The early months of 2015 have proven to be quite fruitful for the Garden City-headquartered Life’s WORC/Family Center For Autism. The center was given an opportunity that few local, community nonprofit agencies ever experience.
As the 14th Season of the NBC reality game show Celebrity Apprentice kicked off on the first Sunday of the new year, the stars appeared to be lining up in favor of Life’s WORC (lifesworc.org) and The Family Center For Autism (thefamilycenterforautism.org). Life’s WORC was established 44 years ago by Queens newspaper publisher Victoria Schneps with help from broadcast journalist icon Geraldo Rivera as a means of providing services to some 1400 people with developmental disabilities in eastern Queens, Nassau County and western Suffolk. The Family Center For Autism established a year ago offers a unique training, educational curriculum for autistic people and their family members.
It just so happens that West Babylon native Geraldo Rivera, who’s known for his advocacy of the developmentally disabled community from the time when he worked as an investigative reporter at WABC, was one of the celebrity competitors on this latest edition of the show. Every celebrity contestant gets to select a charitable cause that will benefit from their efforts during this television tournament. The Garden City nonprofit wound up getting picked by Rivera as his charity of choice to compete for.
“Life’s WORC is so gratified that Geraldo elected us,” explains Executive Director Janet Koch.
As the weeks ensued it was a knock-down, back-biting, teeth-gnashing scenario where the veteran journalist’s drive and survival instincts were on full display as he was put through the paces and tests by Celebrity Apprentice host Donald Trump.
“Geraldo carried out his assignments with such passion and devotion as his recognition that everything he was doing was helping Life’s WORC,” Koch said. “In the past, Geraldo has attended many of our fundraisers including an annual golf tournament which he personally spearheads. He always talks up our agency among the many movers and shakers he encounters.”
Rivera was able to raise $725,000 for Life’s WORC/Family Center For Autism besides providing invaluable identification and branding for the nonprofit on this national television network week after week.
“Geraldo has given Life’s WORC/Family Center For Autism a magic key of opportunity that many other non-profits dream about,” Koch explained.
She pointed out that Rivera’s accomplishment has come at a critical period for the organization since New York State funding has become increasingly difficult to secure.
When this celebrity slugfest came down to Rivera and television personality Leeza Gibbons, Trump chose Gibbons as the winner. However, the real estate mogul acknowledged how moved he was by Rivera’s spirit and determination to win for Life’s WORC.
For Life’s WORC Board Chairman Donald Barrick, the charity’s Celebrity Apprentice benefactor still came out on top in his eyes.
“Everyone involved with Life’s WORC/Family Center For Autism considers Geraldo a winner, even a saint for how he went all out for us,” Barrick said.