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Spirit Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

It is a blessing to reach the milestone of 35 years, and it is an honor to carry on mission-centered work. Reflecting on how we will propel Heritage Christian Services the next few decades, I have especially been thinking about the people who work steadfastly for our mission.

In our workforce we continue to see how personal barriers force many of our best staff members to leave jobs they love. How is Heritage Christian Services helping them to stay?

With our staff and their families in mind, this year we introduced a success coach. A success coach  is a resource that assists our workforce in navigating barriers that might otherwise interfere with successful employment, helping employees be their best while supporting people. In addition, we are enriching more traditional employee assistance benefits like counseling, financial wellness services and concierge services.

Along with the success coach, we have taken this anniversary edition to highlight how people like former employees, Aaron Metras and Jane Kitchenman, continue to stay connected and encourage others. And we applaud our award winners Rabecca Ortiz and Lakeaya Hartzog who make sure people in their care achieve what matters most in their lives.

Looking forward, we are striving daily to be an example of an inclusive caring support partner.  Continuing the good work that began so many years ago. We seek to validate and amplify the unmet needs of those within our community.

Thank you for joining us to ensure all are treated with dignity, respect and entitlement to expression which all deserve. Your support is critical to our success.


Marisa Geitner, President & C.E.O.

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Across three and a half decades, people have joined Heritage Christian Services by the thousands, accepting services or choosing to working here. No matter how long they stay involved, it’s common for people to hold HCS in their hearts. Here are three stories…

Laurie Otto loves to show off her room in her home on Clover Street in Brighton. The shrine of art and pictures spread across her walls gives glimpses into her personality and her experiences. It’s one of two Heritage Christian homes where she has lived since she was 25, and she can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Otto’s mother, Gail, remembers a time when people like her daughter didn’t have a choice of where or even how they could live. Believing in a different outcome for her daughter, she and her husband Bob, joined the Bruinsmas and Pieters to form Heritage Christian Home. A decision that has positively impacted and enriched Otto’s quality of life and independence.

Today, Otto is a self-advocate who loves baking and using her iPad to draw. She has developed long-lasting friendships, goes on trips, and lives a meaningful life completely full of choice. Otto’s life is an example of a 35-year-old dream that has come to fruition. That dream has enriched the lives of thousands of people that have chosen to be supported by Heritage Christian, families and the care professionals working alongside them.

Jane Kitchenman worked for Heritage Christian Services as a nurse for over two decades until 2010, when an injury contributed to her decision to retire. At the time, 75-year-old Kitchenman had a difficult transition leaving the job and the people she loved who had become her second family.  Her faith helped her see how she can serve HCS in other ways. “One day the Lord stopped me and said, ‘You encourage those who carry on,’” said Kitchenman.  It’s been nine years since she retired, and at 84, she is answering the call by serving as an honorary ambassador for the mission of Heritage Christian Services.

Kitchenman remains in touch weekly with her former colleagues and the many people that were in her care. With kind words and greeting cards she’s constantly encouraging others to continue the good work that they do. She attends every agency event that she can. She also creates a scrapbook of mission-centered highlights each year to share with staff members and other visitors to HCS, always working to inspire others to keep up the good work and to carry on.

Kitchenman said she shows gratitude to Heritage Christian because the organization has done so much for her. “It prepared me for where I am now,” says Kitchenman who admits she almost didn’t take the job she credits for changing her life.

Like Jane Kitchenman, Aaron Metras credits his experience working in direct support with Heritage Christian Services for helping him to be the father and business owner he is today. “If you approach it right, it is the most fun job you can ever have,” said Metras

The now restaurateur, started at the Tonawanda Creek home in North Tonawanda nearly two decades ago where he developed a close friendship with some of the men that he supported there, including Dan and Brandon Toellner and Tom Barraclough.

After leaving Heritage Christian in 2007, he moved out of state and worked for similar organizations in Arizona. Metras says that the culture of relationships and creating a shared experience is unique to Heritage Christian Services and one that he hasn’t encountered working anywhere else.

When he and his wife moved to Rochester to open their business, Metras wanted to reconnect with his friends Dan, Brandon, Tom, and a new friend,  Joe, as well.

He reached out to his partners at the Seneca Park Zoo and The Strong National Museum of Play and organized a behind the scenes experience for his friends. They traveled to Rochester and together they enjoyed a full day with animals, food, inside jokes, and lots of laughter.

“It was so cool that they remembered me. It was like no time has passed,” said, Metras who hadn’t seen his friends for nearly 10 years. Metras says that Heritage Christian Services taught him about appreciating the value in everyone, and he continues to carry that mission with his own employees.

The agency’s inception 35 years ago has given hope for families and the thousands of employees that have learned, matured and grown alongside them. The people at the center are people who chose HCS to support them in living with dignity and the freedom of choice. They are the people responsible for significantly impacting and changing lives, and are the inspiration for those continuing to create meaningful experiences.


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This past spring, Heritage Christian Services launched the Employer Resource Network (ERN) and introduced the first success coach in Rochester. The ERN is a national consortium with a local network of corporations and non-profit providers that is administered by HCS. It offers a collective sharing of resources for employers that want more than the standard assistance and counseling programs for their workforces.

Part of ERN is the belief that no one’s job should be at risk when dealing with important personal barriers such as housing, lack of childcare, or caring for an elderly parent. Life happens, and when it does ERN can offer a success coach to be an onsite resource for employees dealing with problems that weigh heavy on their hearts.

“We want to retain employees and tackle life concerns, so we can all be successful in our supporting roles,” said Chanel Terrell, the new success coach. Terrell says her goal is to make sure that staff from all walks of life, cultural backgrounds and employment statuses receive full support. In addition to housing and family care, Terrell will connect employees to community organizations offering services in training, education, health, and financial wellness.

Longtime HCS employee Marianne Durrant is leading ERN-Rochester as director of network development. She has already begun onboarding the first class of organizations signed up to bring this unique benefit to their workforce.

Several more companies are waiting to join the ERN. Soon, a second success coach will be hired. There are plans to bring the program to Buffalo next year.

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Anne wolf and Jobina Bruinsma awards

The agency honored Rabecca Ortiz and Lakeaya Hartzog with its top awards: The Anne Wolf Memorial Award and the Jobina Bruinsma Memorial Award. Both were recognized for Christian compassion and outstanding advocacy.

Ortiz has worked at HCS for 15 years, most recently as a senior direct support professional, and is known for providing excellent behind-the-scenes support for the people that she works with.

Hartzog has served HCS for 13 years first as a direct support professional before becoming a registered nurse. She is known for being an exceptional advocate.





community partner awards

In Buffalo, Ashley Rowe accepted the Community Partner Award on behalf of WKBW-TV Channel 7, in recognition of their dedication to making sure that people aren’t overlooked or forgotten in the media, and how they work to make the community better.

In Rochester, Scott Lefebre accepted the Community Partner award on behalf of  Seneca Financial Advisor LLC. Seneca Financial has supported HCS’ mission through their volunteer efforts and is an example example of how continuing partnerships can improve.





WNY’s Healthiest Employers

Heritage Christian Services was one of 100 finalists named for Business First’s WNY’s Healthiest Employers. Finalists were chosen based on their commitment to wellness initiatives.





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Every year, volunteers connected to Heritage Christian Services visit Guatemala as part of the agency’s International Ministries program. In August, a team of 10 people provided over 50 wheelchairs to people in need, rebuilt the homes of two families, and brought food, clothes, shoes and school supplies to local citizens.

“This was my 13th time going and the biggest thrill is seeing how this trip impacts team members. They all say its life changing and I get to watch that in them,” said Lida Merrill, director of faith community inclusion. “That’s what empowers me to keep going. Seeing how it transforms the team’s lives and the people we’re supporting is powerful.”

Funds for the International Ministries program come from A Second Thought Resale Shop, a thrift store run by the agency in East Rochester. In addition, financial and in-kind donations are collected year-round such as wheelchairs that can be refurbished, school supplies, clothes, boots, and medical supplies. Another team travelled in November to bring together people with disabilities for prayers and friendship, plus provide health exams and distribute wheelchairs.

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Donor Spotlight


When Drew and Riley Hoselton first heard about the opportunity to purchase a new therapeutic horse for Heritage Christian Stables, they immediately knew it was something they wanted to be a part of. Riley grew up around horses and understands firsthand the impact horses have on people’s lives. Seeing and hearing how the horses have positively affected so many people, they saw it as a blessing to bring Aria – a  Norwegian fjord – to the stables. Drew and Riley said that everyone has the ability to decide how to invest their lives outside of their work and family commitments – and that it’s important to make that investment count. “Being able to work and partner with HCS has proven most meaningful to us,“ Drew said.

The Hoseltons have enjoyed being part of Heritage Christian Services over the years because they have witnessed the incredible standards of service at HCS, and also the effort that is put into caring for the employees. The Hoseltons call that a “difference maker.”

Watch a video on Heritage Christian Stables. 

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Volunteer Spotlight


If you’ve been to the Heritage Christian Services regional office, there’s a good chance you’ve been greeted with a smile and positive attitude from Crystal Schultz, a volunteer in the Buffalo area who has shown how dedicated she is through her reliable service. Her journey to volunteer began a few years ago and has remained steady since. Her volunteering encompasses everything from compiling employee handbooks and creating packets to helping supplement the interview process of potential employees.

Along with volunteering at the office, she is one of the first to jump in and support special events. For the Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser she helps transport the auction baskets, assists in setup and is willing to do what she can to make it a success. She also enjoys greeting guests as they arrive at the Family Dinner each year.

This coming holiday season, if you call the Goodrich Bakery to order some goodies, you just might hear Crystal’s voice on the other end. She effortlessly takes orders and assists in the bakery to make sure they go out on time. Thank you to Crystal for her enthusiasm, commitment and hard work.

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Balcony Point at Springdale farm

Springdale Farm has expanded rental opportunities at Balcony Point, its visitor center, which now hosts special events and conferences. In addition to a new name and some upgrades, Balcony Point now welcomes corporate rentals, weddings and special occasions. Laura Rivera, the sales manager, shared, “It has been my pleasure to be a part of the revitalization efforts that highlight our excellent value, lovely amenities and great customer service for our guests. It’s a great feeling that efforts and proceeds from these rentals are going to toward the greater good of our community for many years to come.”



Regional Office on the move

In January, the Heritage Christian Services regional office will move from Commerce Court in North Tonawanda to 130 John Muir Drive in Amherst. The new office is more centrally located, is on a public transportation line, and will accommodate a growing number of employees. Families, partners and friends will be invited to tour the facility during an open house next year. The new office space is managed by Uniland Development Company, one of the largest developers of commercial real estate in the Buffalo area, and an organization with its history rooted in the western New York community.



fun for all at reunion week

People came together at Rotary Sunshine Camp in August for Reunion Week to renew old friendships and create new ones. Aimee Reinhardt said, “The best part about camp is being there with friends, family, camp counselors and staff we love. Being there is a big joy and I call it my home away from home.” Diane Sturmer, faith community inclusion specialist looks forward to the week each year. “This was my 31st year gathering ideas from everyone and putting together the activity schedule. I love camp.”


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The Heritage Christian Services Foundation is grateful for the generous support of the following sponsors for our fundraising events.

Finger Lakes Extravaganza

Save the date: Saturday, April 25, 2020

Thanks to The Joseph and Irene Skalny Charitable Trust





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Support from the Alstom Signaling Foundation and Autism Speaks will allow Heritage Christian to provide scholarships for therapeutic horseback riding at Heritage Christian Stables.

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo administered a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds that will educate the workforce of Heritage Christian in safety science.

Support from the Children’s Guild Foundation will help to increase awareness and education about disabilities in classrooms across western New York.

A gift from the Ames-Amzalak Memorial Trust will allow staff members to attend Dale Carnegie leadership training.

Thanks to support from the Chapel at CrossPoint and the Fred and Floy Willmott Foundation, our Faith Community Inclusion team will offer programming that celebrates spirituality, both locally and through mission trips to Guatemala.

Heritage Christian will be able to purchase state-of-the-art medication distribution technology for our homes, thanks to support from the Grainger Foundation.

KeyBank Foundation funded strategies to recruit and develop workforce talent.

Support from the William and Sheila Konar Foundation will provide field trip scholarships to students and increase education about the importance of dairy farming in New York state.

Thanks to a grant from the McClain Foundation, HCS will be able to purchase technology to assist people with their mobility.

In 2019, the Hoselton Foundation awarded $18,500 to HCS in support of Dale Carnegie Leadership Training, an invaluable initiative that strengthens our workforce and gives them the tools they need to build meaningful careers with our agency.

We are grateful for the $37,000 donation by the Walter Hubbell Employment Services Fund and the Rochester Red Wings who support our Employment Alliance and job opportunities for people with disabilities.



Marie and Bob Pieters (middle) gave staff members the Pieters Family Award of Excellence for their heartfelt dedication to the people they serve. Congratulations to Andrew Miltsch, Nelson Torres, Sherry Gricar and Emma Lange.







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Michael Arengi passed away in September. He had a bright smile and humorous personality. Mike was 58.




Thomas “Tommy” Guinta passed away in April. He loved the weather and spending time with his friends and family. He was 55.




Patricia “Patty” Hogan passed away in June. At the age of 73, her life was full of love and she was known to shine like the custom gems she made and wore.




Deborah Scott passed away in October. At the age of 21, she was known for her determination and positive spirit, always believing in good things to come.




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Memorials & Honorariums


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. She can be reached at (585) 340-2045.


In Memory of Michael Arengi
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
Deb and James Boggs
Kevin Brown and Family
Silva and John DonVito
Marisa Geitner
Kathy and Russell Giunta
Alice and John Gucker
Michelle Labossiere-Hall and Scott Hall
Angeline Mastromatteo
Darlene and Francis Mooreland
Anna and Scott Mulcahy
Joan and Jim Parker
Vicky and Mabel Thayer
Nancy and Mark Zawacki

In Memory of Barbara Baur
Doris and Albert Anderson

In Memory of Anne Bleier
Elaine Tantalo

In Memory of Bernard Bubel
Nancy and Bernard Williams

In Memory of Vincent Caporale
Rose Albino

In Memory of Samuel Cino
Geraldine Drasch

In Memory of Morgan Coe
Kathy Coe
Carole Ann and Charles Collard

In Memory of Leonard Douglas Colt
Marcia Veeder
In Memory of Joe Dady
Sue and Bob DeSarra

In Memory of Ronald Drzewiecki
Carole Ann and Charles Collard
Betty and Beth Stanbro

In Memory of Jennifer Duncan Young’s Birthday
Kathie and Dick Duncan

In Memory of Audrey Enfonde
Geraldine Drasch

In Memory of Caryl Favro
Betsy and Gerry Archibald
Gloria and Mike Bansbach
Shannon and Charles Barber
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
Joanne Case-Green
Angela Cataldi
Carole Ann and Charles Collard
Doris and Ward Donahue
Family Advocates of Heritage Christian Services
Gloria and Doug Fisler
Marisa Geitner
Joan Jones
Jane and Kitch Kitchenman
Betty Kruchinsky
Carol Kulp
Michelle Labossiere-Hall and Scott Hall
Anna and Scott Mulcahy
Joan and Jim Parker
Heather and Kevin Rickett
Mary Rinere
Nancy and Mark Zawacki

In Memory of John Flynn
Virginia and Adolf Irmer

In Memory of Carol Giunta
Barbara Buckingham

In Memory of Thomas Giunta
Doreen and David Behnke
Linda Belmont
Josephine Benfante
Janis and James Benfante
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
Frances Birrittella
Sherrie and Larry Bodnar
Cheryl and Bryan Boehlert
Deb, Jim and Lizzie Boggs
Louise, James and Kevin Brown
Irene and Joe Brunelle
Joanne Chiappone
Carole Disparti
Judith Ficarro
Kathy and Frank Fuss
Marisa Geitner
Kathy and Russ Giunta
Alice and John Gucker
Debra and Joseph Haefner
John Hermenet
Lois and Norma Hines
Kimberly and John Kane
Elaine and Chuck Kasiske
Betty Kruchinsky and Family
Michelle Labossiere-Hall and Scott Hall
Rosemary Lundy
Tara McLean
Michael McLean
Lorraine and Joe McLean
Nancy Marion and Barry Moore
Anna and Scott Mulcahy
Michele and Michael Munson
Virginia Nicastro
Lori Novelli
Nancy O’Brien
Joan and Jim Parker
Marie and Bob Pieters
Mary and Richard Prinzi
Friends from Pulsafeeder
Sharon Race
Mary Rinere
Patricia Romano
Mamie Romano
Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Swain
Christine Vargas
Marcia and Frank Zimber
Nancy and Mark Zawacki

In Memory of Virginia Hawkins
Sharon Pucher

In Memory of Ingeborg Herkstroeter
Patsy and Ralph Jones
Friends from The Music Department at Viewpoint School

In Memory of William Herkstroeter
Patsy and Ralph Jones
Toni and David Schantz
Friends from The Music Department at Viewpoint School

In Memory of Darren Hill
Alice and John Gucker

In Memory of Patty Hogan
The Beikirch Family
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
Marisa Geitner
Alice and John Gucker
Michelle Labossiere-Hall and Scott Hall
Anna and Scott Mulcahy
Joan and Jim Parker
Nancy and Mark Zawacki

In Memory of Ruth and Frank Huscher
Sue and Bob DeSarra

In Memory of June Ivanick
Barbara Buckingham

In Memory of Ada Kalbian
Judith Napps

In Memory of Kevin Kerr
Anthony Amigone

In Memory Of Teresa Kerr
Olga Borodin Russell

In Memory of Nancy Koris
Judy and David Curry
Karen Curry Rezai

In Memory of David Lehning
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
John Blasi
Joanne Morse
Jan and Mike Osborn
Pat Osborn
Joan and Jim Parker
Jean Sak
Naomi and Timothy Schick

In Memory of Anthony Lipari
Kathleen Aman
Connie and William Evert

In Memory of Kathleen McMahon
Margaret and Mark Schmitt

In Memory of Mary Beth Messe Henry
Laura and Robert Arslan
Dr. Michel Berg
Kevin, Tyler and Skye Berry
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
Angela Cataldi
Kathy England
Friends from Yount Hyde & Barbour
Marisa Geitner
Carol Griffith
Gretchen Israel
Jane and Kitch Kitchenman
Ruth Machiele
Dr. Tom Messe
Marie and Bob Pieters
Carolyn Rae
Mary Rinere
Melissa and Gary Steele
Brenda and Dan Van Ness

In Memory of Gail Moynihan
Geraldine Drasch

In Memory of David Nenno
Shirley Meston
Barrie Nenno

In Memory of Thomas Pamukcoglu
R. Pauline and Erland Kailbourne

In Memory of Rev. Dr. Glenda Prins
Marisa Geitner
Judy and John Jorgensen
Dee and Bob Lucacci

In Memory of Mario Ramirez
Patti and Ron Penepent
Elaine Tantalo

In Memory of Elayna Ratchford-Buyer
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
Carole Ann and Charles Collard

In Memory of Dave Roberts
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
Linda and Joe Stannard

In Memory of Bessie Romagnola
Geraldine Drasch
Jean and Paul Seidel
Diane and Gary Sommers
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier

In Memory of Jimmy Sassenhausen’s Birthday
Barbara Stewart

In Memory of Jimmy Sassenhausen
Katie Thomas

In Memory of Werner Sassenhausen
Marti and Peter Erhardt
Pat and Tom Kiel
Shirley and Jackson Thomas

In Memory of John Schlafer
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier
Carol and Frank Ciaccia
Marisa Geitner
Jane and Kitch Kitchenman
Michelle Labossiere-Hall and Scott Hall
Carol and Bob Markham
Norma McLernon
Michele and Joe Munski
Lynda and Lisa Newman
Mary Catherine and Stephen O’Leyar
Joan and Jim Parker
Sam Sayre
The Family of Christopher Shea
Nancy and Mark Zawacki

In Memory of Sharon Schlafer
Michelle and Kenneth Schlafer

In Memory of Joan Sieper
Elaine and Nancy Tantalo

In Memory Of Evelyn Thompson
Olga Strilec

In Memory of Adrian VandenBerg
Joan and Joe Charles
Barbara and Richard Dierna
Michael Fitzgibbon
Judith Gurski
Nancy and Philip Jay
Rena Lubberts
Judy and Tom Maxwell
Andrew McIntyre
Lee Lee and Robert Muesebeck
Thomas O’Neill
Judy and Tom Rohr
Melinda and Mark Tower

In Memory of James Vandewater
Carole Ann and Charles Collard
Jennison and Drew Bielemeier

In Memory of Anne Wolf
Andrea Cliffe and The Honorable Robert Cliffe

In Memory of Lois Wolf
Ernie Wolf


In Honor of Robert Bonferraro
Cara Lynch and Randy Bonferraro

In Honor of Nancy Cataldi’s Birthday
Mary Rinere

In Honor of Rachel Gebell
Barbara and Sidney Sobel

In Honor of Vicki Hanson’s Birthday
Angela Cataldi

In Honor of Kevin Hart
Nancy Robbins

In Honor of Heritage Christian Services’ 35th Anniversary
Angela Cataldi

In Honor of Drew Hoselton’s Birthday
Coralie and David Hoselton

In Honor of Kim McFatter
Doris Van Etten

In Honor of Ann Meyer, Emily Richardson and Charissa Moll
Family of Steven Moore

In Honor of Laura Nenno
Shirley Meston

In Honor of Elena Petkovski
Sharon and James Rose

In Honor of Jenny Reitz
Marcia Ann and Bruce Reitz

In Honor of Jamie Rhinehart
Kim and Willis Mellema

In Honor of Joan Rinere’s Birthday
Angela Cataldi
Lucille Rinere
In Honor of Joan Rinere
Philip Savella

In Honor of Nancy Tantalo
Elaine Tantalo

In Honor of James Vandewater
Beverly Chua and Richard Vandewater

In Honor of Glen Skalny and Tom Wahl, Jr.
Joanna and Michael Grosodonia

In Honor of Benjamin Wehling
Dea Ann and David Wehling

In Honor of Dr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Weinberg
Nancy and Glenn Koch