By Debra Hand
On its 20th anniversary, FECA is expanding its mission.
On Saturday, November 15th, 2014, the Foundation for Empowering Citizens with Autism celebrated its milestone with a gala fundraising evening of dining, dancing, casino games and a silent auction at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown. Attended by 225 FECA benefactors and their guests, the “Back to the Future” themed event honored the organization’s accomplishments and looked ahead towards its new goals of expanding employment and volunteer opportunities for young adults with autism. FECA also holds a large fundraiser every spring in New York City, where it has a number of dedicated corporate sponsors.
“FECA’s work has been so profound over the past 20 years that we have begun to inspire the next generation of autism advocacy among our young people,” noted emcee Philip Orlando of Chappaqua, one of FECA’s founders and a foundation Director, as he introduced the Presidents of the Horace Greeley High School Autism Awareness Club and Fox Lane High School Autism Speaks Club.
An Original Need for Education
FECA was founded by eight Westchester families in 1994 as the Foundation for Educating Children with Autism, with a mission to create a school to provide the most proven effective one-on-one therapy based on Applied Behavior Analysis. At that time, the diagnosis of autism was 1 in 10,000; in 2014, alarmingly, one of every 68 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The resulting Devereux Millwood Learning Center, opened in 1996 to 12 children and now educating 48 students between five and 21, emphasizes vocational training and community integration to prepare them for adulthood. In 2009, FECA again partnered with Devereux to establish the Devereux Millwood Adult Program, which currently transports 18 young men in vans to job and volunteer locations across Westchester.
Employment for Young Adults With Autism
This year, in recognition of the maturation of the group FECA was formed to serve, the organization has both changed its name and launched new initiatives to broaden opportunities for autistic adults with an eye towards fuller community integration.
The Opportunity Network for Employers and Employees (“ONEE”) reaches out to local businesses and non-profit organizations to identify and match autistic individuals with specific skill sets to such opportunities, and Extraordinary Ventures New York (“EVNY”) will create small businesses to provide meaningful employment for autistic adults suited to their skills and interests.
With its evolving mission, FECA will continue to change many lives by translating what young people with autism spectrum disorders are interested in into lasting productivity and lifelong fulfillment.
To learn more about FECA or support its mission, visit www.fecainc.org
Debra Hand is a longtime writer and editor for Inside Chappaqua.