NEPS bids goodbye to Director Rick Roy
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Woodstock - posted Fri., Dec. 28, 2012
When you walk into Rick Roy's office, it feels like walking into a cozy living room. Pine paneling and a fireplace give his office, located in an old colonial on Route 171, a homey feel. Roy has been the executive director at the Northeast Placement Services in Woodstock for the last five years. He has worked at NEPS for 20 years altogether. Before that, he worked at the Dempsey Center for 15 years.
Colleagues will tell you that human service is in his DNA. Clients will say that they'll miss him. Roy is retiring, and his departure will be felt by a circle of people that stretches across Windham County.
A search is underway for a new director. In the interim, Timothy Kettle will step in as Roy's replacement. Kettle is the president of the NEPS Board of Directors. “We're sorry to see Rick go,” Kettle said. “He has so much passion for what he does. It's all about the individuals we serve in this community. He's never lost his vision or goal of providing for these folks.”
What NEPS does is provide residential and vocational opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Roy said it was at the forefront of the movement in the mid 1980s to bring clients out of state-run facilities and integrate them into the community. “At that time, the state was trying to close the Mansfield training school,” Roy said. “Basically you had to go to Mansfield to work and live. It wasn't mainstream.”
Today, NEPS provides vocational and day services, community experience programs, group-supported employment, individualized placement, enrichment programs, and residential services to individuals in Windham County and beyond.
Rogers Corporation, Aflac and Woodstock Hill Preserves have partnered with NEPS for assembly and envelope-stuffing jobs. Outdoor maintenance crews provide lawn care. Janitorial crews clean restaurants, homes and a variety of facilities. Clients in the enrichment programs make jewelry and other items and sell them at the Shops at Sawmill, an offshoot of NEPS.
“We're very involved in the community,” said Kettle. “We are reaching out more and more. Our goal is to work with anyone, and hiring our clients is actually cost-saving.”
The new director will be charged with carrying on that mission. He or she will certainly face budget cuts that are looming on the horizon. Roy and Kettle have already started reorganizing. They recently found out that NEPS would lose $35,000 in state funds between now and June. Roy said the organization dodged a big bullet: original plans called for a $93,000 cutback.
Still, Roy, Kettle and Enrichment Program Director Cheryl Fogg talk about expanding services rather than cutting back. They would like to see a rebirth of the Cinnamon Tree Bakery that provided many clients with kitchen-related jobs. Fogg is reaching out to Ellis Technical students and staff for help with improvements to a kitchen in a NEPS building. There are plans to invite artisans to display their work at the Shops at Sawmill.
“It's a time of transition and change,” said Kettle. “As an agency, we'll do it. You've got to embrace it and go with it.”