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www.wmfd.com - The Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Richland Newhope) is bidding farewell to long-time members Jack Stewart and Gabe DeSantis, effective Dec. 31. }}" />

Richland Newhope Bids Farewell To Board Members

Story By: Brigitte Coles



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  Original Published: 12/12/2013

The Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Richland Newhope) is bidding farewell to long-time members Jack Stewart and Gabe DeSantis, effective Dec. 31. Due to term limits, Stewart and DeSantis are unable to serve a fourth consecutive term.

The pair was honored during Wednesday’s board meeting. Each was presented with artwork from Element of Art Studio/Gallery, which is operated by Richland Newhope Industries, Inc.

“Both of these board members will leave very big shoes to fill,” said Richland Newhope Superintendent Liz Prather.

“Jack’s expertise in law and finances, in addition to his leadership skills are only exceeded by his commitment to serving his community. Gabe’s experience in education and as a parent of an adult son eligible for Board services has given him a voice of genuineness recognized by his fellow Board members locally, and at a statewide level during his tenure on the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities Board. “Gabe and Jack have seen many changes in the responsibilities of the board during their terms and have always provided leadership for whatever challenges we faced,” Prather added.

 “Their commitment to the board and its mission is evidenced by their willingness to serve the maximum length of time allowed by law. We have been fortunate to have them on our Board and hate to lose them”Prather said. 

Stewart was appointed to the board in January of 2002. During his tenure, he served as board president for four years and vice-president for three. Stewart also served on numerous board committees. He calls his tenure “rewarding.”

“I have learned an incredible amount about individuals with disabilities; what their needs are, what their problems are, what their capabilities are, etc.” said Stewart. “Being able to help them in a small way has been very uplifting.” “We really do try very hard to provide the necessary services to those people in need of the services,” he added. “Also, keep in mind that what we try to accomplish each and every day is very difficult. The people we serve are so diverse and sometimes provide Richland Newhope with interesting challenges."

Stewart currently serves on boards for the Visiting Nurse Association of Mid-Ohio, Kiwanis Club, Braintree, and John and Pearl Conard Foundation, and Monsignor Dunn Foundation. DeSantis also joined the board in January of 2002. He was vice-president the past six years and also served on many committees.

From 2006 to 2011, DeSantis served as a trustee of the Ohio Association of County Boards Serving People with Developmental Disabilities (OACB).

DeSantis says he is most proud that, during his tenure, Richland Newhope has been able to increase the number of individuals it supports and the term “mental retardation” was removed from the board’s name. That’s not all that stands out.

 “Our decision to have one of our individuals read our mission statement before each of our board meetings,” noted DeSantis. “It reminds us of the abilities, rather than the disabilities, of the people we serve.”

DeSantis remains active with the Knights of Columbus Council 8357 at Resurrection Parish and serves as president of the Mansfield chapter of Mended Hearts.

Richland County Probate Judge Philip Mayer will appoint replacements for Stewart and DeSantis on the board. The new members will be sworn in at the January board meeting.

The Richland County Board of Developmental Disabilities is a seven-member, volunteer board. The probate judge appoints two members and the county commissioners appoint five. At least three must be relatives of individuals eligible for board services.

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