Reflecting on the Past, and Embracing the Future: Retirement of Program Coordinator Kay Byers
Though no one could have known it then, it was a great day for Iowa, back in August of 1994. With all her belongings packed and ready to go, Kay Byers and her family headed north, and moved to Iowa, leaving Kansas to fend for itself.
Having had experience working with children affected by disabilities in the classroom, Kay was a perfect fit for the Community Based Services that were growing in Iowa. Kay was hired as a Supported Employment Specialist, helping individuals obtain, learn, and maintain employment with competitive companies in the Council Bluffs area. Within a few months, her strong work ethic, commitment to those served, and leadership skills were quickly recognized, and she was promoted to a Coordinator position in the Residential Program. In this new position, Kay was able to match employee skills with family needs, so that they were able to receive the added support necessary to keep their son or daughter living within the family unit, rather than having to contemplate institutionalized placements.
Within a short period of time—3 years-- she had grown a Family Support Services component from 8 to well over 40 families. Her service area covered Council Bluffs and surrounding communities in a 60 mile radius. Finding staff for folks in the outlying areas was often difficult, and required a lot of road time, however her commitment to supporting families was a high priority, and kept her pace strong.
2002 brought more changes, as Kay opened an office in Red Oak. This opportunity allowed her to reach the rural needs she was committed to supporting, as well as broaden her service spectrum to include adults living in their own homes. In 2007 service needs were so great in the Council Bluffs area, Kay closed the Red Oak office and moved to the Council Bluffs office, continuing to serve the rural area, while at the same time taking on the additional needs of adults and children being served through the main office.
Today, Kay continues to be dedicated to meeting the needs of those in rural areas as well as in Council Bluffs. After over 20 years in Community Based Services, Kay has served a vast number of folks through a variety of situations and needs…Children and Adults living with their families for skill development as well as respite services…adults living on their own with minimal support, and those needing intensive supervision….supporting all ages affected by intellectual disabilities, brain injuries, and chronic mental health needs. And in each case, identifying specific individual and unique needs they have, to find the right staff to support them.
On reflection of Kay’s retirement Iowa Focus CEO Derek Laney offers “Kay Byers has supported families across southwest Iowa with compassion and unmatched hard work for over twenty years. The difference she has made cannot be measured, and her style and grace cannot be replaced.” This accompanies a common theme of her strong character as expressed by her employees, co-workers, and people she supports…”Kay is dedicated and caring. She strives to better the lives of both staff and the individuals that she works with,” Ramona Boydstun, Iowa Focus Site Manager…and fellow Program Coordinator Andrea Underwood, “ Kay has been an absolute great person to be aligned with for the past 20 years. Kay hired me, inspired me, taught and laughed with me. She has always walked to the beak of her own drummer. It has truly been an honor to work with Kay!”