I met David William Tresch when I worked at the Western State School and Hospital in 1964. David was 9 years old, and I was 19. He was a beautiful child with curly blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a gorgeous smile that melted my heart. I didn’t realize it then, but that day we met was the real beginning of Verland.
David first smiled at me about 6 months later and I saw an angel smiling at me, like a parent might feel when they see their newborn smile for the first time. It became apparent to me that, if I could help make David smile, I could do more for him and his friends. At that moment, I knew I wanted a career working with children in the Intellectual Disability (ID) field. The day that David smiled at me was the start of a very special relationship that has endured for almost 55 years.
Time really does fly by when you love what you do. So, here I am getting ready to transition the leadership of Verland to its second President and CEO – William “Bill” F. Harriger, a terrific and capable man whom I have known for about 9 years, almost 4 years here at Verland as our Chief Operating Officer. As I have said to Bill many times, “I am entrusting to you the ‘Keys of the Kingdom' and its most precious residents: Verland’s clients.” Bill, I am certain you will continue the Verland mission of emphasizing Love, Dignity, and Respect for not only the Verland clients and their families but the Verland staff as well.
Bill is a Board member of Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR), a non-profit organization that represents service providers in Pennsylvania. He was recognized by PAR in 2015 as “Advocate of the Year” for securing a settlement between Pennsylvania and Home and Community Based Service providers. Interestingly enough, I knew Bill and I were cut from the same cloth as I had received an “Advocate of the Year” Award from PAR in 2003 in recognition of my work with American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), our national organization representing more than 1,400 service providers. Both organizations are committed to trying to elevate the status of people with ID, support a living wage for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), and increase public awareness that providers are committed to giving the best services, supports, and great places to live for people with ID if a person needs placement. Providers are the backbone of the ID system nationwide, serving more than one million people with disabilities with a workforce of more than 500,000 DSPs. Bill is also committed to providing all that our individuals need to live in dignified, fulfilling conditions that enable them to become healthier and happier. Bill serves on an ANCOR committee working to develop a model for a rate reimbursement system for providers of ID and disability services.
On July 1, I will have been blessed to have had the honor of serving Verland’s residents and our staff for almost 40 years. While it hasn’t been without its challenges, God always brought us through. I pray that I have made a real difference, not only in David’s life, but also in the lives of his family, his friends, and our staff. I could not be more pleased and confident that Bill will continue the quality of service that has marked our four decades of support for persons with disabilities.
Thanks to everyone who has mentored me and donated their time, treasures, and talents to our God-given Verland mission. I wish Bill all the best in his new role and entreat everyone to join with me in supporting him in every way.
God bless us all,