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Honors go to individuals for making a difference

The 2013 Greater Rochester Awards honored 18 individuals and four organizations for their contributions to the area’s non-profits, including AutismUp Marketing & Development Director Lisa Ponticello and Honorary Gala Chair for 2012-2013, James Taylor of Taylor, The Builders profiled below. To read the full story, go to RBJ.

Lisa Ponticello
Starting and developing a non-profit organization is no easy task, and it’s even more challenging when the population to be served is leery of sharing information. So people might be surprised to see UNYFEAT grow rapidly-except for people who know Lisa Ponticello. Using her contacts and marketing skills, Ponticello succeeded in boosting trust from within as well as support from outside to shepherd what used to be known as Upstate New York Families for Effective Autism Treatment to exponential growth. When it began in 2004, it had four members. Today, as AutismUp, it has more than 1,200 families supporting relatives with autism spectrum disorders.

In her work as a volunteer and now as development director for AutismUp, Ponticello makes use of her background as the parent of a child with ASD and as a human resources manager for Chase Manhattan Bank and Canandaigua Wine Co. Although instrumental in marketing UNYFEAT, Ponticello also saw a need for change in response to the growth in autism diagnosis worldwide, which led to a total rebranding of the organization as AutismUp. The rebranding coincided with the organization’s major annual fundraiser in April, of which Ponticello was chairwoman. The rebranding was a success, and the 2013 event was the most successful to date, with proceeds of well over $200,000.

Ponticello is motivated to ensure that ASD families do not face isolation and a lack of options after the diagnosis. Her passion is to create opportunities for people with autism in the Rochester community. Supporters say she is a tireless advocate and her efforts give a voice to families who are too tired and overwhelmed to speak out on their own.

James Taylor
Many Rochester businesses give generously to support community organizations and to be a force for good. James Taylor of Taylor, the Builders, goes well beyond that level of community involvement in the way he leads his company, gives to the community and shares his life with others.

Taylor has helped AutismUp raise more than $400,000 over the last few years, with increases of 20 percent year over year. The group also has greatly increased its sponsor partners and their support. But Taylor does more than donate and raise money. He gets involved on a personal, hands-on level. For a rappelling fundraiser put on by the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts, Taylor raised five times the dollar amount required by participating himself. He has made a number of trips to developing countries, where his interactions with children and staff members at an orphanage help build both community and international relations at the same time. Taylor also pitched in with cleanup and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

Taylor puts in some 40 hours a month as a driver and certified first responder with Pittsford Volunteer Ambulance Inc. He also serves on the corps’ committees and pitches in to tackle repair projects himself that normally would be contracted out.

Supporters say Taylor’s community involvement is so extensive that they wonder when he gets any paying work done. His company website highlights and promotes the causes and organizations he believes in and supports, demonstrating a willingness to educate and advocate on behalf of others-and a clear-cut commitment to building a better Rochester.

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