Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.

– Cicero

AHRC New York City expressed its gratitude to hundreds of staff members celebrating longevity milestones and continuous excellence in their daily work with its first annual Staff Recognition Day, held on Friday, January 17 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers. The day included the presentation of awards, inspiring speeches, and music and dancing to cap off the event in style.

Celebrating Dedicated Staff

This is a signature event where we can recognize staff throughout the agency for their exemplary service,” said Marilyn Jaffe Ruiz, an AHRC NYC Board Member who chairs the Committee on Diversity and Personnel Practices. “You are the professionals who every day in your work demonstrate the humanity, compassion, and commitment to social justice necessary to respect the difference between and among people w/ I/DD and their families.

Marilyn Jaffe Ruiz, AHRC NYC Board Member, provided opening remarks at Staff Recognition Day.

I know for many decades we’ve respected and honored the work you do every day, but this is new,” Marco DamianiCEO of AHRC NYC, said. “This is a way to gather hundreds of people together–many of them here for 30, 35, even 40 years–and really showcase the amazing workforce that we have. Today we celebrate milestone anniversaries, your commitment to excellence, your commitment to continuous learning and self-improvement, and your central role in promoting social justice for people with I/DD.

Reflecting on Professional Experiences

Several of the staff who were honored during the event provided testimony on their experiences working at AHRC NYC.

What keeps me here is that every day I get to engage with the people we support on big-life issues,” said Craig Becker, Associate Director of Residential Services, who celebrated 25 years with AHRC NYC.

“It feels good to be recognized,” said Lizadro Mejia, 34, who has worked in the mailroom at AHRC NYC’s Headquarters for five years. “I didn’t see it coming.” He takes pride in traveling independently and delivering packages and mail to different programs. “The best part of my job is being able to help people,” he said. Lizandro wants to continue to work in the mailroom and become even more independent. “My biggest goal is to get my own place,” he said.

Lizandro’s mother, Clarisa, was thrilled to see her son so happy. “When you work somewhere and you’re recognized, it means a lot and it feels really good,” she said.

Alex Oo, a Direct Support Professional for 10 years at Kings Highway Day Center, celebrated 15 years with AHRC NYC. “I love the people I support,” he said. “I treat and see them like my family.” With a bachelor’s degree in botany, Alex spearheaded a community garden. “It was a chance to show off my knowledge and what the people we support can do for the community,” he explained. Alex has helped develop a hydroponic garden, which uses no soil, but instead grows plants in water and nutrients. The garden is also organic, as no chemicals are used. When the crop of eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers basil and fruit are ready, the people at Kings Highway distribute the food to the local fire department, homeless shelter, and to the people working at and attending the day program.

I feel good,” said Kevin Brown, who couldn’t contain a huge smile when he was acknowledged for his 30 years as a messenger with AHRC NYC. “I’m proud.”

Expressing Gratitude

Lou Radja, a renowned public speaker who previously addressed AHRC NYC’s first Leadership Summit, said that “Gratitude is at the foundation of everything we do. My father once told me ‘When you take the elevator the top, send it back down for someone else.’ Every person here is committed to sending the elevator back down for those who need it the most.

Lou Radja spoke about the pillars of gratitude all people should observe.