A local rehabilitation center and community employer for persons with disabilities is saying good-bye to a long time leader. Tom Frederick, President & CEO of Elm City Center in Jacksonville, retired on Friday after 18 years of service. Frederick says its time for he and his wife to be closer to grandchildren.
Frederick said that Elm City has seen many changes in the community in his tenure. “We had a change in our production operation when EMI was here. We did work with AGI with a lot of production. That’s kind of change a little bit. At one point, we had no residential programs. Now, we’ve got 4 homes. We’ve got people living in roughly 25 apartments all over Jacksonville. At one point, we only served people in Morgan County. Now, we’re in 7 counties around us coming to our services. We’ve gone through a lot of changes that many places are going through. Just like every other business, we are watching the changes of money for insurance costs and other things. You make adjustments as you have to. I think we’ve done okay. We’re in pretty good financial shape. We’ve got good people coming to our programs. We’ve got people coming here from Sangamon County and Pittsfield – from homes that are far away. We’ve got a lot of people here in our community. The people that we serve range everywhere from individuals who need 100% assistance to people who need a little assessment in balancing their checkbook. In between, it’s all over the map.”
Frederick says the one constant is change but he’s enjoyed it. “Change always comes in the State of Illinois where funding is going to go. Sometimes you go, ‘How are we going to do this?’ We have to figure out ways to do adjustments and stuff to get it done. The biggest thing for me is that this business is changing like every other business is changing. It’s been fun the entire time. The good part for me is that we’ve had great people working here – a very, very good board who will sit down and think about this issue or that one and figure out what the ripple effect of the decision will be. We’ve always just watched carefully where we are stepping and going. I’m walking away with this being in really good shape with some great people on our staff and great people in our programs. I hope it stays that way.”
Frederick says he never really planned on pursuing the career path that he has been in for the majority of his life. It kind of happened. “I was going through grad school and needed some money. I never planned doing this. I got a job in a local program in Charleston, Illinois called Ccar Industries. They are still there and doing well. I kind of stayed with social and welfare services for a bit. Then, jumped off into the medical world for awhile for people with medical rehab issues. Then, I was out of state. My dad developed Alzheimer’s disease. My wife’s father developed some medical problems. We looked at each other and asked: ‘Why are we this far away from family?’ We came back here and found out about Elm City and that was 18 years ago. It’s been the best job of my life.”
Frederick’s wife wants to be grandma really bad, so they will be relocating near their daughter in Charleston in retirement. Frederick said that he’s had his turn on the decision-making table on where the family has been and he feels it’s his wife’s time to choose. He says being grandpa is icing on the cake.
Frederick says the most memorable moment at Elm City was a hard change that occurred. “When we got notice that JDC was closing here in town, it had a big effect on our operation. We had a lot of people who came here through JDC. It was a regular current of people. We had about 175 people coming here every single day. We kept busy. We had lots of production work. Then, as time went by, EMI left; AGI left; JDC closed; a lot of people we served simply got moved out of the area and we had to refocus and restructure what we were doing. We did it over a period of time. It wasn’t easy. We made some very slow financial decisions about some of the services that we offered and things we did. At the advice of our staff and board, we would talk about some of those decisions. We could have been a lot bigger, but we decided not to spend that money in crazy spots. We kept on doing what was within our means that we do well. We’ve done that and it’s worked out.”
Elm City Center will begin looking for Frederick’s replacement in the near term. Frederick said that the number of people that the center has helped over his 18 years has given him a good sense of accomplishment as he heads towards his retirement. Frederick has been with Elm City Center since May 2001.