JOLIET – Randy Chapman will never forget his nephew Kendrick.
Kendrick, who was 2 when he died in 1988, never progressed past age 6 months, despite excellent care, Chapman said. He recalled the first time he and his wife, Sheryl Chapman, provided respite care for the family.
“Startling” is how Randy described it.
“It’s an experience you never forget once you have that,” Randy said.
The former publisher for The Herald-News in Joliet and former senior development officer at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Randy officially began his new role as CEO for the Center for Disability Services in Joliet on April 3.
Randy brings to the role his experience in leadership, funded development and community engagement. His goal is to provide the best possible experience to the individuals the center serves and to make those services more widely known and available to the community.
During his first year, Randy said he plans to increase the center’s fiscal stability, as well as expand enrollment in the school and in adult development training. He also will visit the residential homes, to see how they operate and to fill any openings, he added.
“I know there is unmet need in these counties that surround Will County,” Randy said.
In the meantime, Randy said he’s becoming acquainted with the building staff and the individuals the center serves. For instance, “Katie” has severe physical disabilities, but great ideas, so he makes time to listen to her.
“Melvin” loves clothes, so he and Randy bond that way.
“He admires my shoes and I admire his jackets,” Randy said.
Randy said he enjoys watching staff interact with the individuals.
“I’d love to just sit down with them on the floor some morning, or afternoon, and watch them – and perhaps engage,” Randy said.
Returning home to Joliet was easy for Randy because he and Sheryl never sold their home. Their children, grandchildren and friends were in Joliet, so keeping the home during the years Randy was publisher of the Post Bulletin and Rochester Magazine made it easy to visit.
After nearly 10 years in Minnesota, Randy and Sheryl returned to Joliet for good in January after “ownership decided it didn’t need to have a publisher.” Randy wasn’t ready to retire.
“I wanted something meaningful to do,” Randy said.
Randy said through attending community events as well as meetings at the Joliet Chamber of Commerce, he learned CDS needed a CEO. As it turned out, Randy had past experiences with the center.
He chaired a campaign to develop funds for the center’s Willpower Endowment. As part of the Joliet Kiwanis Club, Randy said he did some painting at the center.
“I’d been in the building a number of times and I was familiar with its services,” Randy said. “And some people remembered that.”
Vince Portlock, chairman of the CDS board, said the center is very fortunate the CEO position was available when Randy returned to Joliet.
“We’re very confident he will do a great job in running the center,” Portlock said.
Portlock added that the center also owes a huge amount of gratitude to former board chairman Larry Burich.
“Larry acted as interim CEO for two separate occasions in a two-year period, and, quite frankly, his assistance was invaluable,” Portlock said. “Not only did he keep the center running smoothly, but he provided us the time and opportunity to find the right candidate for CEO.”
Burich, director of planning for the Joliet Park District, was happy to help, although it meant working the second job in the evenings and on weekends. The second time as interim CEO was more complicated as the center was also searching for a new chief financial officer, Burich said. The new CFO is Sharon Asher-Hall of Plainfield. She also began work April 3.
Although balancing his roles at the park district and CDS was challenging, Burich said he did so for the individuals CDS serves. Burich said all weariness fled the moment he walked into the building and saw their faces.
Like Portlock, Burich is confident Randy will do a superior job and compared him to Sam Mancuso, a former CEO who died in 2010.
“The center needs stable leadership,” Burich said. “And that’s what Randy brings.”
History of the Center for Disability Services
• 1955 – Melvin J. Larson, a college professor, worked with Will County Health Department to identify 35 cases of children with cerebral palsy, formed parents group.
• 1956 – UCP of Will County became an affiliate.
• 1960 – The first school for children with cerebral palsy was opened at Rehn School in Joliet.
• 1965 – A larger facility was rented on Manhattan Road in Joliet to accommodate growing attendance.
• 1979 – Expanded to add respite care, family support services and an adult day training program.
• 1981 – Moved to the Cherry Hill Joliet facility.
• 1982 – Relocated operations to St. Mary’s Hospital temporarily.
• 1985 – Purchased the Reedswood School in Joliet, which brought the school and adult day training programs under one roof.
• 2012 – Added an autism room for school program.
• 2013 – Constructed a completely wheelchair-accessible playground on agency property.
• 2014 – Disaffiliated with United Cerebral Palsy National and became the Center for Disability Services.
For information, call 815-744-3500 or visit www.cdsil.org.