By Dirk Webb
Photo by Dale Pickett
Jane Ruff, Executive Director
Hopewell Center, Inc.
5325 South Main Street Anderson, IN 46018
(765) 642-0201 (work)
In the mid 1950’s, a group of families met to discuss a challenge. In those days children who were born with Down’s syndrome or other significant delays were counseled by their well-meaning Physicians to “not even bring their child home.”
These courageous families rejected conventional wisdom and created a volunteer organization designed to provide activities for learning. Those few parents started a movement that later became The Hopewell Center.
Incorporated in 1966, The Center hired its first Executive Director, the late Kaye Casterline, followed by Ron Rucker (also deceased) and today Jane Ruff serves as only the third director of The Hopewell Center. From a few activities to the wide scope of employment and residential service programs administered from its Anderson based campus, The Hopewell Center lives up to its name for over 600 individuals each year and has therefore been nominated as a finalist for the United Way/Madison County Chamber Non Profit of the Year award.
Where are you originally from? “I’ve lived in Indiana 32 years, but I’m originally from a small central Illinois town (Oblong) much like Anderson.”
What are your primary programs? “We engage in two primary aspects of care. Our children’s services provide therapies so that each child is able to reach an age appropriate level and be successful in a community and in school. Our other services are designed to help people work within the community and help people stay at home. We regard it as a lifelong relationship where we can assist in apartment life, help them perform volunteer work in the community and in general, ‘have a life.’ We also help with job placement including support services for employers who hire our clients.”
Why here in Madison County? “Like most communities in that era, there was a huge need for these particular services in Madison County and through the leadership of those visionary parents we’ve faithfully and proudly filled that need.”
What are your goals for 2015? “National Accreditation. That will be our primary focus for this year. In addition we will be taking a close look at how we deliver services to make sure we have the right fit. After all, nothing stays the same.”
Why are you in this business? “When I was younger I lived next to a man with developmental disabilities and that stuck with me. When I graduated from college, I was offered two jobs in one day, and took the one that worked with disabilities. I have a Masters in Rehabilitation Administration, (Southern Illinois) and an MBA from Anderson University, but the biggest love has been seeing people having their dreams fulfilled. One woman had never had a vacation so we helped her plan a trip to Memphis to visit Graceland including helping her budget for the trip, make payments on the balance and even took her to the airport. We assist our clients in getting their first job as well. Through it all our hope is to inspire others to do it too.”
Who do you consider the most courageous person in history and why? “Those original parents who had that courage to stand up, love their kids and help them have a good life. If you asked them they’d probably say ‘that’s what parent’s do.’ But years ago it took great resolve to take the steps they did.”
If you were to take those parents on a tour of The Hopewell Center today, what one thing would you want them to see? “The great strides we’ve made to help each client become part of the community, and in turn help our community accept people with differences. Carl and Betty Erskine have been so inspirational in helping their son, Jimmy, lead a successful and productive life. Today, many who have been diagnosed with these obstacles get better health care and are living long enough to have the same aging problems that we all face. We work with people from months old to 86 years old.”
What was the defining moment when you knew The Hopewell Center was making a difference? “When a young woman who “graduated” our program told our Board of Directors that she wanted to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. We love it when someone wants to pay that impact forward.”
The winner of the Non-Profit of the Year Award will be revealed at the 2015 Annual Awards Gala