Archived News & Events - June 2019

June 27, 2019

Welcome New Foundation Board Members

Shola Oguntunde

Shola Oguntunde, Partner Advisory Services, Ernst & Young, LLP

Malik Brown

Malik Brown, MBA, Vice President, Talent & Strategic Partnerships, The Graduate! Network

The Merakey Foundation welcomes Shola Oguntunde and Malik Brown as new members of its Board of Directors.

A graduate of Temple University, Shola is a Partner of Advisory Services at Ernst & Young, LLP. While easygoing by nature, he is respected as a credible voice in decision making and establishing governance boundaries.

Malik, a graduate of Clark University, serves as Vice President, Talent & Strategic Partnerships at The Graduate! Network, Inc. He is a passionate advocate and champion of social and economic mobility for non-traditional learners.

The Merakey Foundation is excited to have new members on the Board, helping to continue its mission of supporting the individuals and programs at Merakey.

June 21, 2019

Getting to Know Merakey in California

On June 21, CEO Joe Martz, Vice President of Administrative and Professional Services for IDD Services Sherri Portnoy, Senior Executive Director for Quality and Administration Beth Caraccio, Regional Program Director Jennifer Hampton, and more than 20 staff members hosted an open house of Merakey’s new home for individuals with IDD in San Marcos, CA. Neighbors, families of individuals receiving services, and other stakeholders were welcomed and given tours of our new home and to address questions. Family members were especially grateful for the opportunity to meet with staff and Joe since they are entrusting their loved one into our care. Individuals and staff are excited to move into the home and to begin providing exceptional services.

CA Open House
Left to right: Merakey staff Brandon, Beth Caraccio, Lori Sorenson from San Diego Regional Center, Merakey staff Nick, Jennifer Hampton, and Joe Martz
CA Open House
Staff members welcome Joe Martz and Sherri Portnoy to their new office
CA Open House
Merakey DSP Alex and Program Administrator Michelle
CA Open House
Family members of individuals we will support and Jennifer Hampton
June 21, 2019

Kayla and Janna Teach Sign Language

Over the course of six weeks, Janna and Kayla from Merakey Allegheny Valley School in Pittsburgh helped lead a basic sign language course to the members of Lifespan in Imperial. Both Janna and Kayla have intermediate-advanced sign language skills. At each class, they helped introduce a new lesson while also reviewing the lesson from the prior week. Kayla and Janna developed friendships with the members of Lifespan and grew closer with each other from this experience. The members of Lifespan were very grateful to Janna and Kayla for teaching the class. At the end of the six weeks, they celebrated the completion of their class with an ice cream social.

Sign LanguageSign Language
Sign LanguageSign Language
June 21, 2019

Merakey Parkside Recovery and the Philadelphia Encampment Project

On June 14, Parkside Recovery staff were recognized for their involvement in the Philadelphia Encampment Project. This was a city-wide initiative to help those struggling at encampment sties get into treatment and short-term housing. The project involved multiple agencies and lasted over two months. Staff from Merakey Parkside Recovery were at the encampment sites every day engaging with individuals and transporting them to programs. Special thank you to Engagement Specialist Chauncey Stokes, Intake Specialist Celestine Gregg and Certified Peer Specialist Lisa Hutt for their daily involvement in the project.

Parkside Recovery Recognition
Parkside Recovery Recognition
June 14, 2019

Special Guests Visit Merakey Bucks County

On June 11, CEO Joe Martz and CFO Derrick Yacovelli stopped by the Merakey Bucks County Case Management Department to thank them for their continued commitment to individuals supported throughout the county. During their visit, they met Glendeda Worley (pictured to Joe’s left), a Case Manager who has been with Merakey for an incredible 29 years. Glendeda expressed her passion for the job she has done for almost three decades. The entire Case Management team was thankful for Joe’s and Derrick’s personal visit and expressions of gratitude.

Bucks CM Dept with Joe Martz

June 14, 2019

50th Anniversary Employee Spotlight Campaign – Georgann Amrhein


Many employees have been with Merakey for quite a number of years, and they deserve a special spotlight for all their hard work and dedication! Look for more employee spotlights in The Pulse, on digital signage, and on Facebook!

Residential Service Director Georgann Amrhein has worked with Merakey Allegheny Valley School for an incredible 29 years. “I work here to make a difference in the lives of the ladies and gentlemen that receive Merakey’s quality care.” Georgann said about her time with Merakey.

Her favorite memory with Merakey was when she escorted one of her clients to Memphis during “Elvis Week”. It was the trip of a lifetime not only for the individual, but for Georgann as well.

The core value that means the most to Georgann is COMPASSION. Working at Merakey has taught Georgann to love unconditionally and that every day is a gift.

Thank you, Georgann, for putting your heart and soul into exceptional care and services!

June 14, 2019

Let’s Get Phy-Zoo-Cal!

The Merakey Foundation Junior Board hosted a fitness fundraiser at the Philadelphia Zoo on Saturday, June 8. Let's Get Phy-Zoo-Cal was the final fundraising activity for the Junior Board’s inaugural year.

The spring fundraising campaign, which was comprised of the “pop up” fitness classes in April, their partnership with Philly Pretzel Factory to recognize Autism Awareness Month, and this most recent fitness event, raised over $25,000 for Merakey Autism and Education Programs. This achievement is HUGE, and they could not have done this without the support of Merakey employees and other stakeholders that remain committed to Merakey’s mission.

Let's Get Phy-Zoo-Cal | June 8, 2019!
June 7, 2019

Merakey Foundation’s 21st Annual Golf Classic

On a sunny and beautiful Monday, the Merakey Foundation’s 21st Annual Golf Classic was a hole in one! More than a hundred golfers came out on June 3 to Whitemarsh Valley Country Club in Whitemarsh, and the ACE Club in Lafayette Hill, PA to support the Foundation and the services provided at Merakey. Whitemarsh Valley Country Club hosted a dinner after everyone enjoyed 18 holes of golf. At the end of the day, the Merakey Foundation raised more than $277,000 in support of Merakey’s programs.

This year’s event focused on Merakey’s Foster Care services and individuals aging out of the programs. The Foundation’s funding offers the ability to provide a college semester of tuition and books, rent for two months after leaving the program, and other everyday resources. Attendees at dinner welcomed special guest Alisa Verratti, a young woman who founded Make a Wave Inc, a non-profit organization that collects donations for children of all ages within the foster care system. Michelle Buzard, TFC/FCP Practice Leader, also spoke on behalf of Merakey foster care services and the need for increased funding and awareness.

Channel 6 Action News and CBS 3 joined us at the golf outing to further share our mission with viewers in Philadelphia and surrounding counties.

Special thanks to Foundation Board Chairman Mike Mitchell, CEO Joe Martz, members of the Merakey Foundation and Parent Boards, and all the contributors for their incredible support over the past 21 years, helping to raise more than $3 million for Merakey programs and individuals. Click here to view pictures from the day of the event!

Golf Classic 2019
June 7, 2019

Board Chairman Visits Merakey Programs

CEO Joe Martz, Chairman of the Merakey Board of Directors Robert (Bobby) Nix III, and his brother, Jude Nix visited the Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities programs in Russelton, PA on May 30. During their visit, they had the opportunity to see the basketball court, donated by Bobby and named on his behalf. The individuals and staff members in the program were thrilled to meet the man who donated the court.

Bobby NixBobby Nix
Bobby Nix
June 7, 2019

LGBTQ+ Pride Month


LGBTQ+ Pride Month is celebrated during the month of June every year to recognize the 1969 Stonewall riots and any other event that helps achieve equal justice and opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. The Stonewall riots were the beginning of a movement to ban discriminatory laws and practices against the LGBTQ+ community. This month is a time to advocate for inclusive practices in all settings for all Americans regardless of sexual/gender identity.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), LGBTQ+ youth are nearly three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition, such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. Merakey’s IDD Division established guidance in support of people using our services to develop relationships, receive sexuality education, and support gender identification in the hopes of lowering the likelihood of LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing a mental health challenge. Merakey wishes a happy Pride Month to all individuals and staff!

To learn more about Pride Month, please visit

June 7, 2019

OMHSAS Planning Council - Adult Committee Co-Chair Appointment


On May 28 Karen Morton, Merakey’s Residential Services Practice Leader, was appointed as Co-Chair of the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) Mental Health Planning Council (MHPC): Adult Committee. The two-year term also includes membership to the MHPC Executive Council.

The OMHSAS Planning Council is currently comprised of three committees and two subcommittees: Children’s Behavioral Health Committee, Adult Behavioral Health Committee, Older Adult Behavioral Health Committee, Persons in Recovery Subcommittee, and Youth Subcommittee. The Youth Subcommittee provides youth representation to the Children’s and Adult Behavioral Health Committees. These committees advise on a broad behavioral health mandate to include, but not be limited to, mental health, substance abuse, behavioral health disorders, and cross-system disability.

The Planning Council directly advises the Deputy Secretary and links to the OMHSAS Bureau of Quality Management and Data Review, the Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities (MH/ID) Advisory Committee, and Department of Human Services (DHS) committees, including the Medical Assistance Advisory Committee (MAAC), the Consumer Subcommittee of the MAAC, the DHS Children’s Bureau, and the DHS Cultural Competency Committee.

Congratulations, Karen, on this achievement, and for representing Merakey in this important role.

June 7, 2019

Merakey Cheers on the Pittsburgh Pirates

Hundreds of Merakey individuals, staff members, friends, and family members gathered at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA on May 30 to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Milwaukee Brewers. Although the final score was not in the home team’s favor, it was a fun evening for all!

Thank you to the Pittsburgh Pirates for donating 300 game tickets through the generosity of Major League Baseball Commissioner's Community Initiative and the Major League Baseball Players Association's Players Give Back program. During the game, Merakey CEO Joe Martz, CFO Derrick Yacovelli and Vice President of Administrative and Professional Services, IDD Services Sherri Portnoy visited the groups in the ball park.

The same evening, Merakey AVS hosted a gathering in the World Series Suites. To kick off the 5th annual event, guests cheered on Benjamin Pollon as he threw out the honorary first pitch. Ben is the son of Merakey Foundation Board Member Dorothy Pollon. Ben was joined on the field for his pitch by Joe Martz, Board Chairman Bobby Nix and brother Jude Nix, Derrick Yacovelli, Sherri Portnoy and Executive Director, Development and Communications Dorothy Gordon.

We are grateful to the following underwriters who helped to make the Merakey AVS Night at the Pirates possible:

  • Blackburn’s/Har-kel
  • Climatech
  • Dan Taylor Interiors, Inc.
  • Delta-T Group
  • Flag Star Nursing
  • Guardian Protection
  • In honor of Chris, Ken, Kregg, and Carl from Fox
  • Kathy and Joe Martz
  • Donna and Terry McNelis
  • Mongiovi & Son
  • Carol and Richard Patterson
  • The Pollon Family
  • Event Donors: Janocha Construction and McElroy Paving Co., Inc.

Proceeds from the Merakey AVS Night at the Pirates benefit the Capital Development Fund, helping to maintain and improve the services we provide to nearly 800 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Pennsylvania.

Merakey in Pittsburgh