Welcome to Teri's House.

Teri's House is a non-profit organization under the New York State Law and is a designated 501(C3 Charitable Organization) under the Internal Revenue Code.


You can donate to Teri's House online! Simply click on the Fundraiser tab in the navigation for more information of click the paypal donate button below.

The Downs Syndrome Foundation, Inc. – Teri’s House


A.    Background: The Downs Syndrome Foundation, Inc.  (“DSF”) was incorporated in the State of New York as a not-for-profit corporation on March 16, 1972.    The primary function of DSF is:

“To provide aid and assistance to children afflicted with Downs Syndrome. To instruct the public on subjects relating to children afflicted with the Down Syndrome and to receive bequests and other grants for education, literary and scientific purposes and social development of children afflicted with Downs Syndrome.”

The founder and constant driving force for DSF is Teri Russo who has devoted essentially her entire adult life to making a change in the life of those born with Downs Syndrome.   Teri is the mother of four sons each with Downs Syndrome, and each of whom she adopted while infants or toddlers.  Teri’s boys range from age 21 years to 42 years.

In 1972 Teri formed the DSF and established the Down Syndrome Learning Center at an abandoned VOA fresh air camp in Tottenville.  The Learning Center included an infant stimulation program, pre-k, kindergarten & graded elementary classes, as well as a full recreation program & sleep away camp. The program provided music therapy, reading classes, wood shop, speech therapy (at Rutgers University) and day trips.    DSF also continued their programs after the children reached the age of five, even though city, state & federal money no longer paid for their education.

DSF got involved with the Boy Scouts and the Special Olympics, first as a training club then joining Staten Island Special Olympics, an activity that continues to this day. DSF has certified coaches in a number of sports and its young people have excelled in many venues. Many of DSF’s original students still compete in the Special Olympics even though they are into their forties.

DSF continued at the Tottenville site until 1990.  When the owners took back the property that DSF occupied, Teri turned the main floor of her home into classrooms & continued the education program there.  In 1995, Teri was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and had to close the school because her disease was affecting her performance.   Nonetheless, Teri and the DSF continue to advocate for proper placement with the NY City Board of Education or day habilitation programs.  DSF remains active in the SIDDSO Regional Council, and Teri serves on the Planning Committee for future development of the Willowbrook Property.  Teri and DSF have provided emergency housing in her home as the need arises, and has had ten individuals stay with her at various times over the past 15 years.  DSF continues to counsel families and women in crisis, especially pregnant women being coerced into aborting their fetus with Down Syndrome, averaging four cases per year.  DSF also continues to provide ongoing support for families who have had children in their programs over the past 40 years, and average up to three calls per day.  

B.    Description of the Program:  DSF is working with United Cerebral Palsy of New York (“CP”) and the NY State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (“OMRDD”) to establish group homes for Staten Island Residents that will be a real home, not just an institution where a person with Downs Syndrome can live out his or her life regardless of age or infirmity.  DSF first presented this idea to OMRDD twenty years ago and has been actively pursuing this for more than five years.  DSF has elected to partner with CP to run the homes once they are established because CP has years of experience, and has been very successful in running medically fragile group homes.  This project is to construct a new two story six bedroom home intended to become the first CP operated group home as described above.  

This first home is now under construction on vacant land adjacent to Teri’s home that Teri has donated to DSF.  Known as “Teri’s House”, the home will be a six bedroom, six bathroom “home” designed to accommodate and care for up to six full time residents, including residents that require critical, 24 hour care, together with staffing to operate the home.  Teri’s House is being built to the rigorous NYS Group Home standards such that, upon completion, the new home is expected to be leased to CP who will operate the home as a group home and have the ability to place additional residents as space becomes available.  The home will be placed in a trust and, upon the death of the death of the last Russo, title will pass to CP and the home will continue as a CP group home for up to six New York State/City residents under the care of CP. 

The second home is planned for the site of the Russo’s current home.  Once Teri’s House is c completed and occupied, that property will be cleared and plans created for the second home which will be build to the same NYS standards and become another permanent group home for Down’s Syndrome adults.  Teri has already identified residents for that home as well.  

C.    Description of Need: The home to be constructed, as well as future homes, is expected to serve residents of Staten Island, New York that have been born with Downs Syndrome.  There is an urgent need for privately built group homes for such residents because OMRDD has a five year moratorium on any new construction.  In the meantime, the Staten Island Down Syndrome population is getting older, as are their parents and families. As families (such as Teri Russo’s) age and become infirm, and thereby begin to lose their ability to continue caring for their adult downs syndrome children, there is no relief or aid available to ensure their care.  It is absolutely necessary for the public, through privately funded projects like Teri’s House, to pick up where the public support ends to provide housing and support for these adult children in a setting that ensures their care, comfort and continued development, while also providing comfort and security for their families.

D.    Timetable: Construction of Teri’s house commenced in April 2010.  As of June 15, 2011, the house is fully framed, rough utilities are being installed and exterior siding is starting.  The goal is to have the home completed and occupied by the end of the summer 2011.

E.     Budget and Funding: The original budgeted/ estimated construction costs, showing was approximately $900,000.  DSF has to date funded construction entirely through a combination of cash donations, trade donations (work, labor, services, materials), and private grants.  In addition, DSF has received preliminary initial approval for $150,000 in approved funding by OMRDD for Environmental Modifications.  Set forth below is breakdown/summary of DSF’s budget for this project:

Funding Source                      Amount

Cash donations                      $350,000

OMRDD (EMods)                      $150,000

Grants  and awards                   $25,000

Trade donations                     $300,000

To date, DSF has received in excess of $300,000 in cash donations, received a $5,000 grant from the UNICO Foundation, and has received in excess of $250,000 in donated work labor and services, and materials.  The remaining cost to complete and furnish the house is estimated at $150,000.  All design work (all drawing, sketches, plans and construction specifications and details), all surveying work and all legal work is being performed pro bono. 

F.     Downs Syndrome Foundation:  DSF is a 100% volunteer organization. It has no payroll and all costs are funded through contributions by Teri and the community.  Teri serves as the Foundation director.   Set forth below is a list of the other board members.  Each board member is a volunteer and each has actively contributed to this project.        

         Leonard Rampulla – Architect

         Stephen Mandracchia – Legal Advisor

         Gianni Russo – Fundraising Chairman

         Joanne LaTona - Secretary

          Pat Caltabianco


On May 18th 2010 - 10:40 am, the foundation walls for TERI'S HOUSE are being poured.

For twenty years the dream, plans, hopes and foundation that Teri Russo had given to her sons on a daily bases now has been given a material foundation for her and those that follow in her footsteps.

The chores, tribulation, heartaches and love for the work she has endured through, strived, battled and dream of, have finally come to fruition.
The hopes and dreams have become a reality greatly in part by a cast of supporters and believers, some very much behind the scenes but, no less dedicated in the same beliefs as Teri with the cause and goals in which she lives for day in and day out.

A very special "THANK YOU" for Recognition of all involved in this milestone and monumental occasion.

God Bless you all.

William A Paganotti
Site Supervisor