Christine Ponzio, executive director of the Winters Center for Autism; Lauretta Majuk, secretary and grant writer at Smithtown Elks Lodge; Raymond Berrios, administrative clerk at Winters Bros. Waste Systems; Michele Winters, Winters Center founder; Patrick Winters, board president of Winters Center. (Photo: Winters Center for Autism)

Elks award Beacon grant to Winters Center for Autism

The Elks of Smithtown has awarded its Beacon grant to the Winters Center for Autism.

The $5,200 grant was given in honor of Nicholas Luizzi, who was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder at age 3, and at 21, graduated from the life skills program at Smithtown High School. Shortly thereafter he joined a cooperative residential housing program where working at a local supermarket is part of his therapy.

The Beacon Grant will fund literacy software and materials needed for employment preparedness and success. The unemployment rate for individuals with autism is 85 percent and the Winters Center for Autism is committed to changing that.

The Winters Center’s new education and training complex is currently under construction in West Babylon. The center is focused on teaching adults with autism a variety of literacy-based skills including vocabulary, learning to read, reading fluency and print awareness. Employees with higher literacy skills earn more income and are less likely to become unemployed which is what makes literacy an essential component of job training and preparedness.

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