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Life’s WORC , Opening the Hearts and Minds– for Over 50 Years

Submitted by John Carricato

Jan 11, 2023

Life’s WORC, an organization with a far-reaching impact and a very different mission for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism

In 1971, a compassionate, driven woman organized a picket line to protest the deplorable living conditions for over 5,000 residents in the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, NY. At the time, Willowbrook was the nation’s largest institution serving children with development disabilities, and it had fallen into massive disrepair due to budget cuts. 

That woman was Victoria Schneps Yunis. Her daughter Lara had been diagnosed with severe brain damage at an early age, and as a result she was among Willowbrook’s residents. Victoria and others advocated vigorously for the rights of those residents. One year later, their advocacy would result in a scathing investigative news report by television reporter Geraldo Rivera. His “Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace” report exposed the institution’s horrendous conditions, igniting widespread public outcry and ultimately forcing Willowbrook’s closure. 

For Victoria, this closure was just the beginning, and her efforts would result in the founding of Life’s WORC, an organization with a far-reaching impact and a very different mission for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism. Life’s WORC purchased its first group home in Little Neck, Queens with its first residents being former Willowbrook residents. Throughout decades that followed, Life’s WORC expanded its reach and opened more group homes. There are now 45 beautiful residences located in Manhattan, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk.​

Life’s WORC residents benefit from a person-centered approach, providing clinical services, emotional care and other supports needed for their personal fulfillment and well-being today and into the future. To complement its Residential Services, Life’s WORC offers Behavioral Analysis Services, Community Habilitation, Customized Employment Services, Day Habilitation, School-Based Services, and Respite and Family Support Services.​

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are well known to those serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and are truly the backbone of Life’s WORC. However, outside of the IDD field, the title of DSP is not as recognized, despite the fact that the work performed by a DSP is immensely valued by people supported and their families. 

DSPs assist the people they serve with achieving their personal goals, which may include activities of daily living, and help them participate in programs that further enhance their life skills while ensuring a safe and comfortable environment. Although it is a paid position, many DSPs are fulfilling a personal mission to help people in need and become like family to those they work with and their families. 

In the current economy and labor shortage, a DSP could easily go work for more money in fast-food, retail or an office environment. We are so lucky that many of our DSPs choose to stick it out and remain committed to us – all for the sake of the people we support and their families. We are forever grateful and are privileged to have hundreds of DSPs working at Life’s WORC. To learn more about career opportunities at Life’s WORC or to support them, please visit their website:

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