A Place for Exceptional Women

A Place for Exceptional Women

At Riverbrook, women with intellectual and developmental disabilities are empowered to lead enviable adult lives. Riverbrook is a true community, where women with a wide range of developmental disabilities are encouraged to reach their full potential.

At Riverbrook, women with intellectual and developmental disabilities are empowered to lead enviable adult lives. Riverbrook is a true community, where women with a wide range of developmental disabilities are encouraged to reach their full potential.

“As you admire the majesty of the setting and open the front door, you enter into the life of a unique community. Each woman, with her own poignant history, has found a place in this warm home as she pursues a full and meaningful life.”

Joan Burkhard, Executive Director

WELCOME TO RIVERBROOK

As you open the front door you enter into the life of a unique community. Light spills from the arched heights of a two-story window as women are purposefully engaged in the daily upkeep of their home. The morning begins with the chores of preparing breakfast, washing the night’s sleep away, and straightening rumpled beds. The women gather laundry, play radios and exchange gossip. Someone comforts a friend who is worried about a sick parent, and another reports that a lost sweater is found. These are ordinary occurrences in the daily life at Riverbrook.

Yet a quick glance around reveals that the ordinary routine in this setting is actually quite extraordinary. Each of these women has had a lifelong struggle learning to do these routine tasks. Each has been loved by families who cheered at every achievement, who understood the effort involved in moving towards each developmental milestone.

They have come to Riverbrook with unique experiences and a range of diagnoses, including autism, Down syndrome, and myriad other forms of intellectual disability. Yet these diverse women have all found a place in this exceptional community.

HISTORY

ESTABLISHED IN 1957, Riverbrook is the oldest all-women residence in the Northeast. Riverbrook is a model of care for women with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, vision and hearing impairments and other developmental challenges. The program is housed in a gracious historic mansion which began its life as a “Berkshire Cottage.” Designed by architect George deGersdorff and finished around 1912, Riverbrook was the lavish summer home of renowned painter and stained glass artist Frederic Crowninshield, whose son, Frank, was the first editor of Vanity Fair. In the early 1990’s, Riverbrook’s first Executive Director Joan Burkhard purchased the property and began the work of expanding the program into the model of care that is has become. Riverbrook Residence Inc. was incorporated as a non-profit in 1996.

LOCATION

RESIDENTS LIVE on an estate of great natural beauty, in a large and gracious house built for an artist at the turn of the 20th century and the detached semi-independent living cottage. The grounds feature vegetable and flower gardens designed to be accessible to disabled gardeners, as well as an in-ground swimming pool, and many outdoor spots to sit and enjoy the spectacular views. The neighbors are artists, business owners, retirees, and town employees; their quiet neighborhood on Ice Glen is a natural wonder and a destination for hikers from around the world. The quaint, thriving town of Stockbridge and the whole of the Berkshires beyond forms a welcoming backdrop for the business of everyday life, from banking and library errands to dinner out and a night at the theater.

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Natural & Cultural Resources

  • Skiing at Butternut
  • Dance Performances at Jacob’s Pillow
  • Concerts at Tanglewood
  • Hiking at Monument Mountain
  • Historical Museums
  • Theater at Shakespeare & Company
  • Yoga at Kripalu

Is your family ready for Riverbrook? Learn More 

STAFF

COMPARED WITH NATIONAL turnover rates of almost 60%, Riverbrook boasts a stable staff with average annual turnover at 8% or less. One staff member has been with us for over 25 years, and several are approaching the 15-year mark. The women benefit from this level of support, safety and stability rare in residential and day programs for people with disabilities. Riverbrook’s administrative offices are located on site, so program administrators are present and active in the daily lives of the women they serve.

  • Joan Burkhard
    Joan Burkhard
    Executive Director
  • Rebecca Amuso-Wendell
    Rebecca Amuso-Wendell
    Program Director
  • Colleen Powers
    Colleen Powers
    Workforce Development Director
  • Ruth Hanley
    Ruth Hanley
    Human Rights Officer
  • Karen Carlotto
    Karen Carlotto
    Controller
Joan Burkhard
Executive Director
Joan Burkhard, Executive Director, has enjoyed a tenure of over 40 years with Riverbrook Residence. Joan graduated from the University of Connecticut and earned a Master’s Degree in Administration from Westfield University and an MSW from Adelphi. Joan began her career in public educational as Director of Special Services for the Berkshire Hills Regional School District. She gained experience with young disabled children through the Early Intervention Program in Great Barrington and held a post-graduate position at the Psychology Clinic at Williams College. Joan finds tremendous fulfillment in her time with the Riverbrook women and staff.
Rebecca Amuso-Wendell
Program Director

Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Service Management from the University of Massachusetts. She also completed a graduate certificate program at Clark University in Not-for-Profit Management. Rebecca first began her career at Riverbrook Residence in 1998 at the age of 20 years old as a direct care staff. In 2005 she took on the role of Day Program Coordinator. In 2012, she moved into the position of Program Director. Rebecca earned her RN at Berkshire Community College in 2013 with the goal of offering a more holistic approach to providing care to Riverbrook’s residents.

“The personal growth that I have experienced as a part of the Riverbrook community is immeasurable. I know irrefutably that I would not be the same person I am today had I not been embraced by the many loving people at Riverbrook Residence. I am deeply grateful on a daily basis that I am given the opportunity to do work that I know makes an enormous difference in the lives of the others and my own. It truly is a gift.”

Colleen Powers
Workforce Development Director

Colleen comes to Riverbrook following 14 years working with Easter Seals New Hampshire. She began her career there as a Job Placement Specialist, and upon obtaining her Master of Science degree in Human Service Organization and Management in 2010, became Easter Seals NH’s Director of Workforce Development. Colleen specializes in helping people with disabilities seek and maintain paid employment, and her background trained her to match the resident’s interests and aptitudes with specifically carved out positions within the community. Colleen believes that “anyone who wants to work, should and can work,” and the Berkshires community has responded enthusiastically with over ten employment sites in the region at any given time.

Ruth Hanley
Human Rights Officer

Ruth has been working with people with developmental disabilities since 1995 and has been Riverbrook’s Human Rights Officer since 2002. She has had extensive training in this field through the Department of Developmental Services. Ruth is very passionate about human rights and says that watching the women advocate for themselves is her favorite part of her job.

In 2008, Ruth was excited to also take on the role of Human Resource Manager through courses with the Associated Industries of Massachusetts. When not at Riverbrook, Ruth can be found volunteering for Double Dog Rescue where she is a foster Mom for homeless dogs. The Riverbrook ladies love to meet the dogs and often help choose which home they should be adopted to. Ruth is always touched by their ability to look beyond their own limitations in order to help others.

Karen Carlotto
Controller

As Controller, Karen sees to all of Riverbrook’s day-to-day monetary needs, as well as accounting and financial reporting. She comes to us after 8 years as the Accounting Manager at the nearby Option Institute, but long-time Berkshire residents might remember her from her tenure as the manager of Gatsby’s, a popular store on Railroad St. in Great Barrington. Karen loves working with numbers and enjoys interacting with the Riverbrook women as she assists them with their funds. She and her husband, Andy, live in Housatonic with their two bunnies, Reuben and Bentley.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

AS A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION, Riverbrook’s success is guided by a deeply committed Board of Directors who come from across the United States to assure the program’s long-term viability. The board includes resident and family representation, local business expertise, and leadership in the fields of nursing, special education, financial management and more. Ever mindful of the needs of our residents, board members are frequent visitors and we are grateful for their generous spirits.

Officers

Charlotte Rodgers RN MA
President

J. Brendan Ryan
Vice President

Ann Jones, Esq.
Secretary

Ron Fontana
Treasurer

Board Members
Lynn Barry
Susan Booth, Resident Member
Joyce Butler
Christopher Hamick
J. Martin Salvadore
Michael Sternick, Esq.
Barbara Tracy, RN FNP
Lorita Trombley

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