It has been my privilege over the past 20 years to be the Executive Director at Oaks of Hebron. As with all things in this life, change is inevitable. Beginning April 1st, Eric Martin will assume the role of Executive Director.
It is with profound gratitude that I reflect on the past 20 years. As I took the reins from Steve Kranz little did I realize the relationships that would be built, the changes that would be made and the memories that would be created.
I am forever thankful for several people that supported me and made it possible to bridge the transition that took place back in 1998. Joan Borton, Cathy Chase, and Sandra Johnson were instrumental in educating me and keeping Oaks on track for the months before and after I figured out what Oaks was all about. Brad Dack, Trina Townsend, and Jane Petersen were key players as well who helped to continue Oaks in a forward direction. Jim Cotter also made a significant contribution in helping Oaks to start our Growing Together farm in 2007. In fact, over these years over 200 different employees have provided daily care and assistance to about the same number of clients.
My greatest thanks goes to my wife Lynda who has been a key employee for 15 of these years. She has diligently and accurately been Oaks bookkeeper, payroll processor, HR coordinator, transportation scheduler, receptionist, staff counselor, birthday coordinator, and countless other jobs. Above and beyond all of that Lynda has been my confidant, encourager, and sounding board. There is no way in the world that I could have done anything at Oaks without her.
From time to time I have thought that I should write a book about all the experiences I have had and, the lessons I have learned in working while working with our clients. I have had the joyful opportunity to laugh with many of our clients as well as sit back and smile while I observe the joy that they are experiencing. Likewise, I have cried with and shared some very difficult moments with others. I have had the distinct privilege of holding the hand of a few of our clients as they lay in their bed and took their last breath as they were ushered into their eternal home. I fully believe that several of our clients have expressed and exhibited a faith in Jesus Christ and that someday we will again meet face to face for an eternal reunion.
Several significant changes in the scope of Oaks services have taken place during these past 20 years. In 1998 we operated 4 licensed care homes with 5 residents in each home. We also provided Supported Living services to approximately 50 clients who lived in their own apartments. Over time we phased out of licensed home operations and enlarged our Supported Living/Independent Living program. We also added the Growing Together farm day program and later the Tailored Day Service job placement programs. Today we are serving 100 individuals with Supported or Independent Living services, 17 crew members at the farm and, 25 through Tailored Day services. Our staff has grown to the largest at one time that we have ever employed with 49 on our current payroll.
Oaks will move forward into the next era with very capable leadership. Eric Martin has worked in the Developmental Disability field for the past 19 years. He has been at Oaks for the past 4 years as a Program Director and Associate Director. Prior to his work at Oaks, Eric worked for 15 years at North Bay Regional Center as a Service Coordinator. Filling Eric’s position will be Tricia Sitton who has been with us for the past 12 years. Tricia began as a Sonoma State student working overnight shifts at Sierra House as a Residential Assistant. From there she moved on to become a Community Support Facilitator. Tricia has recently taken over the responsibility of coordinating the schedule for some 20 Personal Assistants who work with our clients in their homes.
I would be remiss in my thanks to all the individuals who have been the stabilizing roots of the oak tree without mentioning our Board of Directors and donors. Each quarter in the months of January, April, July and October, our Board of Directors meet to review the current financial status, program updates and critical issues that we are experiencing. The faithful men and women that are behind the scenes at Oaks giving support, advice, guidance and feedback to the Executive Director are:
Marshall and Doralee White, Cindy Herzog, Rich Wells, Geoff Chatfield, Valorie Jones, and Ehlert Lassen. Although no longer on the Board, Jim Kranz and Judy Crellin also served for many years during my tenure.
Each month there are many donors that faithfully give charitable donations in amounts ranging from $25 to several $1,000’s. In 2017 alone $57,000 was given through cash donations and fundraising events. During the past 20 years over $550,000 has been given by very generous individuals. These funds have allowed Oaks to purchase new vehicles in order to transport our clients safely and reliably. They have allowed us to complete the purchase of Sierra House in Cotati. They have allowed us to provide a wide array of enriching activities and vacations for our clients at a very reasonable cost.
Thank you to the hundreds of individuals who have supported Oaks in this way.
Thanks for the memories!
Stan Higgins, Outgoing Executive Director