In the summer of 1956, a phone call between George Hunt, who got his first job at the age of 42, and Kathy Coughlin, who had cerebral palsy, started what would become known as Gateway Community Industries. Former Kingston Mayor William Edelmuth became the first President of the Board of Directors, and the organization raised funds and operated in a room donated by the YMCA on Broadway in Kingston. For their first project, Mr. Edelmuth led five blind individuals in assembling rubber doormats.
In 1960, Esther Otis was appointed shop director of Gateway, and led the operation of power sewing; eight trainees learned the trade at once, while four others learned varied handicrafts. Soon after, a professional staff was hired, serving hundreds of individuals through rehabilitation programs and job placement programs in the community.
In the late 1970s, Gateway expanded to offer residential services across Ulster and Dutchess Counties, and in the 1980s, vocational programs were expanded. By 1990, it was clear that Gateway was outgrowing its facility on Hoffman Street, and a Capital Campaign was started to provide funds for a new facility.
The campaign was a success, and in 1993, Gateway opened its doors at its current headquarters on Route 32 in Kingston at One Amy Kay Parkway. The facility was named after past board member Joseph Cornelske, who had overcome his own disabilities. Shortly after, the Gateway Foundation was created to support the organization’s programs, led by Cal Cunningham, the first Foundation Board President.
Since then, the world of serving individuals with disabilities has been in a state of constant change. Our mission remains the same: to provide the skills and supports necessary to the people we serve in order to help them be successful and satisfied with their lives. As we reach our 60th anniversary, we’re proud to have touched thousands of lives with and without disabilities in the Hudson Valley. Only with our partners, supporters, staff, Board of Directors and Foundation Board can we continue to accomplish this.