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Employee Spotlight

Sue Butler, of what was then called Unity Sunshine

People who help make life better

Sue Butler seems to know everyone, both at work and in the community. That’s how it goes when you’ve worked at Unity House for over 40 years.

Sue started in 1981, working in children’s services, then called Unity Sunshine. Today children’s services are called A Child’s Place at Unity House. One of the oldest programs at Unity House, the name reflects that it’s all about children and there is a place for every child. This is a mantra that serves as the foundation for the work Sue and her colleagues bring to life every day.

Programs include child care, special education, Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) along with Speech, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Social Work and School Psychologist therapies for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. The program also offers a traveling summer day camp for school-age children.

A Child’s Place is often described as a place where all children learn and grow together. Classrooms provide inclusive learning experiences. Children who are developing typically, learn side by side with their friends who have developmental delays. As Sue and staff often point out, children learn best from their peers.

Expertise to share

Because of the wide range of abilities and needs of children at A Child’s Place, the program has a deep well of expertise and specialties to draw upon. Staff are trained and certified in their particular area of focus. This expertise provides a vibrant learning environment for all children.

Sue’s particular area of expertise is not directly related to children, but mission critical for all programs. Sue leads her team as the Billing Specialist. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring that all NYS Dept. of Health, county and Medicaid regulations are met for each individual service provided to the children of A Child’s Place, along with monthly billing in excess of $600,000 per month for students with special needs.

All in the family

A native of Troy, Sue is familiar to many, especially to those who recognize that Sue is the daughter of Jean Cavallo, who also worked for Unity House for decades before retiring. When Jean visits A Child’s Place, it is often with Sue and usually to see a grandchild (or great grandchild!) in attendance at A Child’s Place.

Jean worked for 34 years in a key role. She started when business was still on pen and paper, and she worked the entirety of her career in the administrative department.

When Sue was in high school she volunteered at Unity House’s office in downtown Troy, then located on First Street.

As Sue explains it, “I first met Mary Jane Smith when I was a young girl attending the CYO center on Fourth Street in Troy.  Mary Jane was a nun who ran the program for city youth. She and my mom became friends and when Mary Jane started Unity House she hired my mom as the first secretary. My mother has told us, her children, many times how Mary Jane saved our family. My dad was disabled and my mother needed a job to support all six of us. “I was blessed to grow up watching Mary Jane and my mother, two incredible, strong woman who committed their life’s work to community service.”

While Unity House has the distinction of only having 2 CEOs since 1971, Jean Cavallo has the distinction of serving as an Executive Admin to both of them! Jean retired in 2013 at the age of 81, when administrative offices joined most services at the Front Door, our community resource center located at 2431 6th Avenue.

Unity House has grown a lot in the 40 years since Sue Butler started work as the Office Manager in 1981 (20 yrs.) And Sue has had a front row seat to those changes. She has seen changes in staff, updates in technology and best practices, a name change, and of course, LOTS of children, families and staff.  Sue describes some of those changes.

“When I first started at what was then called Unity Sunshine we had three classrooms located at Troy’s School 1. It was an outreach program that served a total of 30 students daily. Today we have 2 buildings, 16 classrooms and serve 360 students daily.”

Sue’s dedication to the mission of Unity House is a testament to her love of children and faith in the hard work she and her peers put in every day. If you were to catch sight of the children at Sue’s work site, you’d see – and hear! – children playing and learning. You might see some triumphant smiles as children work to progress in all areas of development. Whether it’s lunchtime or an obstacle course teachers have set up to improve gross motor skills, it is the interactions between staff and children that truly make the difference.

Sue continues to be motivated to serve this program in her capacity as billing specialist by what she sees each day at work, “I love my job, I have said that since the first day I started to work for Unity House in 1981 and continue to say it each day.”

Sue is known for her commitment to excellence. While she works in the program in the billing department, she also serves as a resource to staff and managers alike. Her office is a place where people go for clarification on one of the many systems Sue manages or a special education requirement. Staff also stop by for candy!

About A Child’s Place at Unity House

You can learn more about A Child’s Place at Unity House by visiting this web page, or finding them on Facebook. If you’d like to pitch in with our annual Children’s Holiday Program at Unity House, which benefits children in need at holiday time, including many at A Child’s Place and their siblings, please consider reaching out to Mandy at (518) 274-2607. This holiday tradition helps put the sparkle in the holidays by providing new toys and meeting needs each December, fulfilling Wish Lists of over 1,000 children across Unity House programs.