Ann-Marie T. Orlowski was age seven when she was placed in foster care with a family that would eventually adopt her.
She dedicated 23 years of her professional life to Gateway-Longview Inc., where she served as vice president of community services and director of foster care.
And now at age 46 Orlowski will head operations at Cradle Beach, Inc., an organization that provides services for disadvantaged and disabled youth, said Joseph J. Marusak, board president at Cradle Beach.
"There's a lot of history, culture and tradition at Cradle Beach Camp," Orlowski said Thursday. "Since 1888, it has had the capacity to bring together special needs children as well as those who are economically disadvantaged. It gives them memorable experiences and opportunities."
Orlowski's experience as a foster child and adopted child, and her time spent as a foster parent has given her a unique perspective when dealing with children throughout her career.
"The Cradle Beach board was so pleased to find Ann-Marie," said Marusak. "Her experience, integrity, academic background and familiarity with the needs of children made her an excellent choice."
Last summer the camp's welcomed more than 800 youngsters between eight and 17 for sessions throughout July and August. The camp, located on 66 acres near Lake Erie in Angola, will mark its 129th season this summer.
Orlowski is looking forward to working with the 25 full time staff members at Cradle Beach.
"In my my 25 years of working in child welfare, we had numerous children who attended Cradle Beach," Orlowski said. "We always knew what a wonderful asset it was, and now being tapped to serve as CEO is quite an honor."
Cradle Beach works in collaboration with the Buffalo Public schools serving 270 children in five schools. The model allows students to remain engaged in the classroom while minimizing delays in the learning process.
Orlowski worked a decade as an adjunct faculty at the University at Buffalo's Graduate School of Social Work. She also served as guest lecturer at Daemen and Medaille colleges, Niagara University and UB. She is a member of the Leadership Buffalo Class of 2012, and is a board member of Kaely’s Kindness Foundation.
Orlowski, who will begin her new post January 9, replaces James M. Sampson, former president of the Buffalo School Board of Education, who served as interim CEO since August.
She is married to Dr. Allen Dirschberger, commissioner of the Erie County Social Services Department, and lives in Lancaster. They have five children and two grandchildren.