Editor’s Note: Kevin Boyer, pictured above on the right with Kyle Hankins and Chacriyar Chhuon at the Annual Recognition Banquet, stepped down as ADEC’s Board Chair in September after 10 years of service, including holding each office on the board. We are all grateful for Kevin’s earnest support and advocacy for ADEC and the people we serve. He penned the following as a note to his fellow board members and ADEC managers prior to stepping down from his role as Board Chair. He will continue to serve on the board as Past Chair. His story is the first in a series on staff perspectives across ADEC.

I want to take a few moments to explain what a wonderful impact that personal journey has had on my life.

Many of you have heard me mention that my earliest exposure to ADEC was back in 1979 when, as a fresh college graduate and an employee of Coopers & Lybrand, I was involved in ADEC’s annual audit.  In knew then that ADEC was a very special organization and that it was highly regarded by the community for the services it provides.  Life proceeded on and I didn’t really give ADEC much thought in the many years that followed.

In the early 2000’s, I had the opportunity of serving on the board of Timbercrest Senior Living Center in North Manchester with Paula Shively, then the CEO of ADEC.  Having worked together in that capacity, and after learning that I worked in Elkhart County, Paula asked if I would be interested in serving on ADEC’s board.  I subsequently passed the board “entrance exam” and my journey began in 2005.

The rigorous board orientation involved a detailed review of ADEC’s finances (no problem there), visits to various group homes, a tour of ADEC Industries and a tour of the day services facility (which was our first stop).  This would be my toughest challenge.

Growing up, I was certainly raised to know better than to be disrespectful of individuals with cognitive disabilities, but I can honestly say that I wasn’t always empathetic with them.  I guess I usually just avoided them because they made me feel uncomfortable.

When Paula led me into the tour of the day services building, she began introducing me to some of the clients; I was very nervous, but trying desperately not to let it show.  When she introduced me to Fred Klemm, my cover was blown.  He looked at me and simply said, “Uh oh!”

Fred knew; he instantly sensed that I was uncomfortable and now Paula and the other staff who were nearby knew!  In the few instances that our paths crossed after that, it was difficult for me to even make eye contact with Fred.  In spite of his disability, you can’t fool Fred.

Fred for web

Fred Klemm

That uncomfortable feeling was something that I knew I needed to work on, so that became a personal goal for me over the past 10 years.  I began by making an intentional effort to speak to ADEC clients and to see them without bias; to see them simply as warm human beings.

Now, fast-forward to 2015.  Just a few weeks ago, Donna graciously allowed me to hold one of the Elkhart Clinic’s management team monthly meetings at ADEC’s day services building.  My colleagues have heard me mention ADEC many times over the years and I wanted them to have the opportunity to get a closer look at the organization; the day services building is the perfect place for that!  My intent wasn’t to convert them to be supporters of ADEC, just to let them see first-hand the organization that I was involved with.

I arrived
early for the meeting (shortly after 3:00) to make sure everything was ready.  The clients were just leaving for the day and I was surprised at how easy it was for me to interact with so many of them as they were exiting the building; obviously, I had made progress in achieving my personal goal.

Then, as I entered the building, I noticed that Fred was standing several feet away and I thought, “Uh oh!”  Suddenly, his glance met mine and he gave me a big smile.  Fred knew; he now realized that I wasn’t the same person that he had met 10 years ago.  In fact, I had achieved my personal goal!

That’s my story.

Finally, I also want to take the opportunity to thank two individuals (in addition to Paula) who were a source of immense encouragement to me in the past 10 years.

Early on as vice-chairman of the board, I had the opportunity to chair a meeting in the absence of Jenny Sager.  After the meeting, Cary Kelsey came up to me and said, “I think you’ll do fine as chairman someday.”  At the time, I had never been chairman of the board of any organization and his words meant a lot to me.  Thanks, Cary.

One of the unique qualities that I tried to bring to the ADEC board was the occasional sharing of a story; usually a personal experience that had a much deeper meaning than the story itself.  There have been several occasions in which Sally Russell has told me how much she enjoys and looks forward to my stories.  Thanks, Sally; the story about Fred is my last.

Thanks to all of you for taking part in my personal journey.

God bless!

Kevin Boyer