Making A Dream A Reality

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Spectrum Designs opens its doors

Co-founder Stella Spanakos speaks to the crowd, with co-founders Nicole Sugrue and Patrick Bardsley. (Photo by Christina Claus)

It has taken a lot of hard work, significant fundraising and persistence to make the dream a reality, but Spectrum Designs finally has a new headquarters in the heart of Port Washington, located at 366 Main St. The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new building occurred on March 23, bringing the media and government representatives to gather at this momentous accomplishment, which provides a new hope for the autistic community.

Spectrum Designs is a social enterprise that provides meaningful work opportunities to individuals with autism. The enterprise brings its items to life by using screen printing, embroidery, state-of-the-art digital printing and unsurpassed customer service. Spectrum Designs employs full- and part-time adult staff, with approximately 75 percent of staff diagnosed with autism or a related condition. It is an integrated workforce with employees earning minimum wage or above depending on education, skill set, experience and general performance. In partnership with the Nicholas Center, Spectrum Designs opens its doors to another 27 school-aged trainees who receive authentic vocational training and work-readiness skills every week.

“Today marks a great victory for the autism community, as where once there was fear and uncertainty, there now stands hope and promise for a brighter future,” said Nicole Sugrue, co-founder and executive director of the Nicholas Center and co-founder of Spectrum Designs. “This magnificent building represents the hard work and tireless efforts of so many individuals. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish to say thank you to the residents of Port Washington for welcoming us so warmly into your incredible town. We promise to uphold the integrity and inclusiveness this beautiful community represents. Yes, today marks a great day indeed as the autism community has successfully woven itself into the fabric of a real community in a very beautiful and meaningful way.”

The ceremony commenced with the raising of the American Flag, as well as a Spectrum Designs flag by the Manhasset Girl Scouts and the co-founder and director of development of the Nicholas Center and co-founder of Spectrum Designs Stella Spanakos. The Spectrum Designs plaque was unveiled, and local politicians, including New York State Senator Elaine Phillips, Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Town Clerk Wayne Wink, Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, and Fred Pollack, representing Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, gave proclamations and citations to Spectrum Designs.

“I think it was about 22 months ago we walked up these steps and through these doors as co-founders for the first time and looked at this beautiful building that had been on the market for a little while,” said Patrick Bardsley, co-founder and CEO of Spectrum Designs and co-founder of the Nicholas Center. “I remember Stella saying, ‘Buy your lottery tickets, everyone.’ But it turned out we didn’t need to buy lottery tickets. We were surrounded by some of the most supportive customers, donors and friends anyone could ask for.”

“We have two amazing boards of directors that work endlessly, an amazing group of politicians, each and every one of them was a very important link to get us to where we are today,” added Spanakos. “Each and every one of you helped make the impossible a reality and I’m just beyond grateful.”

—With additional reporting by Christina Claus

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Elizabeth Johnson is editor of Manhasset Press and Port Washington News, special features including the Business Quarterly column, Manhasset Magazine, Pride In Port, Port Washington News, Port Gift Guide and other special sections. Growing up in nearby Garden City and attending New York University, she is well-versed in the locale and knowledgeable about the beat she covers. Her community involvement is extensive and includes the Manhasset SCA, Kiwanis International, Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, St. Mary’s Church, and various civic and local charitable organizations. Curious by nature, her travels, community service, love of the arts as well as local sports give her the inside view to unique content. During her time at Anton, she has received several awards from the New York Press Association and the Press Club of LI, including the coveted "Best Community newspaper" several years in a row.

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