Spirit of Blue River Pervades All-Staff In-Service
It’s been a while since all 400 plus Blue River Services, Inc. employees gathered in the same room, but the November 3 all-staff in-service was just cause for the 13-department agency to shut down for one afternoon. The meeting showcased the spirit of Blue River and the remarkable transformations that bud and flourish there.
From the grave shift workers who make sure consumers are safe at night to the patron saints of child care, transportation, habilitation, family services, and even the ladies (and one gentleman) upstairs in the administration building who balance the books, one thing resounds – we are all working toward one collective mission to serve our community and those in it who need us most.
Daniel J. Lowe, President and CEO of Blue River Services, Inc., kicked off the jungle-themed meeting at Lincoln Hills Christian Church by welcoming and thanking employees for their passion and dedication.
“No matter what area you work in, no matter what group you serve, no matter your model of serving people, the common factor is, we are all trying to help our friends and neighbors become more independent and self-sufficient … to lead happier and healthier lives in positive environments,” Lowe said.
“What we give people is the opportunity to succeed and the tools to make that happen,” he continued. “Make no mistake, you and Blue River Services are making a huge difference in our community as a whole and for 18,000 plus individuals and families that you serve.”
“Today is a celebration… it’s a celebration of you. Because you are what makes it happen and what makes Blue River services a vital part of the communities we work in.”
Another highpoint of the day was seeing firsthand the agency’s mission in action. Simply called “success stories” on the agenda – nothing could have prepared attendees for the magnitude of those two words.
Bound by small-town poverty but bonded in mutual interests that surpass the typical schoolyard clicks, a group of fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Medora Elementary School was one of the afternoon highlights. A nod to Children’s Services’ Reach for a Star extended day learning, the after-school program offers participation in clubs and other enrichment activities in addition to homework assistance. One program that stood out to 12-year-old Julie Bartley was the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Bartley, who now serves as sergeant, called the program “amazing” and credits it with helping her build self-confidence and deflect bullying. After addressing the crowd, Bartley and the group of cadets marched to the stage and impressed with a synchronized drill twirling wooden rifles.
Another inspiring success story was that of a man whose radiating enthusiasm and determination legitimize Blue River Services’ mission. The journey of Jerry Beverley, profiled by Tim Beitzel, Supervised Group Living Director, was clearly a personal point of pride for the entire room.
Since moving into Corydon-Ramsey Group Home 12 years ago, Jerry, who now resides at Summit View Group Home, has developed a knack for working with pea gravel, leather and jewelry boxes – skills that have made him a tremendous asset at the Corydon Blue River Industries workshop where consumers earn competitive wages fulfilling light manufacturing contracts for local businesses. Jerry also is part of the janitorial team that cleans several agency facilities each week.
In the community, he works at Goodwill, volunteers at the animal shelter, is an active member of First Capitol Church, and enjoys competing in the Special Olympics and bowling.
“I have known Jerry since he started here, and it is an honor to recognize his achievements,” said Beitzel, noting that his success stems from the teamwork of staff at Corydon Blue River Industries, Employment Services, Habilitation and Supervised Group Living.
Described as a “kind, active and energetic person,” Jerry was then called to the stage.
“I like my job at Goodwill,” Jerry said. “I like my church… I like Faye,” he continued, speaking about Faye Wilburn, his advocate who he lovingly refers to as “Mom.” He even pointed her out to the crowd before summing up by saying, “Thank you.”
His brief but poignant speech prompted tears and a standing ovation.
“Without Blue River Services, he may have never realized his full potential and grown in so many ways,” said Beitzel. “He is truly an example of how anyone can achieve success with some help and a great attitude.”
Indeed, from the youngest minds to the biggest personalities, Blue River Services impacts people’s lives, but the lesson was that they profoundly impact ours as well.
Perhaps that’s why nearly half of Blue River Services’ employees have been with the agency for five years, a staggering 21 percent are celebrating tenure of five years or more, and six percent are at least 20-year veterans.
Or maybe it’s because such devotion doesn’t go unnoticed.
“As part of this celebration, we recognized the valuable contributions you make and how long you have been making them,” said Lowe.
Extended to employees on their five-year anniversary with Blue River Services and every five years thereafter, this years’ Service Awards recognized 35 employees for their dedication and service.
The most significant milestone was that of Donna Davis, habilitation manager in the Community Resources Department, who was honored for her 35 years of service. Davis also won this year’s Donna J. Gettelfinger Spirit of Blue River Award in the Day Programs Division.
Named in honor of former co-worker and friend Donna J. Gettelfinger, who played a major role in establishing them, the Spirit of Blue River Awards recognize the outstanding qualities of employees who far exceed the call of duty and are bestowed upon those who are the true embodiment of the agency’s motto “People Serving People.”
In addition to Davis, Heather Richard, manager of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program, and Dawn Pigg, regional manager of In-Home Services South, both took home Spirit of Blue River Awards in their divisions.
Other employees with notable milestones included Nona Besendorf, social service liaison with Residential Supervised Group Living, who was recognized for 30 years of service, Patty Satterfield, executive assistant to the president and CEO, who was recognized for her 25 years of service, and Murie Medlock, in-home services and structured family manager; Teresa Long, fiscal accounting manager; and Penny Donaldson, life skills instructor at Klerner Group Home, who all celebrated 20 years with the agency.
Amidst door prizes peppered throughout the event to keep the crowd excited were several engaging guest speakers, including Milltown Police Chief (Marshal) Ray Saylor, who detailed the importance of partnership in his drug awareness discussion, and Michael Harper with TeamWorx, who led attendees in a series of amusing team building activities.
Blue River’s IT guru Bryan Block, dubbed the Jungle Hacker, also shared his knowledge and important insights on how to keep confidential information and computers safe; and Rhonda Elrod, employment services manager, and Sharon Chumley, bookkeeper, lent their musical talents to a whimsical rendition of HIPAA compliance.
As the event came to a close, something Lowe said in his speech resonated.
“I often say that Blue River tries to weave itself into the fabric of the community,” he said. “Everything we do adds up to supplying the opportunity and the tools to be independent and self-sufficient. What comes with independence and self-sufficiency is the self-respect and dignity that each human being deserves, no matter the difficulties and challenges they may face.”
Lowe then summed up the day’s purpose with one keen point.
“Much of your success is measured by the success of others, and what could be more noble than that?”
Photo: Daniel J. Lowe, President and CEO, welcomes employees at the all-staff in-service.