As I begin to wind down my daily volunteer involvement with the Disabled Persons Action Organization, I would like to express my appreciation to the thousands of people with developmental disabilities I have been privileged to serve through the efforts of a caring and hardworking staff and a very dedicated board of directors. I will always be indebted to the many supporters and sponsors of our agency.
Starting with a prayer and a dream of a better life for people with developmental disabilities in the early 70s, DPAO through strong advocacy, was able to embark on a journey that resulted in the provision of a variety of vitally needed services to thousands of people with developmental disabilities and their families. Our progress resulted in many of our programs and services being replicated by other agencies in New York state and elsewhere.
Our current transition became much more manageable by having Cindy FitzPatrick as our executive director. Cindy has been a valued associate at DPAO for nearly 27 years. I am confident she will provide the necessary leadership and direction for DPAO during the challenging times ahead.
We have been presenting concerts in support of our agency since our inception. In our formative years, New York state did not provide funding to assist disabled children and adults who wanted to live with families in their own homes. We used the funds raised through concerts to assist them. When the State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) realized the potential cost savings and the improved quality of life for our people with special needs, additional funding was provided.
We feel the concerts and activities provided by DPAO and other agencies are a win-win for all concerned. This year over 15,000 people attended concerts sponsored by DPAO, spending money shopping, at hotels, restaurants and gas stations adding greatly to the economy and quality of life in Watertown and beyond.
The concerts provided DPAO with funds needed to assist people we serve who have a need for specialized services but also for the maintenance of our buildings. Hopefully, in the near future, we will complete a Sensory Oasis Outdoor Area for people we serve, especially those with autism and other spectrum disorders.
Over the years we have had a terrific relationship with the city of Watertown, especially the Parks and Recreation Department and the Department of Public Works. It is important to note that we have never been delinquent in the payment of expenses charged to us by the city. We would never want something for nothing, and we expect to pay for any fees associated with our shows. Yes, we have discussed the fees with city officials, but it has never been our intent not to pay them nor to have city taxpayers pick up the tab for our costs. It is our expense and ours alone, not the taxpayers.
I am hopeful that the recent concern over fees will not undermine in any way the very strong relationship that has existed over the years between the city of Watertown and DPAO. We would like to continue to bring in top entertainers to this area, and we hope to be able to utilize the Watertown Fairgounds and/or arena for those shows. With cooperation from both sides, I believe we can continue this long-standing tradition. Thanks very much.
The writer is founder and former CEO of the DPAO.