By Mark Stevens
Early in her career, Diana Meckley was given a small shadow box that read, “Bloom where you are planted.” She kept it on her desk, a constant reminder to always be open to learning new things, to do her best in working with others, and to make a positive and meaningful contribution wherever she is and in whatever she does – and in all things, give thanks.
After almost 40 years as a full-time employee with The Resource Center, Diana retired last May. She returned on a part-time basis in July, then stepped away for good after reaching her 40th anniversary on March 29.
Prior to joining TRC, Diana had worked at the Gustavus Adolphus Children’s Home. With a bachelor of arts degree in psychology, she had been working in a direct support position with juvenile delinquent boys.
Diana started her career with TRC on March 29, 1979, as a Case Worker for the Group Home Program, under the leadership of then-Residential Director Bruce Piatz. She also received clinical supervision from the Director of Clinical Services at the time, Paul Cesana, who went on to serve as TRC’s Executive Director from 1988 to 2015.
As a Case Worker, Diana’s role with TRC was to coordinate services for all people living in group homes at that time.
“As a Residential Case Worker, I worked closely with the live-in House Managers and the Residential Director,” she remembered. At that time there were not any nurses, medical aides, dietary, benefits clerks, transportation, clerical, admissions/intake, scheduling, or hiring support. We depended on each other to do whatever needed to be done. We did not have computers, and most documentation, aside from formal reports or letters, were hand written. The front-desk Receptionist dispatched calls and left messages on pink message notes if we did not answer the landline rotary phone at our desk. We talked directly with co-workers, and everyone knew everyone.”
That was the first of what Diana considered to be four different careers during her tenure with the agency. She said that for the next 15 years, as the Residential Program grew she transitioned from being a Case Worker through a couple of other jobs before becoming Residential Administrator. During this time, she earned master degrees in counseling and human service administration.
Her responsibilities as Residential Administrator included visiting developmental centers across to meet people identified as originating from Western New York and being considered for placement in new homes TRC was building in response to the Willowbrook Consent Decree, which called for New York State to spend millions of dollars to create community-based homes for those living in Willowbrook.
“I not only witnessed institutional conditions but was present when Governor Hugh Carey came to a groundbreaking ceremony at Forest Avenue for the new community residences being built by TRC, known as the Willow Trace Project,” said Diana.
Her second career, she said, came as a result of an organizational restructuring and the introduction of Total Quality Management into the service sector. For the next nine years, she served as the Coordinator of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) and was involved in developing TRC’s Quality Council, developing staff training in people skills and facilitating CQI project teams.
In 2003, Diana was asked to establish a department to coordinate quality assurance and incident management. As the Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement/Incident Management Coordinator, she and staff implemented processes for things such as incident reporting, investigation, documentation and review, and tracking and monitoring.
Five years later, her fourth stint coincided with the renovation of the former Celoron School on Dunham Avenue, which in 2009 became the new home for TRC’s administrative offices. Since there was no set system for handling the storage or destruction of TRC’s confidential records, Diana contracted with vendors, developed policy and procedure, and worked with departments to formalize record retention schedules and the disposition of records.
“I am very grateful for the many opportunities to learn and grow personally and professionally during my career at TRC,” said Diana. “It’s interesting to note, I was never selected for any of the promotional positions I applied for at TRC. Fortunately, because of my openness to take on new challenges and willingness to learn, I was given the opportunity to expand my role and responsibilities in response to emerging agency needs and, for the most part, in the process develop new systems and help define the role and responsibilities of these new functions.”
She said the most rewarding aspect of her career has been facilitating and learning from project teams, achieving consensus in making decisions and working together to successfully implement plans for improvement.
She said that on the negative side, “What has been most frustrating from my first day in the field of human service – and which continues to this day – is the ability to hire, train and retain Direct Support Professionals. This is the greatest challenge to all human service agencies.”
Diana is a proponent of the three key ingredients to being happy at work, as outlined in the book DRIVE by Daniel H. Pink: “A clear purpose, some autonomy in accomplishing your responsibilities, and the resources to gain mastery in your work. As a lifelong learner, I always encouraged staff to pursue their interests and continue learning through education, reading and attending training.”