sasi celebrates 50 anniversary where it all started

To celebrate 50 years of supporting people with developmental disabilities, sasi returned to the place where it all started on Friday, May 10, the Springville Moose Lodge #1249. It was in that facility that sasi opened its first workshop in 1974.

Now one of the largest and premier health and human services providers in Western New York, sasi administrators and guests took some time to look back at their simple beginning and the incredible growth of the past half-century.

“Sasi began through the effort and determination of a small group of families who wanted, and frankly demanded, better supports and services for their loved ones,” said Camille Putnam, sasi’s Vice President and Program Services and daughter of founding board member Lois Jackson. “It helped to have a couple of feisty women like Lois Jackson and Leila Kearney at the helm. They refused to take no for an answer and kept fighting until they got what they wanted.”

Today, sasi supports more than 2,000 people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and has nearly 700 employees. Its growth included opening residences and day program facilities and the 2016 merger with the Claddagh Commission. Sasi also acquired creative outlets like Moving Miracles Dance Studio, High Hurdles Therapeutic Riding Center, and the Original Kazoo Company.

“For 50 years, sasi has kept evolving to meet the community’s changing needs,” said President and CEO Jeff Paterson. “We will continue to do that. With the legacy of our founders as a firm foundation, we will build an even brighter future. I’m confident that 50 years from now, people we’ve never even met will gather to remember and celebrate even more growth and achievement.”

To honor the anniversary, Frank Cammarata, executive director of the Erie County Office for People with Disabilities, and New York State Sen. Patrick Gallivan both issued proclamations for sasi.

“For the past 50 years, sasi has served our community by helping residents with special needs reach their full potential,” Gallivan said. “What started small has grown into one of the region’s most important service providers. Whether helping our neighbors find employment, access health care, or secure housing, sasi transforms lives by giving individuals purpose, confidence, and a sense of independence. I congratulate the organization on reaching this milestone and wish everyone involved continued success.”

While the day was spent looking at sasi’s past, the administrators and staff couldn’t help but look forward to the organization’s future.

“What’s next for sasi,” asked Paterson. “We are almost done preparing a three-year strategic plan that will propel us forward. We’ll be focusing on three priorities. We intend to be an employer of choice, to attract and keep the best possible workforce. We intend to offer the next generation of supports and services, to make sure that the people we support have access to innovative and effective services. We also intend to build more community awareness, so that our neighbors know who we are and what we do.”

Sasi has more 50th anniversary events planned for later in the year. The annual sasi Golf Tournament is scheduled for June 28 at Harvest Hill Golf Course. An end-of-summer bash is scheduled for Sept. 21 at Buffalo RiverWorks.