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

Spring 2024 Spirit Newsletter

  • A
  • A
  • A



Dear reader,

When I reflect on my over 30 years of tenure, nothing fills my heart like the thought of how many caring professionals I have had the blessing to work with and the families we have supported. June 24 will be a truly special occasion as Heritage Christian Services celebrates 40 years since the opening of its first residential home on Jennifer Lane in Webster.

40 years seems like a long time, yet we are only beginning our legacy of care. We continue to scale our service offerings to meet the needs of the people who choose us to support them. It’s also why we work so hard to elevate caring professionals and advocate for the end to wage insufficiency and gender pay disparity.

Though our work is evolving, our mission remains consistent: to reflect the inclusive love of Christ for all people. The dedication of our caring professionals, who serve with compassion and excellence every day, and the contributions of our community partners make this ambitious mission possible.

I hope you will make time to celebrate with us at some of our upcoming events, including the Spaghetti Dinner on June 4 in Amherst, and the Heritage Hero Run + Roll + Stroll on September 7 at Seabreeze Amusement Park in Irondequoit.

Sincerely, Marisa Geitner

President & C.E.O

Back to top

DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Eugene “Gene” Fuller

Eugene “Gene” Fuller passed away in September, after 88 fulfilling years of life. Gene had a special bond with his grandson, Jack, who lives in a Heritage Christian Services-supported home.

Gene was grateful to Heritage Christian Services and saw the importance of giving back through charitable donations during his lifetime. He arranged for the agency to be included in his estate plans as a beneficiary. For this, he was publicly recognized as a Legacy Society member.

Through Gene’s legacy gift, hundreds of people like Jack will benefit from compassionate, person-centered care, able to age in place safely and comfortably.

“We are thankful Gene had the ability and desire to help others, and are happy his legacy can live on in this way,” shared Gene’s son-in-law, Steve. Gene’s daughter, Beth, added, “My father would be pleased to know other people are living to their fullest potential and benefiting from his gift.”

Learn more at HeritageChristianServices.plannedgiving.org.

Back to top


Marian Turner is a dedicated volunteer whose unwavering commitment has left an indelible mark on our organization. Marian’s impact extends far beyond her tenure, having served two distinguished terms on the Heritage Christian Services Foundation board of directors (2007-2013 and 2015-2023).

Her invaluable contributions have introduced numerous people to Heritage Christian Services, resulting in the addition of several new board members and significant donors. Through her tireless efforts, she has facilitated over $1 million in contributions, empowering us to further our mission.

Marian’s passion for engagement is evident through her creation of the Board Champions program, which fosters deeper connections and support for people who choose our services. Her dedication has even transcended into her family life, with her husband, Chuck, their two daughters, and several grandchildren rallying around opportunities to support Heritage Christian Services. Thank you to Marian for her incredible dedication to the agency and those who choose our services!

Back to top


Heritage Hurricanes Color Guard – The Heritage Hurricanes all-abilities color guard currently has 18 performers and three mentors. “It’s so rewarding to watch people come into an activity they are unfamiliar with and excel in every way possible,” said Melissa. Their most recent performances included the Medina Colorburst event in March and the North East Color Guard Circuit Championships at Gates-Chili High School in April. You can visit HeritageChristianServices.org/events for upcoming events.




Highlighting Afternoon Respite –Heritage Christian Services afternoon respite programs are fun and dynamic environments that welcome school-aged children and young adults. “It allows me the ability to work, my husband to work, and know that my kids are supported and have a community of people that appreciate them,” said Julie Buick. A new video on our respite website explores the program’s advantages. To learn more and view the video, go to HeritageChristianServices.org/respite




Marianne Cain Paints a Picture of Self-Direction – Marianne Cain’s self-directed circle of support helped her realize her artistic talent. They bring her to classes at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center and assist her with daily living responsibilities so that she has room to focus on her artistic gift. “Thank you for this opportunity,” said Marianne. “It has been life-changing for me.” Self-directed services are the fastest-growing sector of our program offerings, reflecting a growing desire for services that allow people to be in control of their lives while choosing how their staff can best support them. For more information, head to HeritageChristianServices.org/services/self-direction.



The Employer Resource Network Welcomes Two New Success Coaches – Matt Smeltzer (left) and Ruth Simmons have joined the ERN as success coaches. Marcus Elliott rounds out this team of three that provides free and confidential support to employees at Heritage Christian Services, helping them overcome barriers to successful employment.


Heritage Christian Stables Veterans Program Grows – The Heritage Christian Stables equine-assisted therapy program for veterans began in late 2022. Tammy Weber, an Air Force and Air National Guard veteran of 36 years, first came to the stables through Compeer after wanting to try riding. “Learning something new is so important to me,” said Weber. “Coming out of the military and transitioning to civilian life, it’s great to be with other veterans and just nice to be with people.” The Stables offer a wide range of horsemanship programs for children and adults with disabilities and veterans and served more than 125 riders in 2023. Hundreds of volunteers sign up to support the program each year.




Spring at Springdale Farm – Springdale Farm hosted two wonderful community events in April: the once-in-a-lifetime Total Solar Eclipse Festival and the Sheep Shearing Festival. Heritage Christian Services celebrates 31 years of operating Springdale Farm, located in Northampton Park and owned by Monroe County. Four day habilitation programs are located at or near the farm, supporting over 50 people. The farm also partners with organizations such as BOCES and 4H to provide programs to students of all ages.





Continued Success of the Employment Alliance– For over a decade, more than 200 businesses have supported the Employment Alliance by providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Last year, another 14 businesses celebrated five consecutive years of partnership with the Employment Alliance, including the Penfield Delta Sonic, where Ryan Hasselwander works. The Employment Alliance serves nearly 400 people in the Finger Lakes region, and is expanding in the Buffalo-Niagara region, where it now serves 45 people.




International Ministries – Day Habilitation Manager Teresa DeMar and Faith Community Inclusion Specialists Joe Starling and Padraic Collins-Bohrer flew to Guatemala in November to volunteer for the agency’s first International Ministries trip since 2018. They spent time at a camp retreat, where people with disabilities and their families can make friends, get medical treatment and receive a new or repaired wheelchair. When you shop at A Second Thought Resale in East Rochester, your purchase will support future International Ministries trips.




TUESDAY, JUNE 4 Spaghetti Dinner & Basket Raffle at Banchetti by Rizzo’s in Amherst 

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5 and THURSDAY, JUNE 6 Women of Color Summit at the Doubletree Hilton in Niagara Falls

THURSDAY, JULY 18 and THURSDAY, JULY 25 Women of Color Summit (Virtual) 

MONDAY, AUG. 5 33rd Annual Golf Classic at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford

SATURDAY, SEPT. 7 Heritage Hero Run + Stroll + Roll at Seabreeze Amusement Park in Irondequoit

FRIDAY, SEPT. 27 40th Anniversary Celebration at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center in Rochester 

Back to top

Revisiting the First Heritage Christian-Supported Home

Community partnerships have been critical to the agency’s success, dating back to the formative years. Before there were 85 residential programs supported by Heritage Christian Services throughout the Finger Lakes and Buffalo-Niagara regions, the first home on Jennifer Lane in Webster opened on June 24, 1984. The support of the United Church of Christ in Webster was crucial in establishing the home.

“What impressed me was the way [the founding families of Heritage Christian] spoke of the love for their children,” said the late Reverend Harold Dobstaff. “We [the church council] quickly got on board with what they wanted to do.”

The home on Jennifer Lane serves as a model of the quality, compassionate care we offer in our homes and settings and represents the fruitfulness and grace of faith communities for the people we support. The home was built on land donated by the United Church of Christ, and the faith community welcomed their new parishioners with open arms. A paved trail was established to allow people to pass straight to the church from home.

“The walkway between the home and our church serves as a symbol of the living connection between the church and Heritage Christian [Services],” said Dobstaff. Faith communities have been invaluable partners in the agency ’s growth, and eight of the agency’s certified residential homes are on land donated by churches, with even more sites developed in partnership with faith groups.

Today, 40 years later, the home on Jennifer Lane has been right-sized to support six people, with updates that make it safe and accessible. During the summer, they walk the trail over to the church for summer concerts. Harold Dobstaff’s compassionate leadership and the church’s partnership encouraged the agency to expand on its mission of honoring the dignity and worth of all people, and we are forever grateful.

To see key moments in HCS history, visit HeritageChristianServices.org/about/history.


Back to top

Walter Hubbell Employment Services Fund Supports Home on Stream View

The Walter Hubbell Employment Services Fund has made a significant gift towards the completion of the new home on Stream View Circle in Perinton. This gift is only the latest demonstration of the Walter Hubbell Employment Services Fund’s support of Heritage Christian Services, which goes back to when the fund was established in 2011. The Hubbell Fund also supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in finding meaningful employment, and was a crucial partner in helping our agency establish the Employment Alliance.

The Walter Hubbell Home on Stream View Circle is part of the Homes with Heart campaign and will be a new build with a completion goal of 2025. Like all campaign-supported programs, it will have state-of-the-art amenities, from wider, accessible hallways to walk-in bathrooms.

Back to top



Homes on Names and Five Mile Line Open for Move-In

In January, the homes on Names Road in Chili and Five Mile Line Road in Penfield opened for move-in. These homes are two of the 12 that are part of the Homes with Heart campaign. Many of the people who moved have experienced changes in their health, and their new homes will be able to support them in a dignified and safe way as they continue to age.

Shannon Liptak, who moved into the home on Five Mile Line Road, appreciates her new surroundings “I love that it is easier for me to get to the laundry room,” said Shannon, who previously needed to traverse the stairs to the home’s basement. Her bearded dragon, Fred, also has a new home in the community room, and is very popular with guests who come to visit.

As of April, $8.8 million has been raised towards the campaign’s $9.1 million goal, and continued community support is needed to reach the finish line. Donations to the Homes with Heart campaign are meaningful as we celebrate our 40th anniversary. To pledge your support, visit HCSHeart.org/donate.

Back to top


Agency Board


Since January 2022, Lori Florack has served as senior vice president of human resources for Excellus BCBS, where she provides strategic leadership to The Lifetime Healthcare Companies.




Dr. Manasi Kadam Ladrigan is the founder of Comprehensive Dermatology of Rochester, PLLC, and is board-certified in pediatrics, dermatology, pediatric dermatology and skin cancer surgery.


Foundation Board


Rachel Bonsignore is the first director of Liftoff WNY, and a seasoned advocate and leader with an unwavering commitment to enriching the lives of families in western New York.



Aaron Horning demonstrates a steadfast dedication and commitment to the community through his work with Douglas Electric, a family business with multiple generations of leadership.




John Loury is president of Cause + Effect Strategy, where he is responsible for client strategy, internal staffing, external partnerships, profitability and strategic planning.




Richard Marchese is a partner at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP and chair of the firm’s Elder Law, Health Care and Special Needs Practice Group.




Pam Marcucci is vice president of programs at the Jacobs Institute, working with senior leadership to identify and implement strategic priorities and create and foster critical partnerships.



Back to top



Julie Owen Named Health Care Hero – Julie Owen, vice president of Finger Lakes customized supports, was named a Rochester Business Journal Health Care Hero in the category of leadership, for her work in growing the agency’s inclusive service offerings.







Three Board Members Named RBJ Women of Excellence – Dr. Angela Sims, Lori Florack (agency board of directors) and Betsy Brugg (foundation board of directors) were all named Rochester Business Journal Women of Excellence for their leadership and commitment to the Greater Rochester community.

Staff Awards

We had the pleasure of presenting several deserving staff members with our most prestigious internal awards in December.


The Amy Marie Tessoni Award winner is Karlton Rolle, a skills coach with Finger Lakes community-based services.




The V.K. Tarneja Empathy Award winner is Eddie Ortiz, medical liaison at the home on Salt Road in Webster.




The Eunice Hanson Excellence in Nursing Award was given to Liliya Ishchenko, Registered Nurse in the Finger Lakes area.




The Paul W. Hanson Excellence Award was given to Jessica Smith, residence manager of the home on Portland Avenue in Irondequoit.




The Anne Wolf Memorial Award was given to Jukeyla Jefferson, a recruiter at our office in Amherst. See Jukeyla’s award video.




The Jobina Bruinsma Memorial Award was given to Kamia McCullough, director of the agency’s Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP). See Kamia’s award video.




Back to top


Marilyn “Honey” Briggs lived an amazing 76 years of life. She passed away peacefully on Oct. 31, 2023.




Alan Nicholas, also known as “Al” and “Alley Cat,” was gentle and loving. He passed away peacefully on Jan. 25 at the age of 61.






Diane Kroubalkian’s life was marked with joy. She passed away peacefully on Feb. 23 at the age of 60.




Jimmy Kruchinsky had an exceptionally warm heart. He passed away on March 15 at the age of 60.




Bob Markham was a man of truth and action, and served the agency as a past chairman of the board of directors with a kind heart. He passed away on April 15 at the age of 84.




Jennifer ‘Jen’ King was known for being the perfect blend of sweet and fun. She passed away April 21 at the age of 49.



Back to top


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.

Questions? Email info@HeritageChristianServices.org.


The following contributors have generously provided gifts to demonstrate their support for the Homes with Heart campaign, enabling people to age in place in their homes with safety, comfort and dignity.








Heritage Christian Stables recognizes the following organizations that help provide therapeutic riding lessons for children and adults with disabilities, veterans and more.







Eleversity, the HCS education and training division serving businesses around the state, extends gratitude to the following organizations for their support of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.






Back to top