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Tom Lewins

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Tom Lewins
Retirement Announcement after a Professional Career Spanning 47 years
 
For the past 28 + years, Tom Lewins has been responsible for managing and administrating, as Executive Director, the operation of New Avenues to Independence (formerly Parents Volunteer Association), a non-profit, multi-service organization primarily focused on services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.
 
Tom’s passion for individuals with disabilities stemmed from tours of the Beatrice State facility in Nebraska in 1967 and Dachau, Germany in 1968. The impact of the tours and the similarities in the inhumane treatment of people stirred so deeply in Tom that he changed his academic focus and dedicated his career toward advancing the rights and opportunities of individuals with disabilities.
 
Tom has been a strong advocate for people with disabilities and active in the field of Developmental Disabilities for most of his life, filling the role in an agency at the state level in Arkansas for many years. He was integral in institutional reform in Arkansas for 17 years, including managing all of the Developmental Disabilities facilities under then-Governor Clinton. He wrote a proposal that was approved by Governor Clinton to establish an "Internal Affairs" section in the Office of General Council to develop investigative procedures for the 13 State social services agencies to coordinate conduct and statutory violation investigative protocols in conjunction with the Arkansas State Police. He was the first Administrator and wrote the investigative protocols with the assistance of a former FBI agent and the Arkansas State Police.
 
In later years, he successfully adjusted to his current role of community provider in Ohio. Having a wide array of knowledge from this broad background has enabled Tom to better maneuver state systems, acquiring better services for the people supported by his community agency, New Avenues. Tom’s impact on New Avenues has a corresponding direct impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities and our community. His successes are really individual and society’s successes.
 
Tom has approached his tenure at New Avenues much like an entrepreneur, focusing first on customer satisfaction and then on profits. Early on, Tom recognized the multifaceted needs of individuals with disabilities, such as housing, daily care, vocational, medical supports, transportation, recreation and therapies, and has actively advocated for the establishment of programs and services to meet these needs. Throughout his tenure at New Avenues, Tom’s impact on New Avenues, individuals with disabilities and our community includes:
 
  • Growth in the number of individuals served from 80 individuals to over 700
  • Growth in staff positions to 350 staff positions and over 400 in the summer
  • Establishment of a volunteer program with more than 400 volunteers annually on average  
  • Expansion into multiple counties including Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Summit counties
  • Participation in Gifts-in-Kind International with donations of much-needed items such as furniture, personal hygiene supplies and clothing to ensure that individuals receive these much needed items regardless of their income
  • Purchase and operation of 6 additional group homes within the following communities: Bratenahl, University Heights, Perry, Lakewood and Richmond Heights. Of particular note is that these communities did not readily accept individuals with disabilities assimilating into their communities, and Tom advocated (and educated) in these cities at multiple city council meetings for the right of individuals with disabilities to live in the communities and utilized tax exempt bond issues to finance
  • Expansion of services and programs to include community based services for over 100 individuals, transitional respite (emergency housing and services) for up to 4 people at a time; Children’s Therapeutic Summer Camp for 120 children for the past 15 years and Weekend Recreational Program for 40 families for the past 11 years; Day and Senior services for 75 individuals; HOME Choice for 70 individuals at any one time, providing transition coordination, community support coaching and independent living skills for individuals with disabilities moving from nursing home facilities into the community
  • Administration of a Mainstream Disability Housing program that provides rental subsidies, housing inspections and advocacy for 125 vouchers supporting over 152 individuals within a tri-county area (one of only 34 non-profits nationally)
  • Establishment of a business enterprise, Buckeye Industries, which partners with area employers and individuals with disabilities providing vocational opportunities in 4 distinct business tracts focused on sustainability initiatives: document destruction, Styrofoam (1 non-profit of 4 nationally) and cardboard recycling; processing pre-surgical medical waste; outsourced production work; and janitorial services
  • Establishment of a lease review and housing inspection program in collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities to ensure safe, sanitary housing for individuals with disabilities residing in the community
  • Growth in New Avenues’ budget from $1.5 million to a budget in excess of $15 million
  • Transitional Respite- unique service for transitioning individuals in a housing/service crisis to a new or improved housing and service situation
 
In addition, Tom understood the importance of diversifying revenue streams. He recognized that his chosen field is constantly in flux as demand changes and funding streams react. Tom embraced the changes and always looked for innovative ways to improve New Avenues’ services and supports. He recognized that nearly every decision and initiative could lead to major financial and operational consequences, but the risks, if smart ones, were necessary to further the rights and opportunities of individuals with disabilities while also stabilizing the financial resources of the agency. 
 
Throughout his tenure, Tom utilized long-term strategic planning with short term tactical goals to measure outcomes and to ensure that New Avenues generated enough revenue to not only pay bills but also to sustain the supports and services of programs. Profits were also used to attract new investment in the form of contributions from people or corporations and new assets such as the purchase of additional homes and equipment.
 
Tom also focused on the management of resources, including financial, inventory, professional skills and information technology, to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. Since their needs are numerous and varied, tools used to accomplish this were also varied. In collaboration with New Avenues’ Board of Directors, Tom has ensured that all resources, profits and assets were used to advance the rights and opportunities of individuals with disabilities.
 
In addition to his impact on New Avenues, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities utilized his expertise during the Manuel era to develop Abuse/Neglect Reporting, Investigating and Prevention protocols.  He also served on multiple state level committees and served on the Board of Ohio Provider Resource Association. 
 
At the National level, he has been an active member of ANCOR, the American Network Community Options and Resources,  rotating between the Board of Representatives as Ohio State representative and the ANCOR Board of Directors. For several years, he was the Liaison from the Board of Representatives to the Board of Directors, giving him a voice on both boards. He also served on the ANCOR Foundation as Treasurer. He was in the inaugural induction of the Legacy Leaders Circle for ANCOR in 2010 and is the original recipient of the Thomas M. Lewins Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 from New Avenues to Independence.
 
Congratulatory donations can be made to New Avenues to Independence, Micah Lewins Memorial Fund, to support the needs of individuals with disabilities. 
 
Lewins will provide part time consultative services for the remainder of 2016 to assist in the transition.