Byers 40 years

Sharon Byers (pictured) was recognized for her 40 years of service during January’s COC Leadership Team meeting

Christian Opportunity Center (COC) living skills advisor Sharon Byers recently celebrated 40 years of service with the organization, the first employee to reach the milestone.

After volunteering at COC in just its fifth year as a school program, Byers was hired as the first workshop supervisor on Sept. 7, 1974. Byers served in that capacity for 37 years before transferring to her current position in Pella’s life skills program.

“I volunteered at COC because I wanted to be part of an organization that was known for helping people who needed support and encouragement,” Byers said. “I have stayed at COC because I have a Christian love for the people I serve. It is fulfilling to see them gain self-confidence and connect with others, all while finding and holding community jobs.”

Byers has many cherished memories in her 40 years with COC, but one is held in high regard.

In May of 1985, Gary and Matilda Vermeer financed a trip to Florida for 49 people served and 11 staff members. The trip was complete with visits to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center and Sea World.

Byers, who spent three months helping plan the vacation, was one of the staff members on the trip. Her treasured memory is not only the trip itself, but also hearing about the joy it brought one of the persons served.

“I visited a person I served in the nursing home before he passed away,” Byers said. “Before Florida, he had never been on a vacation, let alone outside the state of Iowa. He told me the Disney World trip was the best time of his life.”

COC Executive Director Rod Braun said Byers’ time has impacted many lives.

“Forty years of service is a significant milestone and we congratulate Sharon for her dedicated service to the mission of COC,” Braun said. “She has been a blessing to hundreds of people with disabilities and to her many co-workers.”

And if you are considering working at COC, Byers would encourage you to apply.

“If you are looking for a job that will make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities and will also make a difference in your life, you will get that and more at COC,” said Byers.

Byers’ service accomplishment was recognized with a reception and time of fellowship at COC’s Leadership Team’s bi-monthly meeting in January.

Founded in 1969, COC continues to provide opportunities for more than 250 people with disabilities in Marion, Mahaska, Warren and Polk counties. For more information visit or connect with Christian Opportunity Center on Facebook and IowaCOC on Twitter.