When I was in my early 20s, I can honestly say I wasn’t thinking about a career in human services as my life’s work. But many people I met along the way were instrumental in helping me develop as a professional, especially in those early years, and led me to discover that my true calling was supporting people with intellectual disabilities.
One of those influences was Mike Shriver, the former CEO at Penn-Mar who hired me to work in Penn-Mar’s residential program 31 years ago, and now the Executive Director of Change, Inc., the newest division of Penn-Mar Human Services.
I have to believe that nothing happens by chance. Working with Mike and maintaining our professional relationship throughout the years has brought both of us to this important moment.
As leaders we are the ones charged with the strategic direction of our organizations. So ultimately the decision to merge came out of the conclusion that this partnership is good for everybody.
We are poised to lead the new wave to provide innovative services for IDD. By leveraging our resources, we will do it more efficiently and effectively.
In contemplating the merger, our primary consideration was the people we currently support. But looking ahead to the next 20 years, we asked ourselves what type of future would we be building for kids graduating out of the school system? It is our responsibility to ensure opportunities and supports that lead to a life of their choosing. What can that life look like?
CEOs’ don’t have to make all the decisions, however. We must empower our leaders to lead. Mike and I clearly share this philosophy. We both believe that it is incredibly important for the people we bring to our team to have a set of core competencies, values, and makeup of character.
The success and sustainability of Penn-Mar is highly dependent on the professionals we entrust with our operations.
This field has changed dramatically since Mike first started his career and I, too, have seen tremendous shifts in how we support the people we are honored to interact with each day. Many supports are evolving and we have clearly shifted to a more community based model in our services. In-home supports are now available and in many cases preferred over residential options. More than ever before, individuals with disabilities are becoming immersed in their communities, engaged in all sorts of leisure, volunteer and paid employment opportunities.
In my many years at Penn-Mar, Mike, Keith Peterson, our former CEO and the Board of Directors, gave me the opportunity to lead, giving the best I had, regardless of my positions, to help make Penn-Mar the best it could be. That’s the model I am trying to emulate with our team members today.
There is widespread excitement at Penn-Mar about how all of this is going to integrate and catapult us to leading the industry. We want to be the model of how a strategic merger between two strong organizations can work.
Start with the Board symmetry. Six members of the Change, Inc. Board will be joining the Penn-Mar Board come July 1. We plan to take advantage of all that expertise to bring new ideas and resources to the table.
Penn-Mar can now offer Change, Inc. families residential options in their contiguous geography. We already have two homes outside Westminster, MD where Change, Inc. is headquartered.
We are leading the industry in training programs for our Direct Support Professionals (DSP), offering a path to certification and improved compensation with the Career Ladders Program. This opportunity will now be available to Change, Inc. team members.
The merger will also enhance Penn-Mar’s philanthropic outreach to Change, Inc. donors and supporters, as we begin to acquaint them with the innovations we are incorporating each and every day into our programs and services.
This merger is not about protecting turf. It’s about doing the right thing by the people we support, crafting a strategic direction that will benefit everyone. While we fully anticipate there will be a few bumps and bruises along the way, with the full support of our “One Team” philosophy we move forward knowing our best days are ahead.