JOHNSTOWN - Lexington Center had much to celebrate Tuesday.
Fulton County's not-for-profit agency supporting people with disabilities and their families staged a Celebrating Our Successes event for its clientele, their families and guests with refreshments and hors d'oeuvres at its North Perry Street building.
Included in the gala event was a celebration of the organization's 60th anniversary and highlighting of Lexington's newly renovated space that formerly housed the center's workshop. There is a new art gallery in the space now. It features work by artists from the center and its Creative Expressions Program. Pictures and articles on the walls Tuesday showcased the center through the years.
Fred Gilbert, left, and his wife, Marie Gilbert, of Gloversville look at a sculpture on display during the Celebrating Our Successes event at Lexington Center in Johnstown on Tuesday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
The center's band, Flame, also performed, as the center also celebrated its new four-year accreditation from the Council on Quality and Leadership.
"We just received our accreditation," noted Lexington Executive Director Shaloni Winston during a break from the celebration.
Winston said the former sheltered workshop wasn't needed anymore. The disabled served by Lexington are being mainstreamed more into the community, she said.
"We felt we could help people find jobs," she said.
She said 120 people served by the center have found jobs in the community. She said she sees a real emphasis on letting the clients do what they feel is necessary to take control of their lives.
"The biggest thing that has changed is that 30 years ago we used to take care of people," Winston said. "Now they decide what they want to do."
Judy Schelle, president of the Lexington board, said Tuesday's celebration was a wonderful opportunity to "celebrate our history and growth and continue our work supporting people."
Vickey Morrison, a Lexington speech employee whose son is autistic, added, "Lexington is in a lot of ways part of a huge family. Most of the time, we get along pretty well."
Lexington began in 1953 when a small group of parents met to discuss how to improve the lives of their children who had developmental disabilities. By 1969, Lexington began serving adults with mental illness and physical disabilities and in 1972 opened its first home for people with developmental disabilities. Today, Lexington employs more than 1,450 people and is Fulton County's largest employer. It has a $70 million operating budget, of which 99 percent is funded with federal, state and private funds.
"This accreditation reinforces our distinction as an exceptional provider for people with disabilities and their families, and challenges us to rise to even greater heights," Winston told the gathering.
Also sharing his experiences was Lexington participant Victor Colon, who moved into a Lexington home in April 2010. He is team captain on the Lexington-Liberty basketball team and a peer mentor.
"I really love my new life," he said. "I want to thank everyone who has helped me at Lexington."
Michael Anich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.