Skip to main content

County Hosts 4th Annual ‘Think Jobs’ Round Table Forum
Virtual #ThinkDIFFERENTLY conference promotes employment of residents with special needs; honors local businesses and partners

Published: 9/15/2020

For More Information Contact:

Colleen Pillus

(845) 486-2000

Poughkeepsie, NY … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro today welcomed local businesses, civic groups and individuals to the County’s fourth annual “Think Jobs” round table discussion, which highlights the benefits to local businesses from hiring residents with special needs, encourages them to do so and honors community partners who employ those with disabilities. 

The annual event, held in coordination with the County’s Department of Community and Family Services, the Dutchess County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and the Dutchess One Stop Career Center, embodies Dutchess County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, which encourages communities to foster a welcoming and supportive environment for those with special needs. This year’s event was presented virtually this year to comply with social-distancing guidelines and the prohibition on large gatherings, resulting from the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “More than just a paycheck, meaningful employment provides residents of every ability a sense of empowerment and self-reliance, enabling them to reach their fullest potential. Over the past several years, through the success of our annual ‘Think Jobs’ events, we have seen local businesses make great strides in hiring more of our friends and neighbors with special needs – benefiting employers, employees and Dutchess County, as a whole. While we celebrate these achievements today, we’re reminded there remain opportunities for this untapped workforce, and we encourage more employers to ThinkDIFFERENTLY and open their ranks to our residents with disabilities.”

Local businesses seeking more information about the County’s “Think Jobs” efforts, including the benefits of hiring the disabled and other resources, can contact Kadiyah Lodge at the Dutchess One Stop Career Center at or (845) 554-5936.

Wendy Strobel Gower, Project Director with Cornell University’s Northeast ADA Center, presented the keynote address, discussing how employers can best leverage the talents of individuals with disabilities. Jessica Woodson, Human Resources Director for the Bonura Hospitality Group, provided attendees with a presentation discussing how employing residents with disabilities has benefited both her organization, which operates venues in Dutchess and Orange counties, and its employees.

The event included three “Think Jobs” awards, presented by County Executive Molinaro, which recognized the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” spirit embodied by local employers, employees and community partners:

  • “Think Jobs” Business Award recognizes local businesses who have opened their hiring practices to provide vocational training and/or employment opportunities for people of all abilities. The award was presented to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, a long-time employer of people of all abilities as demonstrated through its longstanding cleaning services contract with Gateway Hudson Valley, a Preferred Source Vendor certified with the New York State Industries for the Disabled.
  • “Think Jobs” Partner Award honors the commitment of a community partner who chooses to “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” and embrace the values of inclusion through education, and it acknowledges the recipient’s efforts to actively support the promotion of the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” spirit and the goals of “Think Jobs.” The award was presented to Jeffrey Urbin, Education Specialist at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, for his advocacy and expertise, which has created a welcoming educational environment for visitors of all abilities to the museum, as well as vocational training through internships for students in Dutchess County’s “Think Ahead” program, a partnership with Dutchess Community College which provides qualified students with intellectual and developmental disabilities job skills and life skills while enjoying a college experience.
  • “Think Ahead” Individual Award celebrates the success of residents with disabilities who embody the spirit of “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” and the successes of “Think Jobs” through their employment. This award was presented to Michael Tardio, a graduate of Arlington High School and Dutchess Community College, whose previous work experience prepared him for the food services industry. Mr. Tardio has worked as a food service worker since 2006 at the Anderson Center for Autism, where he appreciates the monthly support he gets from a Job Coach through Integrated Employment, as this allows him the opportunity to talk through issues and to problem-solve; and he is looking to the future and working toward taking on more cooking responsibilities.

Established in 2015, the ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative seeks to change the way individuals, businesses, organizations and communities relate to individuals with disabilities. Following Dutchess County’s example, more than 100 municipalities throughout New York State – and several others across the nation – have passed “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” resolutions, committing to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals of all abilities. More information about “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” is available on Dutchess County’s award-winning website,