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OCO Family Care Program Changing Lives

Eight years ago, Diane Zeller began a new adventure, one that she never thought would bring her such joy and fulfillment. When Zeller heard about OCO’s Family Care Program she was intrigued by how the program benefited adults with a disability and eager to find out how she could get involved.

“I’ve always been very service driven,” said Zeller. “I have an innate desire to help others. The idea of welcoming a challenged adult to live in my home and helping them improve their quality of life resonated with me.”

After meeting with Family Care Program Coordinator Penny Foster-Pratt and hearing the details of the program, Zeller decided to serve as a host home and welcomed Mary into her life.

“After speaking with Penny, I knew I wanted to be involved with the Family Care Program,” said Zeller. “Mary was a perfect match! Penny made sure that Mary’s personality and demeanor would gel nicely with mine and my granddaughter Desa’s, who was living with me at the time. We felt very comfortable with each other and it wasn’t long before Mary became a part of our family.”

Mary now had a room of her own and a place to call home. The welcoming atmosphere and the presence of a caring companion helped Mary achieve accomplishments she never thought possible.

When Mary first moved in she was diabetic and, along with a daily insulin shot, she was taking a number of prescription medicines. Thanks to her new living conditions and Zeller’s concern for her health, Mary’s diabetic issues are a thing of the past.

“When Mary first came her activity level was quite low,” said Zeller. “Before moving in with us Mary was very sedentary and spent most of her time in her room. Living in a comfortable home environment provided Mary with an opportunity to be much more active. She helps with chores around the house and we occasionally go for a walk.”

While Mary’s health benefited from an increased activity level, it was the change in her diet that may have had the most impact on her diabetes. Zeller was very diligent about the food she was buying and preparing.

“I became a dedicated ‘label reader’ and I am very meticulous about the amount of sugar and salt in the foods I purchase. I now make almost everything from scratch! I’m able to control the ingredients and the levels of sugar and salt so that we are eating healthier meals and snacks. Having Mary has inspired me to do things I never thought I would, such as baking bread, making pasta, and canning fruits and vegetables,” explained Zeller.

After living with Zeller for 18 months Mary was no longer diabetic. She was free from daily blood sugar tests, insulin shots, and prescriptions for diabetes. Mary’s blood sugar levels remain spot on and she can enjoy an occasional cookie or piece of cake without it being a bad thing.

In addition to improving her health, involvement in OCO’s Family Care Program helped Mary reach an achievement she always dreamed of - playing the piano. Thanks to the encouragement she received from Zeller, Mary’s dream has come true.

“Mary told me she wanted to play piano but doubted she could learn,” said Zeller.  “I told her I was confident she could do so and Mary began taking lessons at our home. She not only realized her dream of playing the piano, she also performed in recitals with other piano students. Mary practices every day and enjoys playing her favorite Christmas songs throughout the holiday season.”

“Moments like these, when you realize that you are making such a positive impact on someone’s life, is what makes my role in the Family Care Program as a host home provider so rewarding,” added Zeller. “It’s a joy having Mary with me.”

OCO’s Family Care program is a NYS OMH certified residential program for adults with a disability. Through its host homes OCO’s Family Care program provides these individuals the opportunity to lead an active lifestyle and interact in their community.

Host home providers receive training and support on issues such as effective communication, special diet and medications, CPR, first aid, 24-hour staff support, and semi-annual respite. Residents also enjoy a high level of case management and support. Host home providers may either own or rent their homes and receive $861 monthly and $150 quarterly per resident. For more information on the OCO Family Care Program call Penny Foster-Pratt at 315-402-2661 or visit

Scenes from OCO's Annual Meeting April 9, 2019

Circles of Security changed our lives
Circles of Security is topic of Annual Meeting guest speakers
Congratulations to Whelahan Award winner
Diane Cooper-Currier and Ron Darrow
Finance Director recognized for service
Howard Wilcox Volunteer of the Year Award presented to John Zanewych
New Board Members welcomed
OCO Ex Dir Diane Cooper-Currier and retiring Board of Directors Treasurer Ron Darrow