Linda Ditsworth, production/direct support professional (DSP) lead, is retiring after 46 years at the Center of Hope, having started in 1975 through a youth program. Tammy Chandler, human resources generalist, shared some of her thoughts.
As I was pulling Linda’s file out of the drawer to gather dates of history, it wasn’t a surprise to see how wide and full her file was compared to others. This contributes to all 46 years of her time learning, teaching, inspiring and growing at the Center. In her file, I did not just see dates, I felt the passion she has had for the participants and for her work. Many do not know this, but Linda first experienced what was to be her next home as a model worker. Then she returned to start her long journey on September 15, 1975, as the Production Manager in Hope Industries. Her title may have changed five times since 1975, but she continued to work in the production area in Hope Industries. On April 14, 1999, Linda became the Production Manufacturing Coordinator. On October 1, 2003, she was assigned the title of Quality Assurance Specialist in Hope Industries. Then, two years later, she was given the title of Hope Industries Assistant Manager. On October 1, 2009, she was also given the task of being a Job Coach. Finally, on July 20, 2020, due to the need at the Center, Linda became the Lead DSP in Hope Industries.
Over the years, Linda has worked with the participants, not only giving them the opportunity to earn a paycheck, but also giving them the feeling of importance and purpose, leading to a higher self-esteem. I cannot count the number of jobs I have seen come into each room over the years. Linda made sure she gave as many participants as she could the opportunity to work because she knew how important the work was to all of them. She built relationships with each of the participants she worked with. If you ever had the pleasure of seeing Linda in action at one of the holiday parties, you could see the joy she brought to the faces of the participants even if it was just to encourage them to dance while she danced with them.
Linda has always been there to share the bigger picture of our mission, where the most important piece is the participants. Linda has also served on the Welcome Committee, where she always made sure new staff felt welcomed and part of our wonderful organization. Each time we would plan a party for a staff member, Linda would gather information to make things personal. She would take the time to go the extra mile to learn more about each person, and then she would create a masterpiece. It would be so much easier to buy a fruit basket or a cookie bouquet, but you would not feel the connection that Linda would bring. Linda has been here encouraging not only the participants, but her peers around her, to be successful, to enjoy life and to be happy with what they are doing because what we are doing matters to someone.
And from Pam Carey, executive director:
Now, it’s time we wish Linda the best on the next part of her journey to enjoy time with family and all of her grandchildren. Linda will be missed dearly, however, all that she has accomplished, the memories and life skills for all the participants she has worked with has an immeasurable impact on each of them individually and the community.
No matter the thank you or appreciation we would try to show Linda, she would always say, “No I am the lucky one to get to work here.” I would say the Center of Hope was the lucky one to have Linda for 46 years! Thank you!