What do Jeep, M&M’s, Coach & JEVS have in common? They all got their starts in 1941.

In Part I of our two-part Q & A with our President & CEO Jay Spector, we reflect on the start of JEVS Human Services’ 75th anniversary, secrets to success and special memories over many decades.

Q. JEVS is celebrating its 75th anniversary. What special meaning does this hold for you?

A. It’s an opportunity to talk about the rich history of the organization at a very important point in time when so many need help, to celebrate our past and think about the impact we want to have in the future.

Q. Can you tell us about your history with the organization?

A. I came to JEVS in 1979 as the associate executive director, a position I had for 16 years. In 1996, the then-CEO retired, and I took over. To put it in perspective, in 1979 our annual budget was $4 million. In 1996, when I took over, we had grown to $28 million. And today we have an operating budget of about $92 million. I’m most proud to say that we went from serving a few hundred people in 1979 to more than 21,000 people today.

Q. 75 years is a long time to be serving the community. What is the secret to JEVS’ success in making hope happen?

A. I think part of our success is the diversity of our program offerings. It’s because of the range of our work in behavioral health and intellectual disabilities, in residential services, in workforce and career services–to name a few–that makes us especially good at helping clients realize independence, whether that means work, independent living or other goals. I think we can help solve problems because, with our breadth of experience, we have a broad view of solutions.

Q. Can you share a few of your favorite memories while working at JEVS?

A. There are so many. Over the years, we pioneered programs in in-home supports, led new workforce initiatives and found new ways to help clients become more independent. Nine years ago, we opened a brand new facility that houses our Orleans Technical College. That was a major construction undertaking, not to mention the fund raising and friend-raising we had to do to make it happen. Watching that building go up and see our vision come to life was definitely rewarding.

In those moments, I’m not just the CEO–I’m one of 900 JEVS employees doing whatever it takes to help our clients live full lives and achieve.

–President & CEO Jay Spector

Program launches and big building projects are great, but my favorite personal memories are opportunities to get to know our clients. For years, we had an active Special Olympics program for individuals who lived in our community homes and attended our vocational programs. The program was looking for coaches; I was an avid skier so I volunteered to coach skiing. I made several trips to the Pocono Mountains to teach skiing to our adult athletes. It was a very humbling experience for me to step out of my everyday role and work directly with our clients, sharing my love for the sport. I’m not sure who learned more–me or them. We had some fun adventures on the mountain and no one (including me) broke any bones! It’s something I will never forget. In those moments, I’m not just the CEO–I’m one of 900 JEVS employees doing whatever it takes to help our clients live full lives and achieve.

Check back in the fall for Part II of our Q&A with Jay.  

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