January 26, 2018
When Easterseals launched a new brand in November 2016, we asked staff what Easterseals meant to them. We were pleased that many said, “Easterseals is family.” It becomes painfully clear how true this statement is as we prepare to say goodbye to a member of the family: Rich Davis, our Vice President of Disability Services. Davis will be retiring after 36 years of service at Easterseals. In recognition of his incredible tenure, and the powerful impact he has had on the individuals we serve and the organization as a whole, he is our January Easterseals Hero.
Rich Davis has spent his entire career in rehabilitation counseling. After graduate school, Davis spent several years with different organizations, including the Joy Center at Work Resource Center, which would become Easterseals WRC. While he was working at Longworth State Hospital, a friend told him about a position with Jewish Vocational Services (JVS). It appealed to him because it was so community-based.
“I wasn’t tied to an office,” he says, “but felt like I had an impact, I was able to interact with businesses.”
He steadily increased his responsibilities at JVS, moving from a counselor to a supervisor, to a manager, to a director, and finally to Vice President of Disability Services. He was integral to the 2012 merger of JVS and Easterseals WRC into what is currently Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati.
“I’d always felt like [the two organizations] had a good partnership,” he remembers about the merge. “It had always felt…like we were more on the same page…in terms of how we approach working with people and funders.”
Davis’ passion for his work has changed the organization for the better. Chief Operations Officer David Dreith praises Davis’ commitment to innovation and growth, crediting him with the local development of Neighborhood HUBs and Project SEARCH. The Neighborhood HUBs have been steadily growing and are fostering “unprecedented levels of inclusion for people with disabilities,” according to Dreith. And, under Davis’ supervision, Easterseals has become the largest Project SEARCH provider in the country, with 13 Project SEARCH sites in five school districts.
“It has never been enough for Rich to ensure programs are compliant and meet requirements,” says Dreith. “He has striven to see that people with disabilities are able to achieve their dreams, and that we have created an environment that is supportive and safe.”
Davis explains his drive with great simplicity, saying, “It brings a lot of joy to me to see people able to reach their goals, and try things they’ve not tried before, and be successful at it.”
In addition to growing programs and amplifying impact throughout the community, Davis has been an inspiring and uplifting figure to work with. Staff heaped endless praise on him as a mentor and a leader, and shared whimsical anecdotes of his contagious laugh, his good spirit, and his love of music and yoga.
We are humbled by the passion and excellence that Davis has demonstrated through his career. We will miss him terribly, but he leaves behind a strong legacy of breaking down barriers for people with disabilities, and it is an honor to continue it.