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(L-R) Cheryl Englert, Board Vice President for The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, presents a plaque honoring Howard Sanford, Jr. to his children, Howard Sanford III, Annabelle Wolcott, and Thomas Sanford at a dedication ceremony held Tuesday, July 8, at 81 North Center Street in Perry
Howard Sanford, Jr. IRA Dedicated to Arc Founding Father
For his commitment to the needs of people with disabilities and their families, The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming proudly dedicated the Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA) at 81 North Center Street in Perry to the memory of Howard Sanford, Jr., a founding father of our agency. The Howard Sanford, Jr. IRA is home to nine community members who have developmental disabilities.
Multiple generations of the Sanford family gathered at the IRA for the dedication ceremony, held Tuesday, July 8. Family members came from as far away as San Francisco, Atlanta, and Washington State, and it was the first time that the whole family had been together since the early 90s.
Howard Sanford, Jr. was born in 1912 in Rochester. He grew up in Rochester, Buffalo, and Perry, where he lived with two of his aunts. He would remain tightly connected to the Perry community throughout his life. Mr. Sanford is a graduate of Perry High School, where he would return years later as a teacher of English and Mathematics.
“He was the scholar of the family,” recalls his son Howard III. “At one point, he had the highest academic average in Perry.” Mr. Sanford's educational journey also took him to SUNY Geneseo, Columbia University, and SUNY Albany, where he completed his Master’s Degree.
It was in Perry where Mr. Sanford met his bride, Esther Davis, whom Howard III describes as “the strong, silent partner” in his parents’ marriage. Howard, Jr. and Ester had three children: Howard III, Annabelle (Wolcott), and Thomas, who has Down syndrome. “I think that’s why my father developed his interest in advocating for people with disabilities,” Howard III explains.
When Thomas lasted only three weeks in a traditional early-60s era kindergarten class, Mr. Sanford banded with other parents whose children also had developmental disabilities. The parents started meeting in small groups in garages and at schools all over Livingston and Wyoming counties. “They were a dedicated and resourceful group of people,” Howard III explains. “They would meet anywhere that had tables and chairs.”
As the parents banded together, they learned about legislation and the workings of county government. Their hard work resulted in the establishment of a community services board, and then a preschool class that was suited to the needs of developmentally disabled children. It was from these beginnings that The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming was founded.
Today, The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming's annual payroll is $12.5 million, and its operating budget of about $22 million has more than doubled over the past 10 years, with steady growth each year. The growing agency is able to enhance the lives of more than 800 community members annually through its residential, vocational rehabilitation, children's services, transportation, and community services programs.
Howard III says that his father would be pleased. “My father and I served together on the Arc Board of Directors for a number of years,” he explains. “Even in the mid-1970s, the budget was only about $50,000.”
He reflects on the growth and accomplishment of The Arc by saying, “I'm most proud of not any one thing, but of everything. The vocational program was always a particular area of interest, especially developing contract jobs where workers gain transferable skills. On the residential side, we’re not doing one-size-fits-all housing. Instead, we are providing people with valuable options.”
The doors that were opened by Mr. Sanford have presented a world of opportunity for his son Thomas. “Thomas has been able to access all levels of programming,” Howard III explains. “Today, he has many friends, and independence is not a problem at all.”
Thomas, who is now 46 years old, lives near his childhood home in Perry with his sister, Annabelle, who shares joint guardianship with Howard III. Annabelle has followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming an educator at Perry Schools, where she teaches remedial Math. Howard III is a professor of Special Education at Roberts Wesleyan College, after teaching at SUNY Geneseo for almost 30 years.
Thomas also shares his father’s passion for learning. “My parents always worked with Thomas on reading, and today he is able to read at a 4th or 5th grade level,” Howard III says. “He goes to the library every day, and takes out his own books.”