Schenectady County Honorees
Richard Ratajak is a native/lifetime New Yorker and is 81 years old; he was born in Amsterdam. He has been a Niskayuna resident for 36 years. He is married and is a Korean War Veteran and he is legally blind. His career was varied, serving eight years as a Roman Catholic priest; and 23 years in NYS government as a prison counselor, and later, he was a manager for the NYS Commission for the Blind/Visually Handicapped.
Richard has spent his adult life in service to others: enlisting in military service, as a priest/minister, civil servant, and volunteer. He focused on enriching others with severe visual impairments. His goal was to provide young adults with tools to overcome obstacles for employment. His Volunteerism was diverse. From 1996-2005 Richard mentored young adults in the Capital Region. Appointed in 1999 by Governor Pataki to NYS Rehabilitation Council, he served as chairman for four terms. Richard's expertise as a historian, storyteller, and his love for baseball led him to present at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown 2005-06. From 2009 to 2012 Richard gave workshops on Norman Rockwell art, horse racing history in Saratoga, baseball and Olympic commemorative stamps. In 2012 he served as Chairman, Transportation Committee, for the Niskayuna Senior Center and has been an active member of the Senior Advisory Committee to Niskayuna Senior Programs.
His volunteer service totals 21 years.
Being legally blind himself, Richard hoped to serve as a role model and mentor for visually impaired students to help them overcome barriers to employment.
Richard's most rewarding experience in volunteering was providing mentoring and guidance to a Siena College graduate who was born without eyes, and was struggling to gain employment. The graduate successfully landed a full-time job in Albany.
Robert Harrison was born in Missouri 81 years ago. He has been a Schenectady resident for 32 years; he is married, has four children, and 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He has a BSW, with a minor in Vocal. He has volunteered with 12 organizations as a board member; and has been Vice President and Executive Director for five nonprofits.
His extensive volunteer activities include serving as President of Fund Raising for Schenectady Light Opera Company (SLOC) since 2008, President/member of Senior & Long Term Care Services (SLTC) Board since 2006, member of Management Team of Tapping into the Arts for SLTC, Schenectady ARC, and SLOC since 2012, a member of Funeral Committee at Immaculate Conception Church since 2010. Robert has also served as Past president for the Hibernian Division of Schenectady since 2003 and Past president of Annie Schaffer Senior Citizen's Center at Schaffer Heights since 1996.
Additionally, Robert has a long history of volunteering and his past activities include, serving as National Fund Raising Executives of the Capital Region from1993-1997, serving as Chair of Public Relations and Strategic Long Range Planning Committees and member of the Gala Planning Committee for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Albany from1992-1997. He has also assisted with Capital campaign at Greater Glenville YMCA from 2003-2007, St. Catherine's Children's Services, Albany from 1992-1997 and Schenectady YMCA and Catholic Family and Community Services, Schenectady from 1987-1992.
He is still active on six boards.
When he started volunteering 50 years ago, Robert anticipated "a sense of returning to the community and its people, the many insights and experience that I have gained from my community." Robert's greatest reward is feeling that he has touched the lives of many, and have been truly blessed through the non-profits that he has volunteered with during the past 50 years!