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County Hosts 6th Annual ‘Think Jobs’ Round Table Forum

Published: 11/4/2022

#ThinkDIFFERENTLY conference awards employment of residents
of all abilities, honors local businesses that participate in the effort

Poughkeepsie, NY …Earlier this week, Dutchess County convened local businesses, civic groups and individuals for the County’s sixth annual “Think Jobs” round table discussion, which highlighted the advantages of local businesses hiring residents of all abilities and honored community partners which employ those of every ability.

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, was hosted this year by Dutchess Community College at its DCC @ Fishkill facility. The event embodies Dutchess County’s “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, which encourages communities to foster a welcoming and supportive environment for those with special needs.

County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “People of all abilities deserve the opportunity to work. Focusing on employment for those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities is of upmost importance. Many businesses are currently looking to hire and expanding their search to those of all abilities will benefit both parties. Over the past few years, our ‘Think Jobs’ events have successfully informed families and businesses on the benefits of incorporating those of all abilities into the workforce. Our community and local businesses have made big strides but there is still work to be done. I congratulate this year’s ‘Think Jobs’ award recipients and appreciate all those that promote Dutchess County’s mission to ThinkDIFFERENTLY about opportunities for our residents living with disabilities.”

Among today’s speakers included:

  • Wendy Strobel Gower, Project Director for the Northeast ADA Center and the Diversity Partners Project, who discussed shifting cultural norms to create employment opportunities for those of all abilities, as well as making necessary accommodations in the workplace to ensure an inclusive environment for all.
  • Paul Austin, Senior Development Manager at IBM, who spoke about neurodiversity and the benefits of a neurodiverse hub, which will connect employers, academics, providers, job seekers and other allies to assist neurodivergent individuals in gaining meaningful employment.
  • Cait Rosica, who leads the successful Neurodivergent Network in the greater Philadelphia area, discussed neurodiversity and described ways Dutchess County can implement neurodiversity principles locally for collaborative success.

These topics each relate to the employment of those of all abilities – one of the five key areas in Dutchess County’s forthcoming ThinkDIFFERENTLY All Abilities Action Plan, which County Executive Marc Molinaro will unveil in its entirety in early 2023. The action plan will expand the ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative’s success and set new goals with actionable items to make the Dutchess County community more accessible for those of all abilities to live, work and learn.

In his 2023 Executive Budget, released earlier this week, County Executive Molinaro has included $160,000 to fund several short-term objectives of the plan, including $20,000 to contract with the Anderson Center for Autism to host supportive workplace trainings to teach employers about the myriad benefits of hiring those with disabilities, break down barriers and misconceptions, while increasing awareness about simple accommodations and supports, including job coaches.

County Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver presented the “Think Jobs” awards, recognizing the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” spirit embodied by local employers and employees:.

  • “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 Hatfield Metal Fabrication, Inc for assisting candidates with learning and developmental disabilities in obtaining employment in the manufacturing arena. Hatfield Metal Fabrication shows warmth and understanding to its employees as they learn new professional manual skills to develop sheet metal parts.  The work culture at Hatfield encourages staff to embrace their work with individuals attending vocational trade schools and individuals with different abilities.
  • “Think Jobs” Spotlight 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 Robin Stokosa who has been employed by Flory’s Gas, Convenience and Deli for over eight years. Ms. Stokosa was originally hired to work two days a week stocking candy but showed other vital skills and was soon in charge of stocking and maintain the coffee bar. Coffee sales have increased as customers took notice of the quality upkeep of the coffee bar.

As Ms. Stokosa’s skills began to develop her supervisor asked her opinion in deciding where new merchandise could be displayed. She is now very comfortable in deciding where to display and stock new items due the support and encouragement of her manager. She was allowed to develop and grow as an employee and her personality was given room to shine. Flory’s management says Robin’s positive attitude is contagious, and they have seen customer service of their staff improve due to Robin’s leadership.

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 at

Local businesses seeking more information about the County's "Think Jobs" efforts, including the benefits of hiring disabled individuals and other resources, can can contact Tashena Dixon at the Dutchess One Stop Career Center at or (845) 249-4653.