Casey Croucher/Recorder staff NYSARC Executive Director Marc Brandt,left, NYSARC CFO John Sherman,center, Barbara Wool, Liberty ARC Director of Public Relations and Development, right.
Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Liberty ARC employees Lisa Augustine, left, Chad Hartwig, center, Sharon Holbrook-Ryan, right.
Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Joel Kaplan, left, greeted by Marc Brandt, right, and Lisa Augustine, front.
Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Joel Kaplan and his family, from left to right: Louise Kaplan, Ken Kaplan, Joel Kaplan, Carolyn Signer, Marc Signer and Rachel Samilow.
By CASEY CROUCHER
Recorder News Staff
Joel Kaplan spent a week preparing a speech in honor of what he thought was a fellow employee's retirement party, only to find out Tuesday the party was for him.
"I spent last week writing and preparing for a party honoring someone else. Now what will I do?" Kaplan said. "I'm just in a state of shock. What did I do to deserve this?"
Kaplan, an avid community volunteer, was greeted Tuesday evening by family, friends and co-workers in Spoons Cafe in the Liberty ARC Day Support Building to recognize his years of involvement in local organizations.
A businessman with years of accounting experience, Kaplan has been a board member of the Montgomery County Chapter of NYSARC for 35 years, a member of the Board of Governors of NYSARC for 33 years, and a 20-year board member of the Liberty Foundation.
Many NYSARC and Liberty ARC employees credit his guidance and expertise in achieving financial stability over the years and wanted to show their appreciation.
Jennifer Saunders, CEO of Liberty ARC, said she's known Kaplan for nearly 10 years and he's never ceased to amaze her.
"He's 93 years old and he's still as active as he was 10 years ago," Saunders said. "He always says people say the nicest things about others when they're dead and we should do that while they're alive, so we did that for [Kaplan] today. We wanted to celebrate his years helping, mentoring and guiding our organization and many others in the community."
Marc Brandt, NYSARC executive director, said he's known Kaplan for approximately 30 years and he's been a "huge asset to the organization."
"He's a very hard-working man, and he deserves this," Brandt said. "He thinks this party is for me today since I'm retiring in a year but it's all for him, to surprise him and recognize his hard work."
Frank Capone, former CEO of Liberty ARC, said he recruited Kaplan to join the board 35 years ago.
"We were in the car together, riding to a fundraiser and I knew then that he would be a catch for the organization," Capone said.
He said Kaplan was nearing retirement when they met but he was still "so active" and wanted to continue working.
"He was such an asset because of his accounting experience," he said. "I was very happy when he came on board; he's been there for every major decision in Liberty ARC for the last 35 years."
During Tuesday's celebration, Liberty ARC board member Robert Purtell presented Kaplan with a key to the city, signed by Mayor Ann Thane and the Amsterdam Common Council, thanking him for his dedication through the years.
"I never thought I'd have a 93-year-old best friend, but that's what he is," Purtell said. "He deserves this."
Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman sang Kaplan a heartfelt rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings."
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko presented Kaplan with a proclamation chronicling everything he's done throughout his life and thanking him for his dedicated hard work.
"Who isn't a friend of Joel?" Tonko asked. "He stands out as a role model citizen and influences us to roll up our sleeves and get to work."
As for Kaplan's family, they weren't surprised by the celebration.
"He deserves this and I'm not surprised he's being recognized for everything he's done," Marc Signer, Kaplan's grandson, said. "He's the man of this city, but he doesn't like to talk about what he's done -- he's modest."
"This was a long time coming and well-deserved," Louise Kaplan, his daughter, said. "He's made a lot of incredible transformations for the community."
Kaplan himself, however, wouldn't admit he deserved the celebration. But he did enjoy it.
"This is a wonderful turnout," he said, "and I'm just so grateful so many people turned up to see me."
Contact Casey Croucher at email@example.com.
Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Liberty ARC CEO Jennifer Saunders, left, and Liberty ARC board member Robert Purtell, right.
Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Liberty employees Rene Martin, left, Candace Opalka, center, and Carrie-Ann Schmidt, right.