To say that Christian Opportunity Center (COC) has gone through many changes and transitions in 2018 is an understatement. From leadership changes to new opportunities for the people we support, COC would like to take a minute to share some reflections 2018.
COC has always taken great pride in our hardworking staff and praises each one of them for their part in another great year. According to the US Department of Labor, it was reported in 2015 that there were nearly 4.5 million Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in the US. Those numbers help put into perspective the significance of one of COC’s DSPs, Laura Groenboom, receiving a national honorable mention from ANCOR as the DSP of the Year.
COC’s Leadership Team went through some significant transitions in 2018. Our organization said “see you later” to long-tenured Executive Director Rod Braun, as he entered into retirement. Our organization is eternally thankful for his leadership for the past 31.5 years and all he has done for COC. As Rod’s tenure ended, John Eilers’ time as Executive Director began. The succession plan that had been in place for the past 14 years has made John’s transition from Associate Director to Executive Director smooth. Longtime employee, Jodi Tukker accepted the Associate Director position in May and stepped into the new role on July 1. Shelli Robins also joined the Leadership Team in July; she is the ICF Regional Director.
This past year also brought many changes to COC services. In May, COC closed the Facility-Based Employment program. Although it was hard to say goodbye to this long-standing program, our staff promptly focused on the growth of Community-Based Employment (CBE) for the individuals we support. In 2018, COC CBE staff added 24 new jobs for the people we support in Pella, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, and Indianola. Another Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) home was opened in Oskaloosa this past year and is now home to four individuals we support. In May, another Life Skills/Day Habilitation location was opened in Knoxville. This program serves approximately 14 individuals in the Knoxville area. Due to the growth of the Pella Life Skills, the program was moved to the Pella main office location in October. In November, COC was pleased to announce that it has received its 13th consecutive CARF accreditation for our Community-Based Employment and Life Skills programs in Indianola, Oskaloosa, Knoxville, and Pella.
For the 260 individuals that we support, 2018 has been a year filled with many new experiences and exciting opportunities. Each one of the individuals we support brings to their communities so much joy with their talents and gifts. Several excelled in the Special Olympics this past year in Indianola and Oskaloosa. Many of our residential homes are working on living a more active lifestyle for the people we support. We have also had some exciting moments for the people we support; one of the highlights was when two persons supported from Knoxville were able to meet a sprint car driver during the Knoxville Nationals.
The communities where we offer services and supports were an integral part of the success of COC in the past year. With the support of many local businesses, COC was able to find new employment opportunities and recreational activities for the people we support. Many local churches participated in Disability Sunday this past year to promote inclusion for individuals with disabilities in their church communities. COC appreciates and values the individuals, organizations, and businesses who have contributed to COC through the support of the 17th Annual Golf Classic, by making one-time donations, or through volunteering time.
Looking forward to 2019, COC will celebrate the 50th anniversary of supporting people with disabilities in central Iowa. We will be honoring our past 50 years and looking forward to continuing the COC tradition of service many years into the future.