Dan LukensIn 1998, Camp Venture’s principal founder and Executive Director, Kathleen Lukens died and her son, Daniel Lukens was named as the agency’s Chief Executive.

Early in his tenure, Daniel Lukens and the Board of Directors set the agency on a new course.  Though very much invested in the tenets established by the founder, Mr. Lukens, John Murphy and the Camp Venture Board of Directors shifted the strategic plan toward a focus on quality improvement.  New residences like the Provident House, a children’s residence were created, but the emphasis moved from growing the agency’s programs to a priority for serving the people in the agency’s care better.  The Venture Center program was converted from a Day Treatment to a Day Habilitation program to facilitate more active and more community-oriented programming, and the program census dropped from a peak of over 250 to just over 100.  Sites including the Venture Academy, Venture Oak, the Zebrowski Center and the Strayton Center were created as smaller, community Day program sites.

Seven of the older large residences were down-sized to offer a more personal and individualized lifestyle to nearly half of the agency’s residence population.  And other programs were adapted at this time to meet the changing needs of the agency family.

Camp Venture resident holding Dolly Downs DollIn more recent years, many of the agency’s new programs are respite programs and related services designed to help support people with developmental disabilities living with their families.  In addition to the long standing Venture Good Neighbor After-School program, three new after-school sites were added in 2007.  The In-Home Respite and Residential Habilitation program, which began as a Camp Venture Service Coordinator’s informal assistance to a family, expanded to over 70 people in 2008 and continues to grow.

In the Summer of 2008, Camp Venture launched its Club Venture Saturday program.

From a tradition of parent advocacy, the founders of Camp Venture launched not only an agency, but also an intrepid struggle for acceptance and inclusion for our community’s citizens with developmental disabilities.  Innovative programs, projects and community awareness grew the agency, and expanded opportunities and the imagination of the public mind as to what our people could do and how they might be better served.  Programs were created and then they were recreated as the dream for a better, more personal life was renewed, and our focus re-shifted to the people already in our care.

And finally, from a parent’s group to an agency with a renewed commitment to people with developmental disabilities living with their families, Camp Venture has come full circle.

Summer Camp signlCamp Venture today is an organization serving more than 1,200 people, with over 600 paid staff working at program sites across our community.  Our investment in quality and our commitment to serve those most in need in our community has earned us the esteem of our families, our clients and our field.

Our modest administrative overhead and our corporate integrity have earned us the respect of our government partners, regulators and community leaders.  We have become an effective professional agency and yet, we are still a uniquely personal organization.

From a history marked by struggle, we look ahead yet again toward uncertain economic times.  Indeed, if there is a purpose for us in recollection and reflection, let it be to remind us of what we have done before in the face of adversity.  Most importantly, let us never forget that whereas corporations and the edifices and fortunes of industry and government rise and fall, families endure.  Heroes come and go, but the love of ordinary people and their commitment to their children, their neighbor’s children, and their investment in the nobler aspect of our common purpose, go on undaunted.

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2008 Rockland County Autism Symposium Venture Foundation Address
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