Lee Anne Vetrone

The Nicholas Center -a Decade of Championing Neurodiversity

Local organization supports individuals with Autism to learn, live and work in their community

April 11, 2022, Port Washington, NY – For over a decade, The Nicholas Center (TNC), a pre-eminent nonprofit organization specializing in Autism vocational training, community partnerships and peer connections, has revolutionized the way Autistic adults learn, live and work.

Based in Port Washington, the organization experienced a meteoric rise from its early days where the idea took shape in a small backyard barn in Plandome Manor, NY. Today, the organization supports over 120 Autistic individuals in two locations, both in-person and via remote. During the pandemic, TNC was successful in expanding services to a second location in Westchester, NY.

Stella L. Spanakos, Co-Founder and “mom-on-a-mission” started the organization, with Co-Founders, Nicole Sugrue and Patrick Bardsley to offer community engagement, vocational experiences and jobs, and peer engagement for her son, Nicholas, and others like him. Pleased to call Port Washington home, The Nicholas Center has woven itself into the fabric of community life – adding value by offering volunteer services to over twenty local non-profits and businesses, including Community Chest of Port Washington, Plant-a-Row-for-the-Hungry, North Shore Animal League of America, the Science Museum of Long Island.

This year, The Nicholas Center, along with partner, Spectrum Designs Foundation supported 14 individuals with Autism to earn certifications in Screen Printing, Food Handling and as Washroom Technicians. For 16-weeks, participants studied in-class and trained on-site at Spectrum Designs Foundation in Port Washington, gaining knowledge and on-the-job experience. A graduation ceremony was held to celebrate the graduates. “I am very proud of us for what we accomplished. It was a lot of work, but with this amazing program, we made it and are graduating” said graduate Brendan B. Funding for this program was provided by a New York State Department of Labor grant and administered by The Nicholas Center Vocational Support team.

The organization champions inclusion at work and in the community. For individuals who have been marginalized, “marching in a parade, is not just marching in a parade,” says Stella. Participating in activities that comprise community life is much more than a parade, a community project or a job – it means progress is being made for a population facing an 85% unemployment and under engagement rate once school ends at 21. The Nicholas Center is proud to be a leader in advocating for those voiceless in our society and are grateful to Port Washington and surrounding communities for their continuing support of our mission statement – to create innovative programs and services that allow Autistic individuals learn, live and work in the community.

Now more than ever, inclusion is pivotal to enriching community life. We learn from the differences of others and become better for it. For more information, please log on to: www.tncnewyork.org and follow us on FacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn

The Nicholas Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization, supporting individuals with Autism in leading full and productive lives in the community. A population facing 85% unemployment and under engagement after age 21, the program successfully supports and advocates for inclusion and opportunity. A recipient of the NY Senate Empire Business Award, “the most socially innovative agency of its kind in NY State,” and Nonprofit of the Year and Diversity in Business awards from Long Island Business News, The Nicholas Center is a proud member of the Port Washington and Pleasantville Chambers of Commerce and the Business Council of Westchester. 

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Helping and supporting individuals with Autism lead full and productive lives in the community.

Tax ID # 45-202237

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