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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Pathlight, a pioneering organization serving people in Western Mass. with developmental and intellectual disabilities, today named human services leader John Roberson as its new executive director.

Throughout his career, Roberson has designed and implemented programs tailored to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families. He brings an extensive background in leadership and operations for community-based residential programs and a passion for improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and special needs.

“On behalf of the board of directors and the entire Pathlight organization, I am pleased to announce that John Roberson is joining us as our new executive director,” said Hank Drapalski, chair of the board. “We feel privileged to have a leader of his experience, character and integrity guiding Pathlight into the future.”

Most recently, Roberson was vice president of Children & Families for the Center for Human Development (CHD), where he was responsible for management of a $25 million annual budget and expansion of services with local, state and federal agencies for a division that provides housing, child development, behavioral health and court guided support services.

Prior to becoming vice president, he served in a variety of capacities including managing two large residential facilities as CHD’s director of Juvenile Justice Programs. Previously, he was a lead treatment supervisor for the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, where he supervised treatment staff and developed treatment programs for inmates housed in the Pre-Release Center.

“I am honored to be selected as Pathlight’s next Executive Director,” said Roberson. “I am looking forward to working to advance Pathlight’s mission to assist people with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, and autism in reaching their full human potential.”

Roberson is a member of the Child Welfare League of America and the American Correctional Association. He has served as a board member of the Correctional Association of Massachusetts, the Restorative Justice Collaborative of Hampden County, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence. He holds an M.S. from Cambridge College in Springfield.

He will assume his responsibilities as Executive Director of Pathlight on May 2.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Pathlight’s executive director, Ruth Banta, announced her retirement after almost 20 years with the organization. Pathlight, established in 1952 and headquartered in Springfield, is a pioneer in services for children, teens, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the four counties of Western Mass.

Banta came to Pathlight in 2003 and served 14 years as its chief financial officer and vice president of Administration. She was named executive director in 2016. In her tenure as executive director, she has led Pathlight through a period of growth, as well as steering it through the rocky waters of a global pandemic.

“I have been proud to be able to continue the growth and innovation that has been the hallmark of Pathlight since its founding in 1952,” said Banta, who first encountered Pathlight as a parent when the organization supported her son with autism.

Some of the highlights of her tenure as director include revenue growth of 14% and 22% growth in net assets, leaving Pathlight in a strong financial position.

Under her leadership, Pathlight created the first program in this part of the state to serve an individual in a community residence who needed full-time ventilator support. Pathlight also acquired 13.5 acres of previously state-owned land to replace two antiquated community homes with three modern, five-bedroom homes for people with intellectual disabilities.

The Milestones day program, located in Hadley, grew by 55%, while there was a 100% increase in adult services through Family Support and Autism Connections. Banta also supported the development of an innovative sexuality and relationship curriculum through Whole Selves.

Most recently, she oversaw the purchase of a new building in Northampton to house programs in Hampshire County, including Whole Children, Milestones, and Family Empowerment. She also supported infrastructure developments for remote services and work, electronic health records, and online training.

“My career and life have been so enriched by all the members of the Pathlight community over the past two decades,” Banta said. “I look forward to the next phase of my life and continuing to see the growth and innovation at Pathlight.”

Hank Drapalski, president of the Pathlight board of directors, has worked with Banta since her early days at Pathlight and said that she has a well-deserved reputation for her depth of knowledge and level of skill.

“Ruth has committed herself wholeheartedly to our organization and has accomplished many great things during her career with Pathlight,” he said. “The entire board will miss her — Ruth has been wonderful to work with — and we all hope she will have many years of enjoyment ahead of her in retirement.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Kayombo Kamawu, a longtime administrator and advocate in the human-services field, was recently tapped by Pathlight to join its leadership team as vice president of Residential Supports.

Pathlight, established in 1952, is a pioneer in services for children, teens, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the four counties of Western Mass.

Prior to joining Pathlight, Kamawu served as vice president of Adult Services at the Kennedy-Donovan Center, where he was responsible for residential, day, and community Services, including shared living, family-support centers, and individual/supported living. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer and management information systems.

“We are thrilled to have Kayombo join Pathlight as we look forward to a post-COVID era,” said Ruth Banta, executive director. “His deep experience supporting people with disabilities makes him a key addition to our talented team.”

Kamawu has also served in various leadership capacities in community-based day supports, employment, and day habilitation service lines. He prides himself in developing strong teams and enjoys the hands-on experience gathered while working with those teams.

“Pathlight is a forward-thinking leader in this industry, and being a part of the team is a privilege,” he said. “I see this opportunity as a way to contribute to Pathlight’s greater mission: helping everyone, of all abilities, reach their full potential. I hope to sprinkle some of my out-of-the-box thinking on an already-solid foundation.”

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Pathlight, a local organization that supports people with developmental disabilities and those with autism throughout Western Mass., is moving from its longtime space on North Street in Pittsfield to bigger quarters at 75 South Church St.

The move, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21, allows Pathlight to better support its programs in the Berkshires. Pathlight’s Autism Connections as well as its Shared Living and Adult Family Care programs are growing in response to community demand.

Autism Connections offers workshops, social-skills groups, and support groups, as well as recreation opportunities, to people with autism and their caregivers. The program’s autism specialists also work individually with families in their homes.

In Pathlight’s Shared Living and Adult Family Care programs, a community member shares their home and provides support for a person with an intellectual disability or autism.

“We are excited to expand our space in Pittsfield to better serve families in Berkshire county,” said Ruth Banta, Pathlight’s executive director. “The demand for new supports and services has been growing, and this is the first step in responding to those needs.”

The new office space features a large activity room, several meeting rooms, and a kitchen. The space will host community activities, including education workshops on a host of issues, social-skills groups for people with autism, and support groups for families caring for a person with autism.

In the future, Pathlight plans to offer recreational and performing-arts classes for children and teens of all abilities.

Pathlight is one of the state’s oldest organizations serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in its residential, day, and recreation programs throughout Western Mass. In addition to its Pittsfield location, Pathlight has offices in Springfield, Easthampton, Greenfield, and Hadley.

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