JOHNSON CITY — ACHIEVE has moved into new office space and renovated its flagship building, all while maintaining its mission to serve its clients.
On May 6, ACHIEVE celebrated the grand opening of its new location at 47 Riverside Drive in Johnson City. The organization needed new office space to accommodate the staff members who would no longer have an office when the renovations at its Cutler Pond location started. In addition, ACHIEVE’s subsidiary, Country Valley Industries (CVI), moved its employment center operations to Riverside Drive from its Court Street location. ACHIEVE acquired the Court Street facility when it took over the Sheltered Workshop in November 2011.
Now, the 20,000-square-foot space blends the two sites into one, with 35 paid staff and 80 support staff (CVI employees) working at the Riverside location. In total, ACHIEVE has 262 full-time employees. This new space allows for ACHIEVE to continue to fulfill its mission of being an advocate for enhancing the quality of life for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, the nonprofit says. ACHIEVE serves more than 1,800 individuals each year.
In its 2012 fiscal year, ACIHEVE generated revenue of $20.2 million, up from $18.6 million in 2011. The majority of the revenue comes from program services and 90 percent of the funds are spent on programs.
Mary Jo Thorn, CEO of ACHIEVE, says the new office space is a “win-win for everybody.” The staff now has private office space, a bonus that they didn’t have before, and as a result, productivity is greater. The location also allows staff to be better integrated into the community and patronize local businesses and restaurants, she explains.
The Riverside Drive office is the fourth location for ACHIEVE. In Binghamton, the 41,000-square-foot facility on Cutler Pond Road is ACHIEVE’s primary facility that has been a part of the organization since its inception in 1952. The Lester Avenue site in Johnson City encompasses 40,000 square feet — all of it floor space. This site was built in 1994 for the purpose of consolidating all the smaller satellite offices in the area into one place, says Dave Markie, vice president of Country Valley Industries and Facilities. In Owego, a 7,000-square-foot site was established in 1997 so that clients in Tioga County wouldn’t have to travel as far for services.
Currently, ACHIEVE is engaged in a “Growing Spaces, Improving Lives” capital campaign to raise $3.85 million to rehabilitate and renovate the Day Habilitation program at the Cutler Pond facility. To date, the organization has raised almost 80 percent of the project cost; the campaign began in 2009. Of the funds raised so far, government sources account for 42 percent, and 45 percent comes from the foundation. Community-based giving makes up the remaining contributions to the campaign.
To address the increasing demands of the Day Habilitation program services, which has grown by 38 percent in the last 10 years, with continued growth anticipated, the organization needed to expand and rehabilitate its main facility at Cutler Pond. As a result, the project will permit the organization to expand the Day Habilitation Services by 27 percent, or by approximately 30 individuals. The project includes asbestos abatement, expansion of program space from 21,163 to 25,575 square feet, and improved fire safety throughout the building. It will also provide individualized treatment and services to persons with Autism. The remaining 15,000-plus square footage of Cutler Pond encompasses office space and the employment center.
Construction at Cutler Pond began in March and is expected to wrap up by July 2014. ACHIEVE says this building and renovation project will be the most important project it undertakes in the next 20 years.
Amid the major fundraising initiatives and the building renovation project, ACHIEVE is also ramping up its marketing strategies to gain more awareness in the community. One element the organization is trying to promote more is its name. The organization officially changed its name from the Broome-Tioga ARC to ACHIEVE about six years ago. Sounds strange, but many people in the community still don’t know the ACHIEVE name, says Bob Brazill, the development officer for ACHIEVE.
To help in the marketing push, ACHIEVE has recently paired up with a local marketing firm to boost its profile. “It’s an opportunity to promote overall organization and encourage interest in the organization,” says Thorn, who declined to name the marketing firm. In April, ACHIEVE television commercials began airing on local channels, and will continue for six months. The organization is also doing radio spots to highlight events and programs.
Thorn has been with the organization for a little more than eight years in the role of CEO. With a master’s degree in social work, and as a licensed social worker in New York State, Thorn has more than a professional interest in ACHIEVE’s mission. It hits closer to home as she has an aunt with developmental disabilities. Prior to her position with ACHIEVE, Thorn was a president and CEO of an organization in Elmira, though she’s been a resident of Binghamton since the early 1980s. Born and raised in Pennsylvania and having attended Bloomsburg State College, Thorn moved to the area for her first job at the Binghamton Psychiatric Center.
In early May, Thorn was recognized as a 2013 Woman of Distinction and honored by State Senator Tom Libous in Albany. In 2012, she was recognized at The Central New York Business Journal and BizEventz Nonprofit Awards event as an Executive of the Year. “She’s a strong CEO. She’s very good at what she does,” says Brazill, who joined the organization in March. Last year, Sandy Radziwon, ACHIEVE’s CFO, was honored at the Financial Executives awards ceremony produced by BizEventz.
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