For more than fifteen years, the firm of Bryans and Gramuglia CPAs, LLC, has provided accounting services, auditing services, and general advice for the very specialized niche of not-for-profit business administration. John Bryans, Partner, has over thirty years of experience in his industry. He, along with his wife Jeanette and their family, are long-time supporters of Springbrook and our ongoing mission to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. When it was time to pick a keynote speaker for “An Evening of Music” in December of 2019, John and Jeanette were a natural fit in our eyes. After all, they have seen Springbrook evolve from the Upstate Home for Children in 2006, the expansion of the School at Springbrook to include the Tom Golisano Center for Autism, and the opening of new locations in Oneonta, Norwich, Binghamton, Johnson City, and Ithaca.
We asked John and Jeanette to share their remarks from that evening with our readers. We hope you can appreciate their passion for Springbrook as much as we appreciate them!
It was an incredible honor to speak with the audience at “An Evening of Music.” When [Springbrook CEO] Patricia Kennedy asked us to speak, we were initially shocked. Why would we be asked? We aren’t qualified to share the Springbrook story. That is usually eloquently delivered by a program participant, parent, or direct care worker, sharing experiences that show why Springbrook is the special place it is. There are a million success stories at Springbrook, but we decided that either Patricia was DESPERATE or she saw something special in our Springbrook story. Either way, we were eager to help.
The first time I spoke to a Springbrook audience was at an annual meeting in 2005. I was struck by the program for the day, including the naming of the Triumphant Life and Charles Belden Award recipients, Randy Santiago and Kari Phillips, respectively. Hearing Randy’s story of hardship in his days in New York City, and further how his partnership with Springbrook had resulted in education, housing security, strong work skills, and ultimately getting a job made a lasting impact on me.
Our firm, Bryans and Gramuglia, works almost exclusively with NFPOs with a specialization in agencies that serve the developmentally disabled. We serve clients primarily in New York, but also in PA and FLA. We perform assurance services (or audits) of Springbrook and its affiliates to assist the organization with numerous filings with its banks and various regulatory bodies including the NYS Education Department, the Office for Persons With Developmental Disabilities, the Office of Children and Family Services, NYS Attorney General, NYS Charities Bureau, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Departments Of Labor.
During these audits, we evaluate the internal controls and operating structure of the agency against best practices of similar types of organizations. What we find is that Springbrook is good — really good. It is well-run and profitable. And being profitable is OK — we WANT our not-for-profits to have excess revenue. Today’s gains are tomorrow’s reserves, decreasing reliance on government funding and allowing the organization to pursue new initiatives or subsidize needed programs that are not individually profitable.
Finances are what we CPAs understand, so in my mind, sound finances are a prerequisite to working with and donating to an organization. I like to see something else distinctive in an organization to feel good about partnering and giving to a charitable organization. Here are just a few of the ways that my family and I think that Springbrook is unique:
It moves me to see the PASSION of the VOLUNTEER board members of Springbrook, who selflessly govern and promote the agency. Board members who have traveled from all over New York State, without compensation, to be involved with the organization. And every time I think the organization can’t possibly replace their energetic board president, they find another superstar: From Jack Pitkin to Patricia O’Brien to John Anderson to Thomas Maggs — leaders just DO NOT come any better.
Secondly, there are several successful and profitable organizations out there that I have worked with where the CEO never leaves the administration wing of the building, and program participants still get everything they need. But for me, it touches my heart when I observe Springbrook’s CEO Patricia Kennedy and Chief Operating Officer Seth Haight interact with program participants, share a laugh, and know their name and some of their daily activities and involvements. I RARELY see that level of senior management interaction at other organizations, and I like it.
Finally, Springbrook has a sense of family, and THIS has always encouraged us to include our family. Jeanette and I have attended many diverse events over the years but the annual gala at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown has given us the most opportunity to introduce family and friends to Springbrook. Fortunately for us, the gala has also provided a chance to interact and get to know board members, parents, teachers, and program participants.
A Springbrook story we are fond of retelling is from one of the first galas we attended. The date fell on Mother’s Day weekend. We wanted to stick together as a family, so we decided to bring our children, Amelia, who was 11 and Patrick who was 7, along to the event. We ordered pizza for them, and they watched movies in the suite while we attended the gala downstairs, checking in on them occasionally during the evening. The next morning at breakfast, they were able to meet some of the staff and we had a wonderful time taking them to a Springbrook sponsored trip to the Fenimore Art Museum.
Now, many successive years later, Amelia, 27, and Patrick, 24, along with dates, have attended the gala as our guests, interacting as adults with staff and hearing firsthand the impact that Springbrook has made in participants’ lives. It is so rewarding for us to come full circle with our children and Springbrook. We are also proud that over the years, we have invited at least eight different couples to Springbrook’s Gala as our guests. We hoped that this effort would increase the size and diversity of Springbrook’s donor mailing list as well as introducing our friends to the organization so that they could experience some of the same Springbrook joy that we have come to know.
One overriding theme that I have heard from speaking with Springbrook parents and that has resonated with us is that we all want the best for our children. Every child has obstacles to overcome. Whether it is bullying, juvenile cancer, diabetes, autism, anxieties, physical or mental disabilities, parents are encumbered with helping their children through their issues. Some we can solve at home with the assistance of a medical journal or by utilizing the experience of a friend or family member. Other issues are more challenging to address and take the specialized services of physicians, counselors or an organization like Springbrook to solve. It is regrettable to think that any child is not able to reach his or her full potential because of a disability. We feel very blessed that our children’s problems and challenges were comparatively minor. It is with this blessing and gratitude in mind that we desire to help those parents who have tougher issues to tackle. Time and time again, we have heard from parents that Springbrook solves these challenges in a very pragmatic and loving way.
What we have given to Springbrook pales in comparison to what Springbrook has given to us. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share our Springbrook experiences with you from a beautiful evening shared with friends old and new.
Thank you, John, Jeanette, and your family and friends for this touching testimonial and affirmation of the support Springbrook provides.
Make this YOUR Springbrook Moment
John, Jeanette, and their family have dozens of Springbrook moments that have brought them together with the people we are proud to support. Make a donation today to make your next Springbrook moment one that will support services for a lifetime.