To celebrate our 40th anniversary, our staff have asked members and persons from the community to share their experience with INARF. If you would like to share your experience, please contact Harley Ehrman.
A Strong Association Makes All the Difference
By James Vento, CEO (Retired), Easter Seals Crossroads
My introduction to INARF came about in 1980, shortly after my arrival in Indiana, by way of a visit from Costa Miller. After that meeting there was no question that Crossroads would participate in the Association. It was apparent from the beginning that this was a man and an organization that was passionate about the mission of ensuring quality services for children and adults with disabilities. It was my pleasure to become actively involved in INARF, and ultimately become president of the board. A special aspect of that experience was serving during the 25th anniversary of the Association.
In addition to Costa, the organization was fortunate to have other staff dedicated to the mission and available to respond to needs of organizations committed to disability services. Is there anyone that is capable of quoting the content of legislation and laws that impact the industry like Jim Hammond? Fortunately for INARF, Jim had the opportunity to mentor Kim Opsahl, who has succeeded him and is equally committed to the mission.
After my arrival in Indiana, I was given the advice that it was critical to work closely with folks on both sides of the aisle to ensure supporting people with disabilities would remain a bipartisan issue. I respected the advice and consequently have had opportunities to have been appointed to state positions by governors of both parties. Though committed to service for individuals of all ages and disabilities, my strong passion has always been in serving children. I was appointed to the First Steps Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) by Governor Bob Orr and ultimately was named the chairperson. I also served on the ICC under Bayh, and continue to serve now under the current Governor.
It is critical to identify people for key positions within the state association who are committed to identifying resources to sustain the services. I was also fortunate to have been on the committees to select the successors to Costa Miller and Jim Hammond. (I am certain that it was out of respect for my knowledge, and had nothing to do with the fact that all of the meetings took place in my building.) In both instances the association was fortunate to have internal candidates that were able to assume the executive position, thus assuring a smooth transition.
We are fortunate also that there is a great staff to support the CEO and the membership. As a member of the National Easter Seals organization, and as a CARF surveyor, I have had the opportunity to interact with organizations throughout the country and have always been impressed with the accomplishments that our trade association has been able to achieve. It is my suggestion to all INARF members that they remain actively involved in the Association as the best means of advocating on behalf of those who need our services and support.