Spectrum Designs opened a new facility on Friday, March 23 in Port Washington to create a meaningful workplace for young adults and teens with autism. Located at 366 Main Street, Spectrum Design’s new headquarters boasts a spacious and accessible environment for people of all abilities to work in.
A subsidiary of The Nicholas Center for Autism, Spectrum Designs specializes in producing quality garments such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants, tank tops, formal wear, work apparel, hats, bags, and more. The skilled staff at Spectrum are experts in every aspect of the garment industry, such as printing and embroidery. Spectrum Design’s customers are guaranteed quality products while supporting a noble cause.
Spectrum Designs’ new building is located on Manhasset Bay, with the Manhattan skyline looming visibly on the horizon. Throngs of onlookers watched and listened as directors from the Nicholas Center addressed the great achievement in opening such a prominent new building.
“This is an amazing day and I’m close to speechless,” Stella Spanakos said, the Nicholas Center’s Director of Development. “I’m going to leave you with these words – Saint Francis of Assisi said ‘Start by doing what is necessary, then what’s possible, and then before you know it you’re doing the impossible.’ Each and every one of you helped make the impossible a reality and I’m beyond grateful.”
Spanokos and her co-founders Nicole Sugrue and Patrick Bardsley founded the Nicholas Center for Autism, a non-profit organization so that her son Nicholas and other children on the autism spectrum can have a meaningful life with opportunity for personal growth and purpose. Spanokos dedicated the Nicholas Center in her late husband Paul C. Kitsos’ memory.
“There I was, facing the worst moment of anybody’s life – the death of my spouse,” she said. “When something like that happens and you’re faced with such adversity, I truly believe that’s when you’re defined as a person. Your options are to either wallow in self-pity or get up and do something, so that my husband’s life was not in vain and that Nicholas and all the kids in his class will have a future. I chose that path and came up with the concept for the Nicholas Center for Autism.”
Spectrum Design started in 2011 with the three co-founders and two teens with autism, equipped with just a single machine. Expansion and growth for the small organization was swift and over time, Nicholas’ classmates joined and thus the Spectrum team was assembled to a higher level than ever before.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank our staff of Nicholas Center and Spectrum Designs,” Sugrue said to the mass of spectators before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Today marks a great victory for the autism community because where there was once fear and uncertainty, there now stands hope and promise for a brighter future. This magnificent building represents the hard work and tireless efforts of so many individuals including all of you who are with us today. From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say thank you to the residents of Port Washington.”
The crowd grew in size and traffic on Main Street had to be blocked by police to accommodate the sizable audience.
“I think it was about 22 months ago when we walked up these steps and through these doors as co-founders for the first time and looked at this beautiful building,” Bardsley remembered. “We’re surrounded by some of the most supportive customers, donors, and friends anyone could ask for.”
“This building is dedicated to all those who believed this dream could come true and those who support our mission and vision every day,” Billy read, one of the young adults working at Spectrum Design. “Every person who passes through these doors takes a step towards a brighter future for people with disabilities. May we take our next steps together.”
Spectrum’s staff was joined by representatives of the Town of Hempstead and politicians who supported their cause such as New York State Senator Elaine Phillips, who granted the organization $100,000 for renovations after work on the building became a reality.
“This doesn’t just happen with presidents and directors, this happens because of everyone here standing, so thank you to the staff, thank you to the many, many people who have donated their time and resources to make this happen today,” Senator Phillips said to the crowd.
“We were totally out of space,” Bardsley said, explaining Spectrum’s need to relocate. “We’ve outgrown where we were at 1,500 square feet and were looking for more space. This 7,500 foot building was right under our nose, same side of the street.”
Spectrum Designs employs over two dozen full-time adult staff, many of whom have autism. The organization strives to reduce the unemployment rate in adults with autism, and provide them the most meaningful life possible.
“I was in school and one of my teachers introduced me to Spectrum,” Jeremy, a Spectrum employee said. “It’s really great and it’s like a big, huge family. I’m really excited [about the new location].”
Interested customers and donors can learn more and support Spectrum Designs and the Nicholas Center on spectrumdesigns.org.