The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 17, 2013

Easter Seals’ branches join, add services

JOHNSTOWN — A June 4 merger of two independent Pennsylvania Easter Seals nonprofit organizations has led to an increased service area and expanded programs, Johnstown Division Director Annette Shearman said.

The decision to combine Easter Seals’ western and central Pennsylvania branches was reached because a new CEO and president was needed at the central branch, Shearman said.

The organization’s western Pennsylvania branch had been providing management oversight to the central branch since 2010, according to a news release.

Because of an apparent increase in management efficiency, Shearman said this model seemed to work, and the decision to combine the two branches was made.

Former Easter Seals Western Pennsylvania CEO and President Lawrence Rager is to serve as the CEO and president for the newly formed Easter Seals Western and Central Pennsylvania, according to the release.

While the merger is to enhance the organization’s area of operation, board of directors Chairwoman Lauren Rushak said the organization’s mission is to remain the same.

“Our mission is to provide exceptional programs and services to individuals with disabilities to enable them to live, learn, work and play as independently as possible,” she said.

“The larger geographic service area will enhance our ability to provide and expand programs and services, such as increased job opportunities for individuals with disabilities through business and development growth.”

In addition to providing disabled individuals with jobs, Shearman said the organization offers speech therapy, occupational therapy and therapeutic recreation, in addition to other programs.

“We are excited that now we can do that since the merger went through,” she said. “We want to be able to continue to provide those services.”

The larger geographic area may also provide the organization with added fundraising benefits, Shearman said.

The organization is a nonprofit, so the majority of its funding comes from public fundraising, she said.

“We are always looking for funds, so, with the larger area, it will make it easier to get funds.”

Easter Seals Western and Central Pennsylvania has program locations in Johnstown, Somerset and Pittsburgh, in addition to several other locations, she said.

“It is expected that more than 20,000 people will benefit from our services.”

CEO Rager said the merger was a success and thanked those involved for their cooperation.

“All of Easter Seals Western and Central Pennsylvania look forward to continuing to serve individuals with disabilities … for many years to come.”

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