Friends and community supporters came together Tuesday to honor the founder of Heritage Christian Services as he heads into retirement. CEO Bob Pieters started the organization in response to the needs of his own children. It continues to help hundreds of disabled adults lead independent lives.
It started with a father faced with a tough decision.
"I have two children with developmental disabilities," said Bob Pieters.
Back in the 1980s, doctors told Bob Pieters that the only option, as his disabled son entered adulthood, was an institution.
"There was no homes in Monroe County for kids with the challenges like my kids had that were so medically involved so we decided to start our own because there was just nothing out there."
As he opened the first Webster home for disabled adults, Pieters was met by hundreds of parents who shared the same vision: disabled people living together with dignity and support.
"It's allowed him to develop his independence and determine his own goal's in life," said Ron Little.
Little was one of them. His son Tim has Down syndrome, and at 20 years old, moved into a Heritage Christian Services home with six other men.
"He prepares his own meals, cares for his own house and goes to do what he can do on a production basis," said Little.
More than 400 friends, family and donors celebrated Pieters' retirement. At 77 years old, Pieters has turned that first home in 1984 into 115 different sites with 380 residents and more than 400 on the waiting list.
"I am looking forward to it, I feel comfortable leaving because we have a strong team and will be even stronger than we are today," Pieters said.
Vice President Marisa Geitner will take over as CEO January 1st. Pieters will be serving on the board.
Pieters' sendoff Tuesday was a way for the residents to thank him for giving them a place to call home.
"He would be confined to his own home with aging parents with his future undetermined. We worked 20 years with him to tie his own shoes, six months living in the home he was tieing his own shoes," Little said.