Around 1978 Dr. Arnie Goldfuss, an East Stroudsburg University (ESU) professor of Kinesiology, and his wife Nancy became the first parents in Monroe County with a child diagnosed with autism. Their only child Jeff has been at the forefront of service issues in the county since that time. The Goldfuss family struggled alone to understand autism, what it was doing to their son and family. They also struggled to find appropriate services to enable the best outcome for Jeff. Since recreation opportunities weren’t readily available Arnie arranged with ESU to create a Swim and Gym program for special populations. He led this activity allowing Jeff and many local people with other disabilities to get some exercise once a week.
In early 1996 Mrs. Sandy Pizzola, a caseworker for the Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MH/MR) office for Monroe, Carbon and Pike Counties found that her growing caseload included 37 clients with a diagnosis relating to autism. One of the issues that was repeated was that there wasn’t any support group in the area. The closest was the Lehigh Valley Chapter of Autism Society of America (ASA). A few families from the Pocono area would make the hour or more trip to Allentown. Sandy asked Arnie who was on local sabbatical at the time, if would be willing to hold a meeting for all of these people if she sent out the invitations. That meeting held in April 1996 was attended by 35 participants. The group decided to continue monthly meetings.
The location of our meetings at ESU is based upon the availability of multiple rooms and the availability of free childcare provided by the ESU Council for Exceptional Children during our meetings. Most of these ESU students are underclassmen in the Special Education Department.
After returning from sabbatical in 1997 Arnie found that he was too busy to effectively lead the group but he continued as an active supporter. Bob Dellicker assumed the leadership role in May 1997 at the urging of several participants. At this time the group decided to try to establish themselves as an ASA chapter. Being a chapter would bring us under their corporate umbrella and enable us to more effectively solicit contributions from businesses. On the face of it this seemed easy enough, all we needed was 10 ASA members and to follow the ASA Bylaws.
We found 15 ASA members, established our area and petitioned the ASA Membership Director for a chapter application package in November 1997. Upon reading the detailed requirements included in the ASA Bylaws and standards for Chapter bylaws the active participants had second thoughts. Only ASA members would be allowed to vote. Leadership turnover was mandatory every 2 years. For a group that had about 70 participants and a low percentage of them eager to be ASA members this was difficult to deal with. We sought out other options.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area had a new group called S.A.F.E. which was accepting chapters. We contacted them for more information and they provided the information that they used to become independently incorporated and the bylaws which governed chapters. They were a non-member organization run by a board of directors. Their bylaws listed multiple board members from the home organization and allowed for one voting board member for a chapter. In addition a portion of all fundraising proceeds had to go to the home organization. Again the core of active participants thought there were better options. It was decided to check out incorporating independently.
At this time the participants from the Milford area of Pike County decided to split off and form Pike Autistic Support System (PASS) and eventually became a chapter of S.A.F.E. Their rationale was based upon the distance and the difficulty of traveling the stretch of US209 through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area at night.
In 1999 we contacted a lawyer referred by the Monroe County Bar Association, Marc Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe recommended incorporation as a non-member corporation due to ease of management. One of the key reasons was the elimination of a requirement for an annual general meeting for elections and the requirement for a quorum and prior notice involved in that meeting. He provided the general rules for such a corporation and some advice on writing a mission statement and bylaws. Once provided with our proposed mission statement and bylaws he wrote the articles of incorporation from them and arranged for the appropriate advertising and filings. The original Board members consist of just 4 officers: Bob Dellicker, President; Arnie Goldfuss, Vice President; Beth Dellicker, Secretary; and Walt Olenick, Treasurer. On July 10th 2000 we were registered with the PA Department of State as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. In October 2003 accountant Catherine Trinkle helped us submit a determination letter application and forms to the IRS to be registered as a tax exempt charitable organization which was achieved January 5th 2004.
So now Pocono Autism Society, Inc. is run by volunteer officers in their spare time. These officers make it a point to subscribe to a large variety of information sources for autism and disseminate significant items of interest to our mailing list. We also act as a point of contact for state, regional and local agencies and organizations to communicate to the local autism community announcing opportunities, conferences and services. We hold 8 meetings per year. Prior to each we send announcements and the minutes of the previous meeting out to the mailing list. In between meetings we send out time critical information to the email recipients on our mailing list. We maintain a web site with a listing of resources and service providers for our area which we struggle to keep current due to phenomenal turnover in this field. In March 2005 we started a Yahoo! Group “poconoautism” which allows local discussions between meetings. This internet group now has 22 members but is not as active as we’d hoped.
Our meetings are split between those dedicated primarily to group discussions and those which have guest presentations. All meetings provide a rundown of local announcements and some open discussion.
Updated on: 03-Oct-2015