agency’s day habilitation programs in the Finger Lakes, supported employment services, Expressive Beginnings Child Care locations and Eleversity. Joanie has nearly 28 years of experience working for the agency.


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Patricia Larrabee and her sons, Adam and Brendan, have created a way for people to give to the Homes with Heart campaign threefold with the Larrabee Family Matching Challenge. With every dollar donated to the campaign, their family has pledged to match it with a two-dollar donation, tripling the impact of every gift.

“The age in place philosophy that Heritage Christian has is unique and so important,” said Pat. “If anybody were to ask themselves where they’d like to be as they spend their final years on this earth, it’s someplace where you can be surrounded by the people that love and care for you.”

The Larrabees’ connection to Heritage Christian Services, and the Homes with Heart goal of renovating/rebuilding homes to ensure people are best supported in all phases of their lives, is personal. Pat’s sister and Adam and Brendan’s aunt, Mimi (pictured on our cover), is currently supported by Heritage Christian Services at a home on Grand Island. The matching challenge is named in memory of David Larrabee, Pat’s late husband, while the inspiration for the gift comes from the story of Pat’s sister-in-law, who passed away alone while in a nursing home.

“I’m sure it’s not easy for everybody to understand why this work is important if they don’t have the personal experience,” Pat said. “But I think hearing the stories just help people understand how critical this really is.”

The agency is thankful it could support the Larrabee family, and that they have decided to give back so generously. Theirs is a gift that will continue for generations to come.

Consider donating today, visit HCSHeart.org.

Hear Marisa Geitner discuss the Homes with Heart campaign on Neighbors in Need with Scott Spezzano. 

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HCS Enhances Wages for Staff

When frontline caring professionals are supported in their work, everyone wins. This is the “why” of Heritage Christian Services’ wage and benefit strategy, which most recently included a salary increase for all employees, and an increase in the minimum wage for almost every position.

This is the third wage increase in two and a half years, reflecting the necessity of compensating frontline professionals accordingly for their dedication to the people they support. It’s especially important when you consider that the majority of caring professionals are women, and more specifically women of color.

The costs of not addressing wages of caring professionals are already apparent. In a survey conducted by the New York Disability Advocates, 93% of New York care providers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities reported a decrease in job applicants. During the last four years, 130 OPWDD-supported homes were forced to suspend their programs due to staffing shortages. Without addressing the needs of caring professionals, more will continue to leave the profession as a whole, and others may not even come to it.

“By elevating our caring professionals, we are elevating the level of care our agency provides,” said Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O. “It’s a straightforward philosophy, and one I hope our industry can continue to get behind.”

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Celebrating heroes and supporting the Heritage Christian Services Foundation. In September, the Heritage Hero Run + Stroll + Roll events took center stage, held at both Seabreeze Amusement Park in Irondequoit and Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island. These events welcomed people who benefit from Heritage Christian Services, along with families, friends and community partners.

A special highlight was the recognition of caring professionals, who make a profound impact daily. The events coincided with National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, as a time to celebrate the work that frontline care professionals perform. Direct support professionals received custom t-shirts and gift cards.

Together, these events rallied support and enthusiasm, resulting in an impressive fundraising total of over $56,800. And the generosity continues – donations are still being graciously accepted at HeritageHero.org.

A round of applause to the 56 10K race finishers and the 249 5K race finishers. For people aspiring to conquer a 5K, stay tuned for details on the 5K Hero Training Program in 2024.

These events showcase the spirit of unity that defines Heritage Christian.

See a recap of the Rochester Heritage Hero and the Buffalo Heritage Hero.

We’d also like to give a special thanks to our Heritage Hero sponsors, including:













Par Excellence at the Heritage Christian Services Golf Classic.We’re delighted to share the success of Heritage Christian Services Foundation’s 33rd Golf Classic held at Monroe Golf Club this past August, presented by Lawley Insurance. Over 165 golfers joined us, culminating in a meaningful day of camaraderie and support. The event raised more than $168,000, which will be directed to enhancing the agency’s residential program, providing a competitive wage for direct support staff by contributing to salary increases and more. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our esteemed donors, as your contributions truly make a lasting difference in the lives we touch. Save the date for next year’s Golf Classic on Monday, Aug. 5, 2024. †

Special thanks to Golf Classic sponsors including:











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Elevating Women Awards – Heritage Christian Services was proud to be the presenting sponsor of the Rochester Business Journal’s inaugural Elevating Women Awards. The agency was also recognized as an honoree for their commitment to the advancement of women. Employees from across the organization had the opportunity to attend. See our Elevating Women video. 

Compass Validation – The NYS OPWDD validation team renewed Heritage Christian Services’ Compass accreditation for the 22nd year in a row. Compass is a select state-granted responsibility that empowers agencies to rely upon self-audit and continuous improvement processes. Heritage Christian remains one of only four organizations in the state with this distinction, thanks to the hard work of its staff.

Community Partner Award – This year’s Community Partner award is given to Douglas Electric. Over the past decade, they have contributed nearly $30,000 with their sponsorship of HCS events, and volunteered and donated materials and their labor to meaningful projects, including a raised garden bed, and support for a home that is part of the Homes with Heart campaign.



Heritage Christian Services named to Greater Rochester Chamber Top 100 – Heritage Christian Services was named to the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce’s Top 100 growing businesses list for the second year in a row.




Former board member recognized as ICON – Congratulations to former Heritage Christian Services Foundation Board of Directors member and community philanthropist Tom Clark for being recognized in the 2023 Rochester Business Journal ICON Honors.




HCS honored with Gold Award – Heritage Christian Services received a Gold Award in the Team Excellence category at the 2-23 Greater Rochester Quality Council Performance Excellence Awards. This recognized the work of the strategic project team focused on Reimagining Community Habilitation Services.




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Alex Jorgensen

Alex filled each day with joy and laughter. He passed away on May 7 at the age of 52.




Burt Korman

Burton “Burt” made many friends at Heritage Christian Services. He passed away on June 5 at the page of 93, surrounded by friends and caregivers.




Laura DeLong

Laura, who faced each day with bravery and love, passed away on July 25 surrounded by the people who loved her the most.




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Often people will make a donation in memory of a loved one who has passed away. The agency sends the bereaved family a note of sympathy and informs them of the gift, without disclosing the amount. People also mark joyous occasions – like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings – by donating in honor of a friend or family member. Sue Hoh, donor relations manager, can help you through the process. Call her at (585) 340-2045.


We have had incredible support for the Homes with Heart campaign. The following funders have given generous gifts as a way to show their support in the critical work that is being done to provide people the opportunity to age with dignity in their own homes.

Sincere thanks to:










We are grateful to the Walter Hubbell Employment Services Fund and the Rochester Red Wings which, over the last ten years, have generated $333,000 in support of our Employment Alliance.

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