Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month


    Valley Bank joins The Nicholas Center to provide a financial literacy course

    Valley Bank employees joined by The Nicholas Center employees and course participants at Valley Bank. (Photos taken by TJ Hart from The Nicholas Center)

    To celebrate and participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), Valley Bank, located at 960 Port Washington Blvd., invited The Nicholas Center to a financial literacy course. About ten young adults with autism at The Nicholas Center came to Valley Bank to learn about money management, saving, deposits and withdrawals.

    Valley Bank’s Associate Resource Group (ARG) program consists of six ARGs and fosters an environment where unique experiences and perspectives are respected. The ARGs are open to all associates. Through Valley Bank’s ABLE ARG, the bank provided the financial literacy course to The Nicholas Center.

    “ABLE was formed to support people with disabilities and their caretakers at Valley Bank. Our mission is to give opportunities, awareness, and a platform for people with disabilities to feel a sense of belonging, connectedness, and empowerment at Valley Bank,” said VP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Business Partner, Jovi Stevenson.

    The ABLE ARG is committed to improving the lives of Valley Bank associates, customers and community members with disabilities in the workplace by providing a safe, inclusive and equitable work environment. In honor of NDEAM, the group came up with initiatives to bring awareness to NDEAM bank-wide and support people with disabilities by promoting inclusive employment practices.

    Executive Administrative Assistant in Residential Mortgage Christine Thomas is on the ABLE ARG Committee and had a large role in planning and facilitating the financial literacy course. Thomas’s relationship with The Nicholas Center brought forth the idea of partnering with them for NDEAM.

    “I am a caretaker of a 34-year-old young lady who came into my life five years ago,” said Thomas. “I needed support to learn how to care for her and help her grow as an individual. Valley ABLE ARG was the first place I turned to, and they were able to help me. My role here is to give back, learn as we grow, and help my story continue. What we provided is a professional day for the great group of adults from The Nicholas Center and share with them what awaits them in their near future.”

    As the group from The Nicholas Center begins to enter the workforce, many decisions must be made, such as what jobs to apply for, how to manage money, and how to save money.

    The financial literacy course opened with introductions. The Valley Bank staff introduced themselves with their jobs, and The Nicholas Center participants introduced themselves with their dream jobs. Some young adults wanted to work with computers or books, and some wanted to work in a music store or dance studio.
    The group filled out worksheets with a list of interests connected to job options. They checked off interests in music, animals, sports, art, computers and many more.

    After learning about the group’s diverse interests, the Market Manager at Valley Bank, Sandi Fochi, began asking the group how to find jobs in the community. The group listed the newspaper, help wanted signs, and web postings as ways they could all look for jobs.

    Fochi told the group that at the end of the week, employees are given a paycheck and after depositing that money in the bank, it has to be determined what purchases are a need and what are a want.

    The bank employees performed a small demonstration where one employee was a bank, another a market, a clothing store, a pizza shop, and a laundry mat. The group was given an amount of money to decide where to spend it based on want versus need, while still having money left to save.

    Throughout the financial literacy lessons, The Nicholas Center participants were engaged in learning while still having fun.

    “We have so much to offer as to what we bring to our communities and bringing this financial literacy course to those who need it at a level where they can understand it is important to us,” said Stevenson. “The young adults from The Nicholas Center were having fun while learning; that way, they can really hold onto the information and apply it later.”

    “To have a professional day with these young adults is a great opportunity to give back,” said Fochi. “This is very close to my heart. I have a granddaughter who is on the spectrum. So it’s a great feeling to be able to give back to the community and see these young adults’ potential, dedication and intelligence.”

    After the financial literacy lesson, everyone enjoyed a pizza lunch provided by Valley Bank. The young adults from The Nicholas Center hung out with their friends and bank employees to discuss everything from music to movies to future jobs.

    “The Nicholas Center was proud to partner with Valley Bank in Port Washington on this financial literacy program,” said Lee Anne Vetrone, Director of Development at The Nicholas Center. “The branch, which opened their business and hearts to The Nicholas Center, afforded us the opportunity to show the individuals with autism whom we serve how community engagement and banking works.”

    Valley Bank takes pride in being able to give back to the community. Although the bank is a national corporation, each bank location works to be involved in its surrounding community to help make meaningful connections.

    “Valley bank is really a community bank, and they listen and understand the needs of the community,” said Stevenson. “We value connectedness, belonging and inclusion. That’s what the ABLE ARG is all about, bringing those principals to the associates at Valley and to the surrounding community.”

    Visit tncnewyork.org to learn more about The Nicholas Center and how they revolutionize the way autistic adults learn, live and work. To learn more about Valley Bank, visit valley.com.

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    Julie Prisco is the editor of the Port Washington News. She graduated from SUNY Albany in the Spring of 2021 with a degree in English and Journalism. PHONE: 516-403-5155 EMAIL:jprisco@antonmediagroup.com


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