New Residential Council Elected
In early September, the Citizens Options Unlimited Residential Council welcomed new board members to advance the goals of community inclusion and a more robust membership. Three cheers for:
- President Bonnie Lerhinan from Seaford
- Vice President Devon Rivera from Manor Road
- Secretary Steven Barsh from West Broadway
- Treasurer Gabriele O’Brien from Port Washington
- Assistant Director Representative Justin DeNigris
- Citizens’ Council Representative Matthew Hofele
Getting to Know the New Board
Bonnie, who lives in the Seaford group home, was a volunteer of the council prior to running for president. This is her first term on the council. Long-term members of the council include Devon Rivera, returning for a second year as Vice President, and Steven Barsh, returning for a second year as Secretary. Gabriele is new to the council and looks forward to her first role as Treasurer.
Tessa Guillaume-Lewis, Assistant Director (A.D) of Residential Services and former Assistant Director (A.D) Representative of the Residential Council Board, said that the goal of this board is to both educate and empower the people we support. The council oversees Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) trainings so that people supported in group homes by our agency can better advocate for themselves and live the lives they choose.
“We try to be a sounding board for people and share our journeys to support other people going through similar things,” Tessa said.
The Council’s Impact
The council educates people on their legal rights like general human rights, disability benefits, guardianship, and more. They focus on fostering more community inclusion, improving quality of life for the community, and teaching others how to become more involved in their community. They also work closely with the Personal Outcome Measures (POM) Department to ensure people supported feel they are attaining their specific goals/dreams, managing staff support to meet their needs, and embracing their individuality.
They also assist people with being better equipped to handle their own decision-making and developing skills for increased independence like money management, understanding your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits, reporting incidents and abuse.
The board also gets involved in their local community and organizes fundraisers that give back to charities that align with Citizens values.
“A.D.s wear a lot of different hats and this is one way that we advocate for [the people we support] and get their voices heard,” Tessa said. “We help them advocate for themselves.”
The Citizens Residential Council meets at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at our Plainview office, with a virtual option to join as well. These meetings are open to everyone who receives services through Citizens Options Unlimited and the board encourages more people to participate.