Our Team

Board of Directors

Gregory J. Blass

Board Member

Gregory J. Blass currently serves as president of the board of directors of Aid to the Developmentally Disabled, d/b/a Rise Life Services. A graduate of Fordham Law School, he is a retired NYS Family Court judge, and was chief deputy commissioner and then commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services. He has also served as the Greenport Village Attorney, and maintained a private law practice for a number of years, licensed to practice in New York and Florida. He served six terms as a Suffolk County legislator, where he sponsored several local laws protecting the environment and improving public health and infrastructure, and where he also served as presiding officer.

Greg’s background in accounting and law, and as a former US Navy officer, contributes to his successful work in large organizations with complex missions. He was also an adjunct professor at Suffolk Community College, where he earned high ratings in student evaluations.

He has over the years served on the boards of directors of East End Hospice (EEH), the Hallockville Museum Farm, the Suffolk County Board of Health, the SC Industrial Development Agency, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Riverhead Lions Club. Fulfilling his passion to help guide the next generation, Greg has also chaired the Paumonauk District of the Boy Scouts of America, and continues volunteering each summer as a group co-leader at EEH’s Camp Good Grief.

Greg has served on Rise’s board of directors since 2014, including as chair of its personnel and by-laws committees, and as a member of the strategic planning committee, where his contributions have been far-reaching and irreplaceable.

Stephen W. Shybunko

Board Member

Stephen W. Shybunko is a multifaceted professional whose career spans diverse industries, showcasing his astute business acumen and commitment to community development. His journey as a visionary leader has been marked by impactful contributions across manufacturing, real estate, government consulting, and civic engagement.

In 1987, Stephen entered the aerospace industry, becoming a part owner and driving force behind an aircraft parts manufacturing and assembly facility. During his tenure, he not only steered the company’s sales from $1 million annually to an impressive $10 million but also orchestrated strategic acquisitions, expanded facilities, and redirected the company’s focus toward specialized aircraft assemblies. His tenure in this sector solidified his prowess in business growth and operational excellence.

Transitioning to commercial real estate, Stephen demonstrated a knack for identifying undervalued properties. With an acute eye for potential, he revitalized these assets, elevating their worth by enhancing physical structures, increasing rent rolls, and adeptly managing operating costs. His portfolio management skills shine through in his successful orchestration of property acquisitions, valuations, and sales totaling $40 million.

His expertise extended to government contracting, where he provided specialized consultancy services, leveraging his comprehensive understanding of intricate government procurement regulations. Stephen’s guidance enabled businesses to navigate and capitalize on prime contracting opportunities, reflecting his commitment to fostering partnerships and facilitating growth in both private and public sectors.

Stephen’s educational background from Duke University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, laid the foundation for his professional endeavors. However, his impact stretches far beyond his career achievements. His unwavering dedication to community and civic affairs, evident through roles in various organizations such as the Village of Old Field and the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, underscores his commitment to societal betterment.

His interests in scuba diving, cycling, and sports demonstrate a well-rounded persona, while his active involvement in his local church and homeowners’ association highlights his devotion to community service.

As a US citizen, devoted husband, and father of three, Stephen W. Shybunko embodies the essence of a well-rounded professional, a dedicated community leader, and a family-oriented individual. His legacy is one that seamlessly weaves together professional excellence, community service, and personal passions.

Donna Ferrara

Board Member

Donna Ferrara has been a member of the ADD/Rise Board for over 15 years. She was a member of the NYS Assembly representing the 15th Assembly District for 12 years from 1993 to 2005. She served as a Commissioner of the NYS Workers Compensation Board for 8 years from 2005 to 2013 and was Chair of the Board from 2006 to 2007. Donna Ferrara is currently an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association and has served in that position since 2014. She lives in Riverhead with her husband, Bob Gregory, and two children.

Donna Ferrara graduated with a BA in English from SUNY Albany in 1981. She is an attorney licensed to practice in NY, having earned her JD degree from St. John’s Law School in 1984.

Gerald Nichols

Board Member

Gerald (Jerry) Nichols has been engaged in public service for over 50 years, serving as director of the Babylon, Freeport, and Half Hollow Hills Libraries before directing Suffolk Cooperative Library System for fourteen years. At SCLS he oversaw the implementation of county-wide automation services, universal  internet access and the numerous library expansions in the county.

Since retiring in 2005 he has taught post-masters public administration courses for Long Island University and provided consultation in public library management, law, finance, and construction for the New York State Education Department and public libraries throughout the state.

Jerry has had a lifelong interest in providing opportunities for persons with disabilities since several of Jerry’s family members have contributed to, and benefited from, services to the developmentally disabled.

Particia Aubrey

Board Member

Patricia’s extensive background in education began as a special education teacher in a Delaware-based residential facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities. After relocating back to New York, Patricia pursued teaching in the Sachem Central School District where she worked at the high school teaching special education classes. After receiving her administrative credentials Patricia position as an assistant principal at the Sachem High School and then became the principal of Sachem’s Chippewa Elementary School in 1995 where she still works.

Patricia is married and lives in Stony Brook, NY with her husband Richard. Together they have 3 children. Their son, Michael, happily resides in one of the RISE Life Services residences in Riverhead.

Carmine Guida Jr.

Board Member

Carmine’s incredible intellect and drive was palpable at a very young age. Earning the “Presidential Scholarship” which gave him a tuition free education at St. Joseph’s College in Patchouge New York, Carmine was able to pursue his passion for accounting. He graduated St. Joseph in 2009 with a BS in Accounting. Prior to starting Basso & Guida, LLC. Carmine was an Accounting and Tax Manager for the one of Long Island premiere firms Grassi Accountants and Advisors, in Ronkonkoma, New York.

Before jumping into the service side of accounting, Carmine was the Director of Finance at Mason Technologies Inc, a leading Low Voltage integrator and City, State and Nationally Certified WBE, headquartered in New York. Hewaterre, Carmine lead Mason’s Accounting and HR departments, and was responsible for payroll oversight for over 200 employees; negotiations on all leases, contracts, and disputes; creating numerous policies and procedures; reviewing credit worthiness for prospective clients; and more.

His vast experience in accounting, HR and compliance makes him a notable asset to RISE’s Board of Directors.

Deirdre McCauley

Board Member

Deirdre McCauley came to the RISE board with the heart and mind of a nurse and the concern of a dedicated sister, as her own sister is an individual with special needs.After graduating Adelphi University with a BSN, Deirdre enjoyed a dynamic career in nursing, continuously rising through the hospital ranks. Ultimately, Deidre opted to leave her position as Assistant Head Nurse so she could relocate to Long Island, where she was recruited by various home healthcare agencies. It was here that Deidre’s skillset as a leader and mentor thrived as she trained hundreds of Home Healthcare nurses and staff members.

Before retiring Deidre helped develop home-based palliative care protocols for individuals and families to ensure that critically ill patients spent their final days surrounded by family and loved ones, and were able to go peacefully, with comfort, grace and dignity. Deidre brings incredible passion to the board, and her educated views consistently represent the best interests of the residents RISE serves, as well as the families that love and support them.

Jack Van de Wetering

Board Member

Jack Van de Wetering was born and raised in Holland. He came to the US with his family, at the tender age of 12, who began landscaping on Park Avenue in New York City. Incredibly, the Van de Wetering’s have been responsible for the malls and tulip gardens along the iconic NY road ever since. In addition to their unprecedented inspired contributions to New York’s floral gardens, Jack’s family owns Ivy Acre’s Farm in Calverton, NY, where they have began growing vegetables on the East End over 60 years ago.

Now a with a thriving multi-million dollar company, with over 800 employees, Jack spends much of his time helping to improve the East End, New York State, The Nation, and the World. Jack is an active fundraiser for numerous organizations, a Rotarian in Riverhead, and sits on the advisory board of the East End Arts council. His contributions to RISE Life Services have been numerous and his expertise, passion and dedication has set the standard for every board member that has joined since his appointment.

Angela De Vito

Board Member

Angela’s extensive experience in workforce development with protected populations began as the technical director for the University of Utah’s Division of Pulmonary Diseases, developing and providing career opportunities through the federal comprehensive education and training act [CETA] of the 1970’s; locating back to Long Island, Angela pursued program administration work, first at SUNY Stony Brook, then the Nassau- Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council, and finally with the Suffolk County Department of Labor where she still works part-time.

Angela was also an adjunct professor at Cornell’s Long Island based School of Industrial and Labor Relations.  Prior to her retirement from Suny Stony Brook, she served on the NYS Governor’s Asbestos Advisory Board, the NYS Special Commission for Workers’ Compensation Reform, and the Governor’s Technical Board for the Clean-up of the Binghamton State Office Building, and  as a member of the Riverhead Town Industrial Development Agency.

Angela has served as a RISE Life Services board member since 2020. And is chair of the personnel committee.

Walter Gravagna

Board Member

Currently owner and President of Van de Wetering Greenhouses which is the largest supplier of annual and vegetable seedlings in the Northeast. Walter has been very active in the farming community serving on the executive board of the Long Island Farm Bureau as well as the Long Island Flower Growers Assoc.

He has also served as golf committee chair for our annual Long Island Farm Bureau Golf fundraiser. Van de Wetering Greenhouses is very active in the community supporting several charities as well as a primary supplier for the East End Garden Festival.

Walter started the NY Jaguars, a non-for- profit girls fastpitch softball organization that provides an opportunity for high school girls to play competitive softball in front of college coaches in hopes of receiving scholarship money. To date girls from the JAGUAR organization have received over 2 million dollars in scholarship funds. Walter volunteers hi time to coach the girls and do fundraising so all of the girls and their families can play for free.

Ronald McManus

Board Member

Ron joined RISE Life Services Board of Directors in 2013 and has served as the Board President since 2018. A retired healthcare executive, Ron has over 38 years’ experience in Hospital management, including 27 years at Peconic Bay Medical Center as Senior Vice President. He received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Albany and a Master’s degree in Healthcare Management from Stony Brook University.

His skills managing complex, multi-entity organizations makes him the perfect candidate to support RISE Life Service’s growth and Board of Directors.

Joan Hope MacNaughton

Board Member

Joan has been a professional dancer and entrepreneur for over 5 decades. Over 30 years ago she established Leggz Ltd Dance, a legendary dance studio located in Rockville Center, New York. Having educated, inspired and advocated for children her entire career, Joan has a special place in her heart for all children, especially those with special needs. Joan received a Congressional Citation from Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy for bringing awareness to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and currently serves on the Board of RVC Blue Speaks, a local chapter for The National Autism Speaks.

Joan is also the President of the Rockville Centre Lions Club, a proud Ambassador and Founder of the Old Westbury Gardens Children In Bloom Council, a founding member of the New York City 9/11 September Concert Committee, and the Executive Vice President for the Rockville Centre Guild for the Arts. Joan also serves on Molloy College’s Madison Theatre Advisory Board for the Arts, was appointed Nassau County’s Lead Ambassador for Cultural Development, and is a longstanding Gala Committee member at the Nassau County Museum of Art. Joan is a published author and her first book, ” Forever Dancing “, an autobiographical children’s book, was first published in 1995 by Libros Press.

As the founder, lead instructor, and Artistic Director, Joan remains the creative force behind Leggz Ltd Dance, while also maintaining her public voice as an Associate Publisher for Schneps Media’s Dan’s Papers and The Long Island Press.

Peter J. Sabat

Board Member

Mr. Sabat graduated Fairfield University, in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. Upon graduation, he was recruited by Cigna Insurance Company where he completed their exclusive International Executive Management Training Program, and began his career as a Business Insurance

Production Underwriter in Cigna’s Long Island Regional Office. In 1990, Mr. Sabat accepted an offer to join Neefus-Skype Agency (NSA), an Independent Insurance Agency, where he was able to leverage his broad insurance and business background to advise individuals, and businesses, on all insurance related matters. Mr. Sabat was named partner in 1993 and is excited to be celebrating over 3 decades with his firm.

Today, his responsibilities at NSA include: New Business Development; Joint-Ventures and Acquisitions; and the general oversight of NSA’s Financial and Corporate Affairs. Mr. Sabat is and active member on various local business and insurance company boards, and advisory panels. His vast business acumen enables him to play a key advisory role on the RISE Life Services Board of Directors.

Vincent Barry, DPT

Past President

Dr. Vincent Barry was a past President for ADD (Aid to the Developmentally Disabled, Inc.) He has been a Physical Therapist for nearly 40 years and has been serving the Riverhead community for over 25 years. He established his private practice, Maximum Performance Physical Therapy in 2001 located in Riverhead NY.

Vincent brings nearly 40 years of experience to Maximum Performance Physical Therapy. He received his Master’s degree in Physical Therapy from Touro College and earned his Doctorate (DPT) from Creighton University. He has undergone extensive postgraduate training in advance manual therapy techniques and sports medicine rehabilitation. Vincent earned his Board Certification as an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS) in 2007. Through extensive continuing education, he has also earned many other certifications including Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Certified Manual Therapist (MTC). He has also completed extensive studies in the osteopathic approach to manual therapy specializing in the evaluation and treatment of spinal dysfunction. Vincent was an instructor in undergraduate and post-graduate training courses at the local and national level. For 10 years Vincent was an adjunct professor at Stony Brook University’s Doctoral Physical Therapy program and continues to serve as a clinical instructor for Physical Therapy Interns.

Dr. Barry takes pride in being part of the Riverhead community. He volunteers his time by being a member of the Riverhead Rotary Club as well as serving on various Non-Profit boards for local organizations including Rise Life Services (formerly Aid to the Developmental Disabled). As an East End resident, Vincent takes pride in his expertise and values the care he provides to his local community.

In his spare time Vincent enjoys playing the piano, spending time with his family especially his new Grandson.


Administrative Assistant to the Board

(631) 727-6220 x201

About the Board of Directors

All the members of the Board of Directors at Rise Life Services, volunteer their time, talents and resources to the overall governance of the agency. Application for membership is addressed to the board for review by its Board Development committee. Upon the committee’s recommendation, the board elects a member for a term of three years.

In accordance with the agency’s by-laws, as well as state law, the board of directors is responsible for, among other things, determining policies for agency operations, for the general management of the affairs of the agency, for the selection, supervision and annual evaluation of the agency’s executive director, and for review of program plans and budgets to ensure that resources are managed effectively.

The board of directors meets in plenary session on the second Thursday of January and every other month thereafter. Its committees, which consist of the Executive Committee, along with standing committees on finance, personnel, quality improvement, fundraising, by-laws, and sensory garden, meet at times set by each committee’s chair.

The agency also benefits from the assistance of an advisory board whose membership is elected by the board of directors.

Any person from within or outside the agency may contact the board through its administrative assistant, whose contact information is provided below, at the end of the biographical outlines of the board. These contacts to the board will be kept in strict confidence. Each board member who is contacted through its administrative assistant will decide whether and to what extent the contact will be answered. Staff contact to the board concerning personnel matters should occur only after the chain of supervision has been unresponsive to that staff person’s concerns. Agency staff are also invited to board meetings.

The board of directors consists of a team that is committed to the agency’s continuing success.  With their varied backgrounds and experience, this board gratefully serves the mission of the agency and the interests of its dedicated staff, as well as its consumers and their families.

RISE Staff

Our team is the bread and butter of our existence — without them, we simply could not do what we do. At RISE Life Services, we feel grateful to work in such a rewarding environment. From our shift supervisors to house managers, to administrative staff — we are one big family

Charles Evdos
Chief Executive Officer

Jeanette Permenter
Chief Operating Officer

Holly Gurnick
Chief Financial Officer

Christopher Nassauer
Human Resources Director

Megan Kolsch
Director of Quality Improvement

Robert Melnick
Mental Health Program Director

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