The Voices of New Directions

November Staff Spotlight – Todd Nugent’s 25 Year Milestone

POSTED: 11.24.21 | CATEGORY:

Todd Nugent – Senior Support Specialist, Randolph Residential

This month, we will be spotlighting Todd Nugent for his milestone service achievement!

Todd began working for New Directions in August of 1996. That’s 25 years of service! Congrats, Todd!

Todd attended college at SUNY Brockport and earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. He started out his career as a Youth Counselor on Unit 6. He was then promoted to Assistant Supervisor (renamed Senior Support Specialist) on Maple Suite. Todd has consistently stayed with the younger, more behaviorally “challenging” youth since Day 1. He is especially gifted in working patiently and connecting with young kids.

Todd works directly with children on a day-to-day basis. He builds relationships and teaches them positive ways to express themselves when upset and frustrated. He helps in preparing kids to either go back to their families or to move on to a lower level of care, such as foster care or adoption.  That is what means the most – seeing kids return to their families or to get a family of their own and leave residential placement. Todd is also a fun individual to be around, and his coworkers always have fun when he is working.

Todd’s favorite part of working at New Directions is watching the kids grow and watching them be able to be kids. It is always rewarding seeing them play and use their imaginations and build relationships with other children.

Todd is kind, supportive, funny, empathetic of others, and would do anything for anyone. Todd enjoys camping, hunting, fishing, traveling, and enjoying life with his wife Jamie (in the photo above) and their dog/fur kid Reggie! Fun fact: Todd is afraid of heights but built up enough courage to go on a hot air balloon ride last year!  Also, some people think he is quiet. According to Dawn Skinner, “Let’s just say he is quiet at times, but there is a fun and crazy side to Todd that people love and so do the kids”.

Thank you, Todd, for your constant dedication to the kids in your care and to New Directions!


POSTED: 11.18.21 | CATEGORY:


Home-Like Setting Helps Teens Prepare for Independence


LANCASTER – New Directions Youth and Family Services has announced the opening of its newest agency operated board home for teens at 5522 Broadway Avenue in Lancaster. The new home began welcoming its first residents in November 2021.

The home was previously the site of a youth shelter operated by Plymouth Crossroads. New Directions purchased and renovated the home with funds from New Directions Foundation. “The neighborhood and community have been very welcoming,” said Mark Wickerham, New Directions’ Director of Community Based Programs, who coordinated the homes’ renovation. “The location opens up many opportunities for youth.”

The New York State Office of Child and Family Services certifies Broadway House as an approved site with a maximum occupancy of six older teens. The home is staffed at all times. Youth must attend school and are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities and/or hold part-time jobs.  They do all this while also acquiring life skills and receiving support to identify and stay connected to important persons in their lives.

“Within this unique community-based program we have the privilege to serve youth and their families while providing youth an opportunity to thrive in a safe, home-like setting that supports them to develop and sustain positive lifelong family relationships,” said Julie Tomasi, New Directions’ Chief Operating Officer of Child Welfare Programs.

New Directions also runs agency operated boarding homes in Falconer, Westons Mills, and a group home for pregnant and parenting teens in Salamanca. “For many youth the path to success is in building positive relationships within a therapeutic community setting,” said Jim Coder, New Directions’ Chief Executive Officer. “New Directions is open to opportunities and is fortunate to be able to meet a need that existed prior to the pandemic.”

New Directions invites interested community stakeholders to make an appointment to tour the residence and learn more about the program by contacting Jim Karpinski, Program Coordinator, at 716-391-1769. For more information on New Directions’ services for children and families throughout Western New York please visit


About New Directions Youth and Family Services:

New Directions Youth and Family Services is a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency with a heritage going back 150 years. Its mission is to foster resilient, self-reliant families and permanence for at-risk children in the shortest time possible, by promoting safe, respectful, responsible, and goal-directed behavior. The agency’s mission is promoted through dedicated, caring staff and by employing its treatment philosophy of Normative Culture. For more information about New Directions Youth and Family Services, please visit

Spooky Stories of Wyndham Lawn

POSTED: 10.27.21 | CATEGORY:

In the spirit of “Spooky Season”, check out these Staff Stories from the Mid-1980s thru the Early 1990s recorded in a journal:

1987 11:30 PM – 12:00 AM
A staff member was doing rounds when they witnessed a small child run into the dining room. Staff followed, but no child was there. Staff in the nearby unit heard and saw nothing – reported no children were missing from unit.

1987 2:00 AM
Staff walking the building heard footsteps and stopped to look. The staff didn’t see anything but in their mind visualized a Revolutionary British soldier.

Staff heard piano playing, walked into the living room and witnessed a woman sitting at the piano playing a tune. The woman faded away as the staff approached closer.

December 1988
Staff heard a door open and close, footsteps followed. When he went to look, no one was there.

January 1989
Staff saw an image out of the corner of their eye walking into the dining room of someone dressed in dark blue. At first the staff thought it was a coworker, but as she approached the person disappeared.

June 1989
Staff heard footsteps in the living room, but no one was there when he went to inspect.

August 1989 3:30 AM
Quad night worker saw an image of a female face coming down the stairs at her as she walked up to check the children. The face faded as it came closer to her.

August 1991 1:00 AM
A night security worker was sitting at a table in the main administration office. He was looking at a notebook, worrying about spilling his soda on it. As he was looking at the soda can, the can slid 5 inches slowly towards the notebook. The table was completely level.

If you’re interested in more spooky stories, there was a book inspired about the spooky happenings of Wyndham Lawn titled “Mystery Up the Winding Stair” by Helen Fuller Orton!

October is National Bullying Prevention Month


Unite for Kindness, Acceptance, and Inclusion

By Narda Gatgen, LCSW-R

Did you know October is National Bullying Prevention Month?  The national campaign in the United States was founded in 2006 by Pacers National Bullying Prevention Center. This campaign focuses on preventing bullying, and promoting kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. Let us start with a trivia Quiz:  See how many of the following bullies you can match to the TV show, movie, or cartoon.  No cheating looking at the answer key. 


  1. Johnny Lawrence                                  6. Bluto
  2. Regina George                                       7. Sid Phillips
  3. Scut Farkus                                             8. Cartman
  4. Draco Malfoy                                         9. Nellie Olson
  5. Nurse Ratched                                     10. Richard Vernon


Answer Key:

  1. Karate Kid 2. Mean Girls 3. A Christmas Story   4. Harry Potter Series 5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 6. Popeye 7. Toy Story 8. Southpark 9. Little House on the Prairie   10. The Breakfast Club.


Although these are fictitious characters, we all can probably relate to at least one of the above having encountered someone similar. Bullies show up in all age ranges. 



– 1 out of 5 students report being bullied

– Students/kids experiencing bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, school avoidance, and other negative health effects.

– Students with disabilities (emotional and physical) and students of color experience bullying at a much higher rate than listed above.

– 70% of LGBTQ youth report having experienced some sort of bullying. 


Do you long for the old days when parents and teachers’ advice for being bullied was “Don’t be a tattletale”, “mind your own business, and ignore them”, “There are bullies everywhere in life you have to toughen up and learn how to deal with them”.   Many of us growing up heard these statements, and our employees in their 20’s were still hearing this during part of their formal education, then experiencing the shift to discussing bullying.  As noted above, in the early 2000’s, the campaign began spreading bringing attention to this issue, educators and parents began tackling this very real problem.  Now it is not uncommon for this to be discussed in the classroom, at home, celebrities speaking out on public service announcements, and anti-bullying messages being incorporated into children’s tv programming. We are doing better, but still have a long way to go.  The very real occurrence of bullying and the power it has on youth goes way beyond hurt feelings. The real and damaging effects are traumatic for many, and sometimes fatal for others. 


Youth now have the added pressure of witnessing or experiencing cyberbullying.   Mainstream access to computers, cell phones and other devices allows bullies into our lives and into our homes.   Cyber bullies are not physically present and visible but can hide and be anonymous.  This type of bullying extends beyond school hours, and into our private lives, homes with access to our kids 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This type of bullying leaves kids vulnerable and parents and educators often unaware.  Clearly times have changed and helping our kids be safe in the wonderful world of technology is a challenge.  Still wishing for a simpler time? Despite the challenges of navigating our present world I believe when we know better, we do better.  Parents and educators and schools are promoting and enforcing an anti-bullying environment and acting when there are safety concerns.  School policies and protective measures are being addressed as well as codes of student conduct.  Youth are encouraged when they see something or experience something to say something, report, confront and support their fellow peers.  


Reading intake information and referrals for nearly 30 years at New Directions for youth entering Residential care, Foster care and Agency Operated Boarding Homes it has only been in the past 10-15 years that the mention of bullying has been listed as a common concern or experience of the youth we serve.  A sign of the times?  Bullying has always been present, but service providers recognize the impact and see the correlation to depression, anxiety, school avoidance, suicidal ideation, and many other behavioral and health concerns. When adopting Normative Culture at New Directions, the concept of peer-to-peer support was a key element.   The shift from “mind your own business” to ” your peers are your business and need your support” is an aspect of promoting safety. It is noted in a study (Davis & Nixon 2010) that students who experience bullying report supportive actions and allying from their peers or bystanders was more helpful than actions by educators or self-actions. 


This Month:

-Check out the Pacers anti bullying website,

-Talk to the youth in your life about anti-bullying efforts, what they can do and encourage them to report concerns to a trusted adult.

-Do something kind when you see despair.

-Recognize Unity Day on October 20th, wear orange.


 Unite for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. 


Kindly submitted,

Narda Gatgen LCSW-R

Clinical Director Residential & AOBH Services

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resources


Indigenous Peoples’ Day

By Natalia Rice, Equity & Inclusion Officer

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is Monday, October 11th, 2021. Join New View Alliance, New Directions, and Gateway Longview as we commemorate the histories and cultures of Indigenous peoples who have been living and working on this land for time immemorial.


It is important to pause and pay honor to the land we work and operate on, which is part of the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. We would also like to honor the sovereignty of the Six Nations– the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora. If you are unfamiliar with the practice of Indigenous Land Acknowledgment and/or want to learn more, check out this resource from Native Land. Native Land also offers a territory acknowledgement tool to search any location and inform your understanding. You can access the tool here.


In recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we would like to share a few resources to support in honoring this day:

●       Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Black-Indigenous Youth Advancing Social Justice

         October 11, 2021

         1 PM ET (Available on demand afterwards)


How are Black-Indigenous youth working to advance social justice? This Indigenous Peoples’ Day program highlights youth of blended Black and Native heritage who use art, activism, and policy to advance Black and Indigenous solidarity and affect positive change in their communities.

Hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), this program is part of the Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future series, which features young Native activists and changemakers from across the Western Hemisphere who are working towards equity and social justice for Indigenous peoples.  ​

Learn more and register here.


  • Explore NMAI’s Native Knowledge 360° platform, which features teacher workshops, free events, and virtual educational resources for youth across multiple disciplines, including science, English language arts, and social studies.


Hispanic & Latino/x Heritage Month 2021

Click the link below to read about Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15th) and view a reading list cultivated by our Equity & Inclusion Officer, Natalia Rice! PDF file can be downloaded or printed from this link:
Hispanic & Latino/x Heritage Month 2021 Reading List



Staff Spotlight – Melisha Patterson


Melisha Patterson – CSE Family Facilitator

Melisha is the CSE Family Facilitator for all CSE youth from the NYC downstate area. She works with youth referred to Randolph or Wyndham Lawn residential campuses, along with their families. She began working for New Directions in August of 2018. Happy 3-Year Anniversary, Melisha! She attended SUNY Old Westbury Long Island, NY campus, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Community Health and Human Services.

Melisha describes her position as very interesting and multifaceted, beginning with CSE intake
and screening pre-admission, then transitioning to family support after a youth’s admission in
one of our residential programs. She especially enjoys the connection made with families while
empowering and educating them while children are receiving residential services.

Melisha’s favorite part of working at New Directions is having the opportunity to connect and
work with agency employees from all over Western New York, visiting youth on our campuses,
and building relationships with families.

Melisha is always direct and honest with families in order to give them the clearest insight into
their child’s treatment and progress. She is also a faithful and hard worker.
In her free time, Melisha loves going on bike rides and road trips, spending time with family,
trying new foods, relaxing at the beach and planning social events for family and friends. A
unique fact about Melisha is that she is very allergic to shellfish and breaks out in itchy hives if
she eats it…OUCH!!

Melisha, thanks for your dedication to serving children and families!

Back to School!


Every Fall, many children feel anxious about returning to school. This is completely normal.  For students who spent last year in remote or hybrid learning programs due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the traditional back to school anxiety may feel even more overwhelming.  Along with the typical anxieties of class schedules, teacher personalities, maintaining friendships, and wondering what to wear, children may also worry about wearing masks, new school safety protocols, and getting sick.  Although anxiety about returning to school is common it is important to recognize and address the signs and symptoms.  Children may not always be able to put their feelings into words.  Here are a few behavioral clues to look for:

  • Easily upset or angry
  • Difficulty concentrating and staying focused.
  • May be more clingy
  • May be restless or fidgety
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Complaints of stomachaches
  • Diarrhea or constipation

If left unaddressed anxiety can lead to difficulties in school performance as well as an overall decrease in a child’s quality of life.  There are many things you can do to help your child manage their feelings of anxiety.    Here are some things to try:

  • Encourage your child to talk about their feelings.
  • Show love and care. Hug your child often.
  • Prepare your home for back to school by establishing a routine – bedtime, dinnertime, homework time.
  • Remind your child of the good things about school – friends, favorite teachers, learning new things.
  • Use Grounding Techniques – have them identify things using the five senses. What do they see, hear, smell, taste, touch?
  • Give opportunities to burn off steam – exercise, sports, dance, yoga, music, reading, art, journaling.
  • Time with pets can be a great stress relief.
  • Establish a healthy lifestyle by adding theses stress busting foods – spinach, salmon, cashews, avocado, and dark chocolate.
  • Remind them that they are not alone. Many children experience stress and anxiety.


Remember each child is different and what works for one may not work for another.  Keep trying until you find what works best for your child.  If symptoms last more than two weeks and are effecting your child’s quality of life seek help from a professional social worker or therapist.


Written by Dena Balicki, LMSW
School Social Worker
New Directions’ Henrietta G. Lewis Campus School


Happy Retirement, Ed Gargala


Happy Retirement!

Ed Gargala, Residential Services Director

Ed with co-workers in the early 1980s

Ed Gargala, who has been a cornerstone on the Wyndham Lawn Campus, will be retiring from New Directions Youth & Family Services, July 2, 2021. A licensed clinical social worker, Ed has accrued a combined 38 years with Wyndham Lawn / New Directions. Ed’s career also includes serving as a psychiatric social worker at the former Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic and Residential Director at Gateway. 

At age 22, Ed began working as a Child Care Worker at Wyndham Lawn’s Hodge Cottage, which was home to 14 boys. Ed admits that it was a tough job at first, but the kids warmed up to him and he learned the ins-and-outs of the job from his coworkers. 

When Ed started, Jim Coder and Marcia Kramarczyk were also new employees; Ed states they were a big reason that he decided to stay.
Ed tells that Jim in particular encouraged Ed through some of the harder aspects of beginning a new position, for which Ed is extremely grateful, to this day. The advice served him well, as Ed would go on to become a supervisor, social worker, program supervisor, Residential Services Director, as well as mentor, advocate, and friend.

Ed would like to thank Jim, Marcia, and all of the people who guided and supported him through the years. There were many nights where staff would go out for wings and share their experiences, knowledge, and funny stories with one another, and these nights are some of his fondest memories. Pondering his work experience, Ed said, “it made me a better person”.

All who know Ed know he is always working hard and finding solutions. “Find something that you love to do”, is Ed’s advice to young people looking for a workplace that is truly fulfilling, like he found at Wyndham Lawn. Ed encourages new Youth Counselors to learn from their mistakes and persevere, because every experience with the kids is a valuable and educational opportunity.

After retirement, Ed plans to stay active and spend plenty of time with his family! He loves hiking, biking, kayaking, and all manner of sports that he can learn with his children and wife, who is also retired. Ed admits that he’s sure he’ll spend plenty of days relaxing on the couch – certainly well deserved after years of diligently supporting children and staff. 

Ed, thank you for your service, ethic, and dedication to our mission, children, coworkers, and programs. The relationships you’ve forged within the agency and community all benefit the children and families we serve. You’ve made a positive impact at Wyndham Lawn and across New Directions. We wish you all the best!



All of us at New Directions

June Staff Spotlight


Christine Gabrielsen – Controller, Randolph

This month, we are highlighting a very integral member of the Finance Department; our Controller, Christine Gabrielsen! Christine began her journey at New Directions in June of 1994. When she began in the Finance Department, she started by covering for Sheila Searle during her maternity leave, handling Payables and Receivables. What is ironic is that baby girl will soon be on maternity leave herself and also works as an accountant!

Christine received her education at the State University of New York at Brockport and got her bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting. In her current position as Controller, Christine is part teacher and part problem-solver. She teaches members of New Directions’ programs how different variables affect their finances and how to best keep track of agency finances. She also aims to help improve various programs’ successes by helping them set goals to regulate expenses. As a proud member of the Finance Department, Christine must try to take an agency that is ever-changing and make sure it meets both accounting standards as well as federal and state government requirements. Keeping proper track of the numbers across an expansive organization like New Directions is quite a challenge.

Christine’s favorite part of being a New Directions employee is working with the incredible friends she’s made, not only in the Finance Department, but across the agency. Christine is kind, compassionate, silly, and sassy. In her spare time, Christine enjoys hiking with her dog, learning to mountain bike, and kayaking, a hobby she picked up after being introduced to it at New Directions.

Thank you for all you do for us here at New Directions, Christine, we appreciate you!



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