At the end of this year, I will be retiring from ADEC to have more precious time with my family members. As that time grows closer, I am riddled with mixed emotions – joy and excitement – but at the same time, it is hard to say goodbye to a life’s calling of memories and relationships.
To the wonderful people whom I have had the opportunity to work with and help guide over the past 10 years – Thank You.
The times shared, friendships forged, and the incredible successes which we have enjoyed have been an extraordinary part of my life. I am very proud of what we have achieved, and they have been times I will never forget. My heart is overflowing.
My life course was destined to be at ADEC and although my professional career weaved its way in the private sector on a global stage, my affinity for our mission at ADEC is deep-rooted. What will stand out in my heart and mind as I look back at my time with ADEC is the joy of working with #team ADEC and our clients. Those genuine moments of laughter, love, and connections. I love that I can hang out at any of our Day Programs with these friends that I have known for years or have dinner at client’s homes or go to fun ADEC-planned events where I can interact with clients, our employees, and community members. I’m thrilled with every milestone and proud of every goal reached by those that I have come to know and love like family.
Though I do not have cognitive inabilities, I grew up struggling with physical disabilities caused by idiopathic physical and muscular abnormalities that required ongoing surgeries, therapies and medical monitoring and treatment. Until I was a young adult, it was necessary for me to depend on personal care services, mechanical devices, and braces to help me move and walk on my own. It was obvious that I was physically different from my peers. However, I was blessed to be supported by a strong and loving family unit, a kind community, and a school system that embraced me so much that I never felt that different. Yes, I was different, unique, one-of-a kind, and honestly it helped define who I am today. Because of this support and an inherently strong farmers work ethic, I was able to progress through school, achieve both a master’s degree and a Ph.D., and successful professional achievements. I believe all of this set me on the path I continue today.
As time progressed my physical abilities improved, and the physical limitations became more manageable and undetectable to others. They may have hindered me somewhat, but I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am in that regard. Not all unique limitations are visible, and that is why I see grace, aptitude, and possibility in everyone. I have met individuals throughout my service with ADEC that possess such openness, talent, strength, and innate kindness that it is humbling to my core being. I have met family members that have faced unimaginable difficulties in their journey to support their loved one, much like my parents did. Their resolve and determination are inspiring. Families like these may look to ADEC for services, but in addition to our dedicated and unflagging team, they also make up the beating heart of ADEC. We support each other.
When I chose to join ADEC, my professional background and academic pedigree were not from a traditional non-profit or service background. I sought out advice from extraordinary mentors who had experience with diverse communities and philanthropic services to help redirect my efforts and transition to a nonprofit structure. I truly believe that my business background was a positive new influence for the ADEC team, and that it has had a long-term, positive impact.
These past several years have been hard on our industry. We’ve witnessed the collapse of other providers due to a number of factors, financial instability, and the inability to anticipate changing needs among them. In that same time, ADEC’s programs have grown, as has our number of locations and our ability to serve.
We recognize and encourage visionary leadership because we must think long-term regarding our mission. It’s about insuring that ADEC is strong and dependable, so we will be around for another seventy years and far beyond. While we must be financially secure and accountable to our Board of Directors and donors, it is equally important that we strive to have the most dedicated and talented staff, and the trust of our clients and their families. It is a delicate balancing act, and I’m proud that ADEC continues to manage it beautifully.
Although I am proud of the many accomplishments and milestones of the last ten years, my favorites will always be the things that impact individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) directly. Tangible results are great, but happy clients and families are even better.
I am also proud of the respect the community has for our clients, our staff, and our company as a whole. Seventy years doesn’t mean that much if you aren’t continually striving to improve and grow the trust placed in you by those we serve, their families, and the public.
As CEO, I field numerous calls asking “What does ADEC think? Will ADEC help? Can ADEC attend, meet, host…” and so much more. We are a valued partner in community, school, state, and federal issues. Just recently I was asked to confirm that although I will be retiring, would I still be willing to provide testimony on ‘The Hill’ in February as an advocate for those with intellectual disabilities for a proposed bill in the House and Senate. And of course, I will be there.
Thank you for always creating a motivating atmosphere all through the agency – from our facilities to our transportation to our communities and around the office. I will always believe in the intentional purpose of ADEC’s mission to advocate and service informed choice and possibility. My wish is for all of you to continue to believe and experience the joys ADEC brings and hope you enjoy every bit of your life. Whatever comes next for you, may it bring you the same joy and fulfillment as you brought me!
I would like to encourage you all to continue to value and support diversity in our workplace and community. Diversity is something special. It is something very personal to us all, while at the same time it is something we all share. Diversity can enhance and support all our decisions and it should be valued and cherished.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every member of ADEC, The ARC, INARF, our community Chambers of Commerce, my peer non-profit CEO’s, Rotary, donors, and the wider community. With the support of our Board of Directors, an amazing executive team, program leaders, managers, direct support professionals and all of our staff, we have built our ADEC programs into something extraordinary. The quality and sustainability of our programs is a testament to countless hours of hard work, collaboration, inspiration, and fun. It’s the result of the support willingly given by all stakeholders in our amazing agency.
We should all be incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. May the lights of Aux Chandelles continue to shine brightly. I wish all of you every success for the future.
Respectfully and gratefully yours,
Donna L. Belusar, Ph.D.