The long-awaited merger of two well established organizations who, for decades, have helped disabled and marginalized individuals, was formally celebrated last Thursday.
The Keon Center, located on John Walsh Boulevard in Peekskill, is now part of Abbott House, based in Irvington. Both are non-profit organizations who have served the developmentally disabled since the 1960’s.
The merger’s new name is Keon Programs of Abbott House.
The two groups’ different support systems complement each other. Abbott House mainly provides residential programs in safe and caring homes throughout Westchester and Rockland counties as well as the Bronx with round-the-clock supervision from a highly trained and dedicated staff. They also operate two community-based day habilitation programs and place volunteers at local fire departments, animal shelters and delivering Meals on Wheels.
Keon does not have a residential program but does offer training and support in daily living skills such as cooking, laundry, shopping, money management and how to use community recreational services. They offer essential training for job readiness skills such as reading, math, interpersonal skills, maintenance training, self-advocacy; many are involved in publishing the Keon Center newsletter. Keon finds jobs for their clients in their own communities.
Now that both Keon and Abbott House have merged, both provide services to disabled adults and run community based programs such as WOW (Without Walls), volunteering, and pre-vocational training at Boscobel, Stonewall Stables, Teatown Reservation, Peekskill Field Library, Spins of the Hudson and more.
“Keon has always had an excellent reputation,” said Abbott House CEO James Kaufman. “We were approached by Keon about three years ago and they were interested in working with us.”
Kaufman said serving the disabled has changed much over the years and now requires a more diverse platform to efficiently serve clients.
“It’s also more expensive, especially with Medicaid cuts which makes money tight,” he said, adding the merger can also be a key asset in saving many programs.
Among the 50 people who showed up at Keon Center in Peekskill for the ceremonial ‘ribbon cutting’ was Westchester County Legislator Colin Smith (D/Peekskill), Peekskill Councilwoman Kathleen Talbot, Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi, Cortlandt Councilman James Creighton, Peekskill City Manager Andrew Stewart, Marianne Oros, the former Vice President of the Keon Board and Chair of the Keon Programs of Abbott House Advisory Committee, George Oros, Economic Development Consultant for the Town of Cortlandt, Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Deb Milone and board members for both Abbott House and Keon Center,
“We found the synergy and the right partner. We found Abbott House and they found us,” said Marianne Oros. “At the end of last year, the merger was approved by the New York State Attorney General and we have renamed the program the Keon Programs of Abbott House and we are delighted to celebrate that today.”
Abbott House Board Chairman Walter Montgomery thanked community organizations including the Peekskill Business Improvement District, Charles Newman Insurance Agency and Wheelabrator Westchester. Other local businesses and organizations who have supported and partnered with Keon in the Cortlandt-Peekskill area include Cortlandt Colonial Restaurant, Table 9, White Plains Linen, the Peekskill Hat Factory, B.A.S.F., Entergy and the Peekskill Rotary.
“This is such an important day an important organization for our community,” said Milone. “So many of our businesses participate in their programs. Now it is it bigger and greater. We thank the Abbott House for their commitment to Keon and to keep it growing. The fact that we give disabled people an opportunity to work and to feel good and be a productive member of society is so very important.”
Puglisi presented a certificate of certification to board members of Keon and Abbott House.
“I have had the pleasure, privilege and honor of working with Keon and having many members of the Keon Center work in our town government for over 25 years,” said Puglisi. “They are the best employees, they are dedicated, they are hard working. This marriage of Keon Center and Abbot House will make it even bigger, stronger and better for all the members of this organization and we are all so blessed to have you here in our community.”
The formal ribbon cutting was done by Renee Lewis, who has been in the Keon program for the last four years. Lewis lives in Peekskill with her family.
According to the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), they coordinate services for nearly 140,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, Prader-Willi syndrome and other neurological impairments. More than 40,000 people receive housing supports in the form of group homes or other community-based settings and over 28,000 are enrolled in work-related services and/or supported employment. The OPWDD works with a network of approximately 650 nonprofit service providing agencies, with about 80 percent of services provided by the private nonprofits and 20 percent provided by state-run services.