Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — When Kellie Spychalski shows up at work she can’t help but smile.
That’s because Spychalski gets to help people in the developmentally disabled community grow more independent day by day.
“To me what’s really cool is that every single day you are helping people to live (more independently),” she said.
Spychalski, who has worked with the developmentally disabled community for 21 years, came on board as the executive director of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, a not-for-profit that provides job training, housing and recreational opportunities to people with disabilities, at the beginning of the year.
She was the executive director of the Arc of Orleans County, a national not-for-profit that works with the developmentally disabled community, before joining Opportunities Unlimited.
Spychalski said she took her first job working with the community during college because the schedule suited her needs as a student, but soon became interested in the civil rights aspects of the work.
“I think sometimes we don’t really take into consideration how some of our folks are not really fully accepted members of the community,” Spychalski said. “Unfortunately, it’s really sad for the community because our individuals are just like you and I.”
Spychalski said that after a short time working with the developmentally disabled community she knew it was what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
“For me, it was an opportunity to sort of advocate for people so that they could reach their potential just like the rest of us,” she said. “That’s what really attracted me, helping people to reach those goals.”
But Spychalski knows that the work comes with many challenges, and the biggest hurdle she has seen since coming to Opportunities Unlimited is fundraising. State funding has remained flat in recent years and soliciting private donations is always a challenge for not-for-profits.