Over 30 years ago, Robert Drewes was invited by his friend Harold Auerbach to visit the facilities at Opengate where his son resided. He remembers the impression made on him that day, that the needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities were being met appropriately. So impressed, he later became a member of the Board of Directors and served in that capacity for over 10 years.
Robert recalls monthly meetings were held amongst Board members and families to discuss their concerns and address them as best as they could. Parents, then as now, expressed their apprehension about what happens to their adult child after they are no longer here or unable to care for them. Over the years, Opengate has created services and programs allowing all individuals to thrive and enjoy life in a place where they are respected. Parents are at ease knowing their adult children feel at home at Opengate.
During his tenure on the Board, Robert relates a story with a happy ending when Opengate began expanding. The retirement community located across the street from a property was very reluctant until they were invited to meet Opengate staff and residents. They soon became aware that their perceptions about individuals with disabilities was wrong, welcomed Opengate to the community, and began to participate in events held on the property, becoming part of the Opengate family.
While a commercial real estate developer, Robert heard that Opengate was in need of classrooms and was able to donate an unused construction trailer being used as offices. He says it was a short-term solution and was used until more suitable classrooms were acquired.
After his retirement in 1994, Robert moved to the Palm Coast of Florida and became involved with Special Olympics where he served on the local Board of Directors. He recalls how rewarding it is to run into individuals he coached as children and speak with them about the impact that was made on their lives through the program.
When asked for advice for potential donors, Robert says to grab a friend and take them to meet the individuals served, make introductions to staff, and create a relationship. Although he says it may not be a fit for everyone, but, being able to see firsthand how their contributions help is definitely a way to make an impact. He believes everyone is called to be in a position to help others.
Recalling his wonderful experience with Opengate, Robert credits the Board of Directors promoting Brian Hulten to the Executive Director (now CEO) position as a proud moment. He is impressed by the progress and positive direction Opengate has seen over the years under Brian’s leadership. Always in touch, Robert enjoys receiving the newsletter to catch up on all that’s happening at Opengate!