The Voices of New Directions

Celebrating Women’s History Month – Mrs. Henrietta Grigg Lewis


In celebration of Women’s History Month and the 150th anniversary of the Lockport Ladies Relief Society (founders of Wyndham Lawn) we are excited to share the impact of two women, Mrs. Henrietta Grigg Lewis and Mrs. Ella Daniels Hodge.

Mrs. Henrietta Grigg Lewis

Mrs. Henrietta Grigg Lewis was born in 1906 in Lockport, NY and attended the prestigious Ogontz School for Young Ladies in Pennsylvania. Shortly before her high school graduation, Mrs. Lewis lost her mother. She spent some time traveling with her father, and then married her husband, a widower, Curt, in 1936, she became a step-mother to his only son.

At the age of 28, Mrs. Lewis joined her soon-to-be mother-in-law, Mrs. Clara Bowlen Lewis on the Wyndham Lawn Home for Children Board of Directresses after the resignation of a member on June 6, 1934. It was one of the first boards Mrs. Lewis joined and she remained a director until her retirement in 1982 when she moved onto the Wyndham Associate Board. In addition to Wyndham Lawn, Mrs. Lewis was a great supporter of the Presbyterian Home, her church, the YWCA, and the Kenan Center. She enjoyed golf, but often told her fellow golfers that she played for enjoyment and not to win. Being an avid gardener, Mrs. Lewis spent her later years at the Presbyterian Home, walking around the facilities caring for the flowers and plants. More than anything, Mrs. Lewis loved music and theatre, having played many lead roles in her school’s dramatic club plays. It is perhaps, this love that led to her donate funds to establish a youth choir at her church, purchase a piano for the Lockport Country Club, and regularly donate performance tickets to the Junior League’s plays to the youth at Wyndham Lawn.

Always active in the community, humble and modest by nature, Mrs. Lewis made incredible contributions, both financially and with her time, and always provided help when she saw a need. She gave anonymously and generously as she believed her inherited money should benefit the community in which it had been made. Her lifelong commitment to the Lockport Community was further evidenced when she gifted her fortune to the local Foundation that carries her name and honors her philanthropic mission, so that her gifting would continue making an impact for many years to come.

Our organization would not be what it is today if it were not for the leadership, dedication, and support we received from Mrs. Lewis during her lifetime, and continue to receive from her legacy funds.

Be sure to check back later this month for the spotlight on Mrs. Ella Daniels Hodge and the founders of the Lockport Ladies Relief Society!

February Staff Spotlights


Brandi Robinson – Program Coordinator- Chautauqua County Agency Operated Boarding Home (CCAOBH)

Brandi has worked for New Directions since 2000. She is the head of our extremely dedicated AOBH team in Falconer. As program coordinator she oversees the care of kids age 15 to 21 who live in the group home.

Brandi was initially hired as a youth counselor at Zafron Home for Pregnant and Parenting Teens, where she assisted young mothers. Eventually, she moved into the role of assistant supervisor of Zafron. In 2018, she transferred over to the Chautauqua County Agency Operated Boarding Home to become the coordinator. Brandi’s work involves interviewing and admitting youth for the Chautauqua House program, enrolling them in the required education and the other programs available to them, conducting individual meetings with youth, and coordinating visits with families. Brandi also oversees the staff at CCAOBH. She says that they are an amazing team that works diligently to better the life of every youth they serve.

Brandi is loyal, honest and dependable. These attributes make her a great leader and help her to provide the most nurturing environment possible for the kids at CCAOBH. She is the proud mother of a 16-year-old and a 6-year-old and loves spending time with them and the rest of her family. She loves coupon hunting! Brandi loves a good deal and is known to be the best person at New Directions to ask for a coupon or discount code. Before working with New Directions, Brandi cultivated her love of working with kids and families working at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL!

This February, we honor Brandi for her dedication to supporting children, families and staff!

Thank you for fostering good, Brandi!


Laurie Robb – Youth Support Specialist Supervisor, Westons Mills Agency Operated Boarding Home (WMAOBH)

Laurie began her journey at New Directions in 2003 when she came onboard as a Youth Counselor at the Westons Mills Agency Operated Boarding Home Cattaraugus County. After three years, she was promoted to Senior Youth Counselor, and then became the Program Coordinator for Westons Mills in 2008.

Laurie is a leader, a team-player, a role model, a coordinator, a motivator, a supporter, a documenter, a collaborator,  and a planner all rolled into one! She partners with families, youth, DSS staff, New Directions staff, school districts, community service providers and community resources to get the kids in her program the most tailored care possible. It gives her great satisfaction to be part of a multi-faceted group that promotes the best possible desired outcomes for youth, families and the agency. Laurie’s favorite part about her work is hearing back from former WMAOBH youth and learning of their success and their adventures since they’ve moved on from the program.

Laurie is a real go-getter. She enjoys reading and learning new things, kayaking and enjoying the beautiful weather when she can, and her more recent hobby of iPhone photography. One thing that’s unique about Laurie is that she’s a blackbelt in Shotokan Karate. Laurie is also looking for a new canine friend! She wants to adopt a rescue dog in need of a loving, comfortable home.

This month, we’d like to recognize Laurie for her dedication to supporting children, families and staff!

Thank you for fostering good, Laurie!

Celebrating 150 years of caring for children


Beginning Monday, New Directions Youth and Family Services will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the

The Lockport Home for the Friendless, 1892. The home for “destitute” children, incorporated by the Lockport Ladies Relief Society on Feb. 8, 1871, was relocated to the Wyndham Lawn estate in 1892 and was later renamed Wyndham Lawn Home for Children.

Lockport Ladies Relief Society, the forerunner of Wyndham Lawn Home for Children.

The Lockport Ladies Relief Society began dispensing food, coal, clothing and bedding to families in need in 1865. The society became incorporated on Feb. 8, 1871, and established a permanent home for “friendless and destitute” children on High Street in the city of Lockport. Needing more space, the society then moved to Wyndham Lawn in 1892 and became the Lockport Home for the Friendless. In 1917, the name was changed to Wyndham Lawn Home for Children.

Sharing similar philosophies, values and goals, New Directions Youth and Family Services was created by the merger of the Wyndham Lawn Home for Children and the Randolph Children’s Home in 1999.

Today, the Wyndham Lawn campus offers residential care for 30 children, as well as the Henrietta G. Lewis Campus School, the Wayne A. Secord Therapeutic Preschool and an array of services delivered in-home to families in Niagara and neighboring counties.

“We are proud to be standing on the foundation set by the courageous and compassionate women who founded the Lockport Ladies Relief Society 150 years ago” said James W. Coder, New Directions CEO. “Their vision and commitment to children in need sets a high standard for us and guides our work as we embark on the next 150 years of service at Wyndham Lawn.”

A year-long celebration is planned to honor the 150 years of service, showcasing the rich history and personal stories of individuals and their time on the Wyndham Lawn campus. Activities will be announced throughout this year on social media and the agency’s website,

Additionally, New Directions is asking members of the community to support its mission by donating $150 to celebrate 150 years, throughout 2021. Any amount is appreciated, and monthly pledges are also welcomed.

Community members wishing to share their Wyndham Lawn experiences are invited to fill out the contact form online at or contact New Directions Development Office at 433-4487.

Leslie Disbro is the development director for New Directions Youth & Family Services.

January Employee Spotlight


Prachee Samant – Health Homes Outreach & Engagement Specialist

Prachee is a positive and goal-directed individual who has been working out of our Harlem Road Office since July of 2016. She began in the role of WRAP Care Coordinator, and one year later, she moved onto the position of Health Homes Care Manager. Now, Prachee works as a Health Homes outreach and engagement specialist, a position that was created about one year ago.

Originally hailing from India, Prachee followed her passion for the field of Psychology, and after completing her undergraduate degree, moved to the United States. She then went on to study at Duquesne University in Pittsburg, PA, to obtain her master’s degree in community counseling. After completing her education, Prachee moved to Fort Wayne, IN and worked in a mental health treatment center working with kids referred by Child Protective Services. She began as a care manager and then became a therapist. For 15 years, Prachee worked in the Home-Based Services Department, providing each child with the specific care they needed in a comfortable setting. In her current role, Prachee recommends Health Homes services to families that would be a good fit in our program. She advocates for New Directions to outside community partners. This way, it is easier for the agency to have families that require at-home counseling referred directly to us.

Prachee describes herself as an opinionated and outspoken person who will fight for what is right for kids and families. She loves her Health Homes team like a second family and is grateful for the open and friendly work environment that is provided by the agency. Prachee is dedicated to her goals and always keeps a positive outlook. Evidence of this is shown by how well she has grown into her newly created position. She has evolved her role from the ground up and thrived in a changing environment.

Prachee, Thank You for Fostering Good!

December Staff Spotlight


Julia Titterington – Care Management Regional Supervisor – Wyndham Lawn Campus

Julia has been a hardworking and dependable New Directions employee for eight years. She currently works as a Care Management Regional Supervisor alongside a great team of Health Home Care Managers located on the Wyndham Lawn Campus. Julia began working for New Directions in 2012 in the WRAP program, then transferred to Niagara County ICM before joining the Health Homes team.

In 2017, Julia received her master’s degree in social work from the University at Buffalo and subsequently became a supervisor. She supports and supervises multiple workers and has been a part of Niagara Health Homes since the program’s inception. Watching the growth of new programs within New Directions and their impact on families has been an extremely rewarding part of Julia’s work. 

For the past several years, Julia has been a member of New Directions’ Save-A-Christmas committee, finding sponsors, gathering gift donations and delivering Christmas to children in our community-based programs. Julia is always ready to lend a hand and has helped “Save” Christmas for hundreds of kids! 

Julia cites her fellow social work staff as her “second family” and is so grateful for their support these past eight years. In her spare time, Julia loves spending time with her kids, baking and camping. This month, we spotlight Julia for her dedication to supporting children, families and staff! 

Thank you, Julia!

November Staff Spotlight Part 2


Denise Nickerson – Wayne A. Secord Therapeutic Preschool – Teacher’s Aide

Denise has been shaping the futures of children for many years. It is a life-long passion for her! When she first started working at New Directions in 2015, Denise was an aide for the 2nd Grade class in the H.G. Lewis Campus School, but need arose for assistance at the then-new Preschool. Always looking for a chance to foster brighter futures and wanting to help with the younger children, Denise made the transition to aide in the Pre-K classroom. Her background in helping kids learn and grow goes back quite a bit further, however.

While her husband was in the Navy, Denise trained through the Department of Defense School system in Japan, where he was stationed. She then went on to work through the CDA credentialing program as an aide for children at Niagara County Head Start for 17 years. Because of her extensive experience, Denise is always on the ball and ready to help the Pre-K teacher at a moment’s notice as they both guide the children through fun and enriching activities.

Making a difference in the lives of children is most rewarding for Denise. She loves to see the little ones smile. In her spare time, Denise enjoys spending time with her husband of more than 32 years (Congratulations!), and her two boys. Her favorite activities include camping, cycling and gardening. Thank you, Denise, for all the guidance and care that you show our little ones!

November Staff Spotlight Part 1


Leslie Shellenbarger – Clinical Director of Southern Tier Foster Care/ SILP Supervisor

Our first staff member being honored this month is Leslie Shellenbarger. Leslie is always on the go! She has been the Clinical Director for Foster Care in the south for 24 years and the Supervisor for the north and south SILP programs. SILP (Supervised Independent Living Program) currently takes up the majority of Leslie’s schedule. SILP started with one or two kids and has expanded to include 16! Leslie has guided SILP’s growth through her hard work and dedication.

Leslie started her journey at New Directions in 1992 (before it was called New Directions) initially working on the boys’ unit of the Randolph Children’s Home. Before this, Leslie earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Edinboro University and then her master’s degree in Social Services Administration from Case Western Reserve University. Leslie’s current position allows her to support children and families in foster care directly, which she loves. It is very rewarding for her to see former youth who have been adopted, in the community with their families looking happy and healthy. Leslie’s job also entails preparing young adults to go out into the world on their own. She feels like she has accomplished her goals when SILP youth demonstrate financial independence, manage finances, and seek and secure training and education.

One of Leslie’s favorite things to do in her free time is to take her boat out on Chautauqua Lake with her husband and friends. She is an avid fan of cards and tabletop games, including Euchre, Rounce and Settlers of Catan. From the bottom of her heart, Leslie thanks her fellow coworkers for their constant support and comradery, and also for putting up with her sarcasm.

Thank you, Leslie, for all the great things you do for our youth!

Adoption – It’s always worth the wait!

POSTED: 11.20.20 | CATEGORY:

Adoption day is a long awaited and exciting day. We know because we had already adopted two boys when we received the date, March 2020, to adopt our two girls. After waiting a year and a half since surrender, we were ecstatic and relieved to have a set day before COVID-19 lock-downs began. We figured we had gotten lucky.

A week before the girls were set to be adopted, our adoption was postponed indefinitely. Adoptions were considered last priority at family court. Our hearts were broken, thinking that we would need to wait longer, and our anxiety was through the roof. What if this went on another year? Would this mean the girls would need all new paperwork? Would we ever get to have a normal adoption?

Well, nothing in 2020 is normal. After waiting two months we received a call from our lawyer asking if we wanted to adopt the girls virtually. We were torn at first. A virtual adoption meant no family, no friends, and no workers at the courthouse. It meant no photos with our judge, no fun get together after. Despite these things we decided that all we really cared about was closing their case once and for all.

So, we chose not to wait. We got our family of seven all dressed up in our “Gotcha Day” clothes, set up our iPad, and adopted our girls via Skype. The process was 10 minutes at most, and after we ordered pizza and chose to see the best in a not-so-traditional adoption.

During the stress, anxious nerves, and uncertainty our staff at New Directions really anchored us down. Hanna & Janett went above and beyond to help us feel supported. They sat with us through the good, the bad, the tears, and the celebrations.

We hope to show others that during this time it is more important than ever to work together. We are all navigating this week-to-week…sometimes day-to-day. There isn’t always a right answer to many of the questions Covid has raised. At the end of the day, the main thing that matters is the safety of the children in our care and the love we extend to one another. If you’re waiting for your adoption day, hang in there. It’s always worth the wait.

-A New Directions Foster and Adoptive Mother

New Directions celebrates National Philanthropy Day 2020!

POSTED: 11.13.20 | CATEGORY:

Happy National Philanthropy Day!

We sat down with David Messinger, President and CEO of Colecraft Commercial Furnishings, and long-time supporter of New Directions, to gain his insights on making the world a better place. We are fortunate to benefit from David’s leadership on both the New Directions agency board of directors and the New Directions Foundation. See David’s full interview below!

“I am committed to supporting the programs of New Directions because I know that the work New Directions is doing is changing, and in some cases saving the lives of kids.”

David is one of New Directions’ many loyal and caring supporters, who’s gifts enable us to keep “fostering good” for children and families. We are thankful for YOU!

Veteran’s Day Employee Spotlight

POSTED: 11.10.20 | CATEGORY:

Christopher R. Freligh
Randolph Residential Youth Support Specialist
United States Marine Corps Veteran

I joined six months after graduating high school. I was on lunch break one afternoon and I started to think about what I was doing with myself and how I turned out just like everyone else had. I realized I needed to do something to change my life around. So, I decided to join a military branch and become a better version of myself. Now nearly every male member of my family has served in the military, but only two to my knowledge joined the United States Marine Corps. I quit my job two weeks after that and drove to the nearest Marine Corps recruiter’s office to join.

Boot camp was basically thirteen weeks in hell. I joined using the buddy system, which means you got to go through boot camp with a friend who also joined. During those thirteen weeks the drill instructors did their best to break us down into nothing and to mold us back up into a basically trained Marine. It was the toughest thirteen weeks of my entire life; nothing has come close to topping it. There were times I questioned why I chose this route, and what purpose did my life serve. About seven weeks in my mindset changed and I realized things wouldn’t always be this way and if I could make it through this nothing else could phase me. I soon became part of a brotherhood that has stood the test of time, since November 10th 1775, and would carry on for many generations to come. After graduating boot camp, I stood a little taller, held my head high with pride, and carried myself with a sense of honor most men could only dream of. To this day I’m still standing tall.

I served at Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton, CA just North of San Diego. During my time on base, I worked most often in the armory and as a mechanic in the motor pool per my MOS 3531, motor transportation operator. Always more work to be done then you had time for but somehow found the time to do it.

I feel as though my service in the military has given me a better viewpoint on life and prepared me for hardships to come later in life. If I hadn’t joined, I don’t think I would be the same person I am today or be where I am today. Before the military I was a shy young man who didn’t like being around other people, wasn’t outspoken or very forward thinking. I think back to those days and wonder how I was ever that person. And then I remember, without all the people I’ve met and all the experiences I had I would’ve never become who I am today. Even now as an adult I am still learning and growing with every new experience.

My advice to the young men and women who are thinking about joining the military or are just wondering about it, I say this; If you want to travel and see the world for all it has to offer then join. If you want to become a symbol of hope to your country then join. Just remember, that if you are going to join, do it for yourself above all else. Doesn’t matter what military branch you choose. You as a person will change for the better and your viewpoints will change as well. Military life teaches you how to respect others, even the enemy. How to be courageous when in a tight spot, and to be the better person and help those who need you the most, no matter the cost. It is a life course with high winds and rough seas, but if you can weather it, you’ll become a better version of yourself.

The military has a few parallels with New Directions. They both do their best to instill a set of principals that will further a persons growth and hopefully point that person in a “new direction”. They have people (staff) in place to help the younger generations move forward in their lives and are always there for them when needed. We may not be their parents or guardians, but we do our best to go above and beyond the call of duty, such as is in the military. Working with children is really pretty awesome, getting to see them grow and mature, being there when they experience new things. Nothing beats that.