May 1, 2018
One of the great things about relationships is that they transform and grow over time. What brings people together isn’t always what keeps them together. With May being Military Appreciation Month, we are recognizing Durwood Rorie as our Easterseals Hero, in honor of his passionate support for our Veterans Services. But veteran services is not what brought Durk to Easterseals; his relationship with Easterseals is decades long, and therefore has several chapters.
It began when Durk was a part of Leadership Cincinnati. The organization is an “immersive civic learning program,” more deeply connecting leaders to their city, particularly in agencies and operations that benefit the city. One of those agencies was Easterseals, known at the time as the Work Resource Center (WRC).
“What I liked about [Easterseals] was that it was dedicated to helping people with disabilities,” Durk remembers. “They got to do things that were useful, make a little money, and they were with other people…There were a lot of agencies where what they accomplish is a little obtuse, but with [Easterseals] you could walk in and see them working.”
Durk joined the Board of Directors from 1990-1998. He was a leader both in ideas and in philanthropy. In 1995, When Easterseals was outgrowing its facility in Cheviot, Durk was assertive in finding the new location. He insisted that it was more important to find the right building, and figure out how to pay for it later. The notion may sound reckless, but he put his money where his mouth was. He stepped up to chair the capital campaign. He brought in a number of generous donors. He was absolutely vital in finding and purchasing the Gilbert Avenue facility in Walnut Hills, still the main offices of Easterseals to this day.
Just a few years later, he had sold his company and was in a fortunate position to make another generous donation, on the caveat that it be used not just for daily operations but for a big idea. His gift is what made the founding of Building Value possible. In the words of past President and CEO of Easterseals serving Greater Cincinnati Lisa FitzGibbon, “If that’s not making a great impact for an organization, I don’t know what it.”
Though he left the Board of Directors in 1998, he has remained deeply engaged as a “Sage,” Easterseals’ affectionate title for former Board members.
For all this and more, Durk was recognized as the Outstanding Community Partner at the 2012 Brighter Futures Celebration. In his award video, he describes his passion for veterans. It is no wonder, then, that when Easterseals began its Veterans Services in 2014, Durk became an enthusiastic partner.
“There’s quite a lot of veterans around the US who are out on the streets,” he explains. “It really breaks your heart to see it and it’s really common.”
In 2017, Durk was very involved in Easterseals’ Our Serve: Military Appreciation Day at the Western & Southern Open. He personally hosted an event for friends and colleagues to meet the Keynote Speaker, Colonel Danny R. McKnight, U.S. Army, Retired.
Current President and CEO of Easterseals, Pam Green, declares, “Without Durk’s involvement, our veterans services would look very different…He is selective about only getting involved in causes he believes in, and once he’s in, he’s incredibly generous with his time, talent and resources.”
The crossover of interests doesn’t end there. Durk is still very actively engaged in the community, and is currently the President of the Board for LifeSkills Community High School. Many participants in Easterseals’ YouthBuild program are also LifeSkills students, and Durk appreciates the focus on connecting these at-risk youth with jobs.
“It’s about having organizations like Easterseals who are helping young people in job programs,” he says. “It’s very useful. It’s why I support financially and philosophically.”
Our Serve is around the corner, YouthBuild is adding more and more students to its cohorts, and Easterseals’ Packaging and Fulfillment social enterprise has never been busier. Durk’s fingerprints can be seen in all facets of our organization, and we are deeply grateful for an Easterseals Hero like him.