Bucks IU honors Bucks County caring community

Bucks County IU 22  |  Posted on

Bucks IU at Samuel Everitt student Kevin Hearn; Bucks IU Job Coach Georgianna Ramella; Middletown Senior Citizen Association Food Manager Gilda Ifield; Bucks IU at Samuel Everitt Assistant Principal Mark McCloskey; and Middletown Senior Center Director Elisabeth Ginder

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) recently celebrated local businesses, government agencies, organizations, school district personnel and individuals who pitched in to help the Bucks IU students this school year “learn, flourish and contribute.”

The Bucks IU offers educational programs to students with autism, emotional needs, and multiple disabilities at various sites throughout Bucks County.

“We can’t do this by ourselves,” Dr. Mark Hoffman, Bucks IU Executive Director said recently to dozens of honorees attending the agency’s annual Caring Community recognition event. “We could not do this without you.”

The Bucks IU has hosted the Caring Community recognition effort for several years. This year the Bucks IU recognized more than 140 area honorees from across Bucks County during the Caring Community initiative that culminated at the awards celebration and social event held in on May 16, 2024.

About 100 people, including many of the honorees, their families and friends, attended the event at the Bucks IU’s administrative offices in Doylestown.

“I am honored to be part of the process,” said Gilda Ifield, a Caring Community honoree and the food manager for the Middletown Senior Citizens Association.

During the school year, the Middletown Senior Citizens Association welcomes students from the nearby Bucks IU at Samuel Everitt program to the Senior Center twice a week. The students help clean up the center’s cafeteria area and handle a variety of other assigned cleaning tasks.

“You get to learn from the students,” Ifield said. “You learn how to be patient, to be kind and nonjudgmental. We don’t treat them like they have a disability. We want them to know they are loved and accepted.”

Bucks IU Job Coach Georgianna Ramella nominated Ifield and Middletown Senior Center Director Elisabeth Ginder for the Caring Community recognition.

Ifield “always has a kind word and a warm smile for our working kiddos,” Ramella said in nominating the association’s staff members. “Ginder is equally as wonderful to the students in giving them a place to learn how to clean a facility,” she said.

“This site really covers several important skills,” Ramella said.

Chad Evans, Bucks IU Supervisor of Educational Planning, oversaw this year’s Caring Community recognition efforts.

The initiative began in early March when Evans asked Bucks IU personnel to nominate community members who contribute to the agency’s educational programs. He created certificates for each of the honorees.

John D’Angelo, President of the Bucks IU Board of School Directors, said during the recognition event that he was honored to sign each of the certificates.

“This component of our mission is essential,” D’Angelo explained. “Without you, (the students) would not be ready for the next phase of their lives.”

In the weeks leading up to the event, Bucks IU personnel who nominated the Caring Community honorees worked with students to deliver the certificates and take pictures with the recipients.

Alex Pietanza, the Diet Office Supervisor at the Bucks County Neshaminy Manor in Warrington, said he was grateful for the recognition. He has worked with about a dozen Bucks IU students from the Project Search program over the last three school years.

Pietanza said he teaches the students “how to prepare certain food items, how to present the items and how to interact with residents.”

“They are wonderful humans,” Pietanza said. He suggests other businesses and organizations open their doors to Bucks IU students to help them gain work experience.

“They won’t be disappointed,” he said. “I feel good at the end of the day. It makes me feel accomplished.”

David Fox, Bucks IU Project Search Skills Trainer, nominated Pietanza and Neshaminy Manor staff members for the Caring Community recognition because of their “tireless efforts” to support the Project Search students.

The Caring Community honorees also include community members who opened their businesses to Bucks IU students who went on restaurant excursions and field trips.

Jessica Reese, a Bucks IU autistic support teacher at Quakertown Community High School, nominated Caleb and Patricia Torrice of Tabora Farms for the Caring Community honor after she and her students went to their farm to pick apples.

“Caleb and Patricia were so kind to my students,” Reese said. “They made a program that was appropriate for my students’ level of understanding. I nominated them due to their kind heartedness and the compassion for my students.”

Patricia Torrice, a former New York teacher, said it was a pleasure to have the I.U. students visit Tabora Farms.

“We do our best to accommodate everyone,” she said. “We love our work, so it is gratifying to share with others.”

“All the community members who provide a learning opportunity for the Bucks IU students help the agency fulfill its mission and vision”, Evans, the Chair for the Bucks IU celebration, said.

“The Bucks IU is such a special organization that sees the uniqueness of each person as an asset and not a deficit,” Evans said. “Being able to celebrate that is incredibly humbling and worthwhile.”