If you ask Fred Todd what it means to be Direct Support Professional at ADEC, he will almost always answer, “You get to change the world every day.”
And that’s what Fred has done every day for more than 27 years. He walks through life with the people he serves, celebrating big accomplishments like landing a job, while standing with ADEC clients during the lowest moments of their lives, such as undergoing cancer treatments. He’s also positioned himself as a fierce advocate for client rights and community inclusion.
For all these things and more, Fred has been named a recipient of the 2016 Outstanding DSP Award for the state of Indiana by INARF, a statewide trade organization representing more than 14,500 people who work to provide quality care for people with disabilities.
When Fred came to ADEC in 1989, he had been selling suits at JC Penney’s and his former sister-in-law was working at Foster Group Home. He was just 22 years old and still not quite sure what he wanted out of life, but she told him to check out ADEC.
He gave it a try and landed a job at Bristol North, the predecessor of what is now Bridlewood Group Home. On his first day, he was greeted at the door by a fresh-faced Mary Lou Hollinger.
“Hi Honey, you going to come do clothes with me, honey?” Mary Lou said at the door. Fred remembers that first conversation with a big smile.
For 12 years, Fred worked with Mary Lou, Vicki Himebaugh, Sherry Knowlton and Patty Koenig – all still served by ADEC today. During this time, one of his ladies was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She underwent chemo and a double mastectomy with Fred by her side the whole way. Through that experience and others in his early years, Fred realized this was more than a job, it was a calling.
“You know your family when you’re at a funeral and you’re holding a hand, you’re a pallbearer,” Fred says of this calling. “The family is bawling and you are too. It’s not a job any more. It’s my calling. Almost a responsibility.”
And it’s that responsibility that keeps Fred passionate and invested 27 years down the road. After 12 years with the Bridlewood ladies, Fred made a move to Middlebury Men’s Group Home, where he’s spent 15 years providing critical care and support for several men throughout the years.
Of one of his clients during this time, Quint Helmuth, Fred says, “No one in my whole life ever loved me as much as Quint did, not even my father or my son.”
Becoming an Advocate
In the early 1990s, Fred realized the significance of his position as an advocate. He went to the library to get cards for his ladies. He was told “they don’t give cards to ADEC clients because they would tear apart the books.” Fred could hardly believe his ears. He fought for inclusion and the rights of his clients to enjoy access to the public library and won.
“We’re civil rights workers here,” Fred says. “When people say, ‘how are the boys? How are the girls?,’ we say ‘These are men and women.’ We ask ‘Why can’t they have a library card?’”
The time and effort Fred puts into supporting and investing in his clients does not go unnoticed at Middlebury Men’s Group Home.
“He’s a pretty nice guy,” says Nate Griffey, a resident of Middlebury Men’s Group Home for six years. “He takes us out on outings and stuff. He helps us cook Swedish Meatballs. Makes me smile a lot and plays with us a lot.”
Nate Liechty, a Middlebury Men’s resident of eight years, says, “He’s a nice guy. I love it. He’s good and we just talk about everything.”
Making a House a Home
It’s not just the people who Fred serves that appreciate him, but also his fellow staff members. Fred can always be seen spending time with new staff and encouraging positive interaction, especially when he’s refereeing basketball on Wednesday nights for all of the group homes.
“Everybody has to remember that when you have a relief person come to your home, you have to smile to them, encourage them, make them feel welcomed and valued,” Fred says of building relationships with new DSPs. “We think, it’s another person we have to train, but you have to remember, that could be the next person who stays forever. It could be the next Fred Todd.”
We know there can only be one Fred Todd. With his Kansas City accent and his infectious enjoyment of art, Fred brings a lot of passion and discipline to his work here at ADEC. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor, Fred. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy.
Read the nomination written by Brenda Falcone, ADEC Director of Residential Operations, below:
Fred has been a DSP at ADEC since 1989. In the twenty-seven years he has been with the agency he has touched many lives in the residential program and beyond. Fred has demonstrated over they years, his ability to not only be a compassionate teacher, but also a kind and caring friend to those he serves. He takes great pride in developing healthy relationships that are based upon trust and respect. Fred has always been a resourceful individual being a great financial steward with limited resources. He connects individuals to community activities that they enjoy. He is well know in the small community of Middlebury as well as those who reside in the group home he works. Over the years he and his “guys” have made friends at the local coffee shop where they would go on a weekly basis for coffee and pie.
Fred has been the referee of the ADEC Silver Bullets since the inception years ago. Fred is able to make all players feel good about themselves regardless of their skill level. He will stop the game so that individuals can make a clear shot and he will make sure all players have a chance to shoot the ball. Fred has also introduced those in his home to the arts and culture. They will visit local museums and art shows. He takes pride in assisting those he serves to expand their horizons. When those who Fred serves go out with him, it is a given that they will be sharply dressed and ready to hit the town.
Fred not only takes care of what needs to be done on a daily basis, and is a very reliable co-worker, but he will go beyond to make sure the extra things have been taken care of. Fred so-workers respect him greatly and he presents as a solid mentor in the home for those who reside within and co-workers. The families of those he works with love Fred as much as everyone else. He is the guy who has the answers and is considerate when there is a concern.
Over the years, Fred has been faced with many changes and has tackled them like a champion. It is refreshing working with Fred as he takes his profession very seriously and it is very obvious by watching him in action. Fred is very committed to those he serves, and he is proud of the work he does. This letter proves as a snap-shot of the wonderful person that Fred is.