On this episode of the Casandra Properties podcast, CEO and Host James Prendamano interview two very important guests, Jaclyn Tocci and Nicole Forgione of PCCS / Person Centered Care Services, a not-for-profit agency located right here on Staten Island. James Prendamano had previously connected with our guests through the SIEDC.
The mission of PCCS is to create social change for people with disabilities with the goal of creating social change within communities by supporting those with disabilities on their search for identity and acceptance.
Both Jaclyn and Nicole found their calling in social work at very young ages, noting the satisfaction they received from helping the community with special needs. A native Staten Islander, Jaclyn Tocci received her Masters degree from Monmouth University – with the thought that she would like to help children in need. It wasn’t until she interned as PCCS that she realized helping adults with disabilities was her true calling.
Nicole Forgione had originally hailed from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and is now living in the Bulls Head area. Incidentally, this was where Jaclyn Tocci was born, but she now lives on the south shore of Staten Island. Nicole started off working with the developmentally disabled population when she was 16 years old. She says she had older friends who had worked in the field, and one day she went to work with them to observe. And that’s when she realized it was the work she wanted to do – helping those in need. She started out as a DSP (Direct Service Professional) and has been in the field for the past 18 years. What does she do when asked? Jaclyn responds, “I am a teacher. I am a nurse. I am a social worker. I am an advocate. I am whatever someone needs at any time.”
For me, says Nicole Forgione, it’s just amazing to see, for example, the greatest reward is to know a family is celebrating Christmas together for the first time in their own apartment.
Host James Prendamano is impressed and in awe with both Jaclyn and Nicole – not only for the good works they do, but also how they both had such an amazing level of self-awareness at such a young age, noting some people become that self-aware at 60 – and some never do.
PCCS is state funded, but, needless to say, they can certainly use extra funding and donations. They run four separate programs, one of which is ISS – that helps people find apartments with the right supports in place. For many reasons, this is quite challenging.
Another program is Day Habilitation, which includes activities for adults Monday-Friday from 9-3. Now with Covid, everything has changed drastically, and we’re doing a lot of things virtually. Just recently, however, Jaclyn notes that the site has been able to bring in smaller groups for activities.
Nicole says that it’s amazing to see folks who you think would never be able live on their own. Then to see them do it and flourish, it’s just so amazing and rewarding. “At one time or another, we all need support,” Nicole Forgione emphasizes.
James notes how both Nicole and Jaclyn are transforming lives – and respectfully says they are not rewarded monetarily. James Prendamano, in an emotional moment, says they do it out of sheer love and empathy for people – and that is just truly admirable.
“We are person-centered,” says Jaclyn. “Everything is about the person.”
Person-Centered Care Services is funded through OPWDD, The NY State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Therefore, there are eligibility requirements that need to be met first in order to receive assistance from us. For the ‘Day Hab’ program, the person (18+) would had to have had a diagnosis of intellectual or developmental disability before the age of 22. But that is almost always diagnosed during the school years.
Nicole Forgione elaborates a bit about the services offered at this organization. ISS offers rental assistance, and community habilitation -- when staff goes into the individual’s home to help. So essentially, someone comes in (a direct service professional) and helps the person set goals and complete them. For example, an individual may want to get a driver’s license. Step by step, the Direct Service Professional will help that person see it through.
Person-Centered Care Services accepts monetary donations and new home goods. Additionally, both Nicole and Jaclyn note that they are always looking for people to become Direct Services Providers. They also face many challenges with housing – as unfortunately a stigma still exists with the disabled population.
Do you want to do your part? Make a donation? There is so much you can do and multiple ways you canhelp this wonderful organization. Email -- firstname.lastname@example.org