“ Happy Trails to you, until we meet again, Happy Trails to you, keep smilin’ until then. Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather. Happy Trails to you, till we meet again.
Such were the words to the theme song to the TV show, “ Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans” back in the 1950s. And they fit for my last article in our Newsletter as Project Freedom’s Executive Director. As of July 1, 2021, I will be retiring as ED, giving the reigns over to our own Tracee Battis. Knowing Tracee as I do, I am confident she will do an outstanding job, and provide great leadership into the future. And of course, Norman remains our founder, who constantly reminds us of his vision and mission—Independence. His influence will continue on and into the future.
I must say, that I never had any idea that this would be the last place for me to end my career. Back in 1997, I had stopped to talk with Norman about selling my accessible van thinking that it would be better to sell to someone who really needed it rather than just trading it in. Our conversation that day led to my giving a presentation to the Board of Trustees, who offered me the job. And as they say, the rest is history.
However, my history with the disability community really started back in 1974, when my daughter, Jennifer was born with CP. Back then there weren’t many options for services let alone housing. Marion and I would be involved in organizing parent support for educational opportunities, and ultimately I became involved with Norman in forming Project Freedom. I remember Norman coming into my gas station with his Dad, and talking to me about his ideas and his vision for independence. I joined the Board, and became the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees. As a volunteer, we lobbied our public officials to get funds to build our first housing community in Robbinsville, called Freedom I, which opened in 1991. Fast Forward to today, and ten projects later, we are just completing our Robbinsville Town Center project, and about to break ground on our second one in Hamilton Township, across from the Library.
I must say it has been a lot of work, not always enjoyable, but always exciting. Finding a suitable site, getting town approvals, getting our funding, managing the construction, doing the lease-up, and hiring staff—all things that can lead you to pull your hair out. But in the end, very worthwhile.
So, as I sadly write these words, I don’t have any regrets whatsoever. I have been fortunate to have worked with our great staff, which keeps growing every day with our consumers, who I know treasure our housing because it makes life easier and gives them a safe, and clean environment. I’ve also enjoyed working together with my wife Marion, for the past nine years, in a professional capacity, and really need to share my success with her. And, of course, our Board of Trustees, who for the most part, took on the enormous risks involved, and supported our housing developments.
So, one thing Marion and I have always done, and that follows the Holy Spirit and trust in the Lord.
God Bless, keep well and “Happy Trails to you, until we meet again”.