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DPAO Founder receives Shapiro award; applauds others for accomplishments

Watertown Daily Times - 2/8/2019

Feb. 08--WATERTOWN -- Joseph L. Rich shined a spotlight on the triumphs of his family, friends and the groups he served when he received his Israel A. Shapiro Citizen Award Thursday.

Hundreds of people gave Mr. Rich, founder of the Disabled Persons Action Organization, a standing ovation when he took to the podium during the celebration at the Hilton Garden Inn. He received several letters of congratulations, including one from Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr., who proclaimed "Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, as Joseph L. Rich Day."

Mr. Rich, however, redirected the applause toward members of organizations such as Watertown Savings Bank, Watertown Noon Rotary, 1 World Organization, which he co-founded; DPAO and its sister organization, the DPAO Foundation, for their philanthropy and accomplishments over the years.

"Well yes, I receive all the credit and get a lot of accolades, but it ain't me," he said. "I hired a lot of people a lot smarter than I am to fill positions at DPAO and DPAO Foundation."

Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce named Mr. Rich as the 67th recipient of the award during an announcement in December.

Howard "Howie" W. Ganter, executive director of the Jefferson Rehabilitation Center, nominated him for the award and handed it to him during Thursday's event.

"You have improved the lives of thousands of people, and have been instrumental in breaking down barriers to allow those you support to be active and productive citizens," he said.

Mr. Rich founded DPAO, which employs more than 100 people, in 1974. He served as its executive director until 2008, then became president of the DPAO Foundation.

The Shapiro Award is presented to individuals for their outstanding citizenship or contribution to civic or social welfare.


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