Geneseo alum’s nonprofit career choice brings help, hope to disabled adults

If you’ve ever fantasized about staying in Geneseo after graduation, working at a job you love or making a successful career out of helping the people closest to you, then Deborah Tuckerman ‘96 is living your dream.

After graduating from Geneseo with a bachelor’s in sociology, Tuckerman explained that she landed her job at the nonprofit Arc of Livingston-Wyoming by being at the right place at the right time. “I was living in an apartment above Aunt Cookie’s in my junior year when my roommate told me about The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming,” she said. “I looked into it, and realized that there was a home right up on Center Street next to the college campus. So I showed up there, knocked on the door and said, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a job. Are you hiring?’”

The organization provides various services for community members with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, including residential housing such as a home on Center Street. In the many years since literally knocking on The Arc’s door, Tuckerman has risen steadily through the organization’s ranks and now serves as Director of Residential Services. 

Tuckerman explained that she oversees 14 residential houses and multiple apartments which allow more than 90 disabled people to live independent, safe and secure lives in area communities. The Geneseo houses are located on Center Street, Second Street, Groveland Road and Tuscarora Avenue.

Tuckerman added that when she jumped at the opportunity to work at the Arc, she wasn’t thinking of a career—she was just following her enthusiasm for helping others. “I wasn’t thinking of the future, but I knew that I had a passion for the work,” she said. “I absolutely loved the job. I loved working with people with developmental disabilities and I loved putting a smile on somebody’s face.”

Throughout her years working at the Arc, Tuckerman has forged lasting relationships with both her fellow workers and residents in the process. One such relationship even in resulted in marriage—her and long-time partner Director of Service Coordination Jen Warner married in September 2014.

“I have so many good memories,” she said. She did add, however, that the job also has a serious side, citing an example of working with an individual with cancer.

“It was a terminal condition and all of a sudden, I was providing support to someone I had become extremely close to who wouldn’t be around in even a year. That was really my first life experience with that type of illness, and the whole dying process,” she said. “But you’re part of a team. It’s a team like no other, rallying around another human being. It’s very meaningful work.”

Through good times and bad, Tuckerman emphasized that helping people to live their lives and achieve their goals through direct care will always hold a special place in her heart, and encourages others interested in working with developmentally disabled adults to consider working in Residential Services. “The thing about residential is … there’s no place like home, to borrow a phrase,” Tuckerman said. “It’s a home, it’s a family.”