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Mark Morton is serenaded by staff at TRC’s Dunham Avenue building the day before his retirement. Employees were holding signs bearing a photo of Mark in his younger days. They also sang a parody of “The Weight” by Robbie Robertson (credit to Lela Berry, Residence Coordinator, for writing the lyrics and leading TRC’s singers in an inspiring performance).
The end of an era occurred May 14 when Mark Morton retired after 41 years at The Resource Center, finishing a career that covered periods of tremendous growth and change for our agency.
Mark joined TRC in September 1978 as a Direct Support Professional at our home on Pardee Avenue in Jamestown. From there he served as a Programming Specialist in the Day Program on Jones & Gifford Avenue, later becoming the Assistant Program Manager. Next he was appointed the Administrator of the Intermediate Care Facilities on Chandler Street in Jamestown and Gifford Avenue in Celoron. Later, his job expanded to Director of Residential Services, and he oversaw all of the ICFs and then all of the Individualized Residential Alternatives as well. Part of that job also included service development. Mark later transitioned to Service Development Director and focused on opening new homes, expanding current services and developing additional Day Habilitation service locations.
He then transitioned back to Residential Services as the Administrator of the ICF on Foote Avenue, which once again led to Mark overseeing all of the ICFs. After a five-year stint in that role, he went back to doing service development before being promoted to Assistant Executive Director for Labor Management, Employee Relations and Support Operations in 2015.
Mark has so many fond memories and special moments from his years at TRC that it’s hard to name just a few. He recalled a special time when people who had lived at Willowbrook Developmental Center arrived at the Jamestown Airport to love into new residences TRC developed on Gifford Avenue in Celoron and Chandler Street in Jamestown. Mark was among the TRC employees who greeted the residents when they arrived at the airport.
“Once the staff from the Developmental Center left to go back to New York City, we had the responsibility of caring for individuals who were more medically frail than anyone we had ever served before,” said Mark. “They were gaining the opportunity to live a better life.”
“We are fortunate that Mark decided to invest nearly 42 years of his life, and his entire career, with The Resource Center,” said Executive Director Denise Jones, who worked with Mark for 30 years. “He has been an integral part of the development and expansion of services to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as the large state institutions were being downsized and individuals were transitioned to smaller settings in the Chautauqua County area. In looking at the various positions Mark has advanced to throughout his impressive career, the one thing that has remained clear and consistent is his heart for the individuals we support and his dedication to our amazing staff members.”
Co-workers noted that Mark “walks the walk,” never asking others to do anything he wouldn’t do, or hasn’t done, himself. And he was always present during difficult times, rolling up his sleeves and getting involved in dealing with the problem. TRC’s mission of supporting people with disabilities was always at the forefront in Mark’s mind.
Mark has a relaxed management style that was effective with staff. His leadership style likely grew from the fact Mark worked his way up from a Direct Support Professional and therefore understood things from a direct support perspective. He is compassionate and cares for the people TRC supports as well as staff, looking to be fair to all by taking time to get to know everyone and getting enough information to make good decisions.
In an open letter to TRC staff written a few days before he retired, Mark reflected on his time at The Resource Center.
“This agency and the many people employed by it have accomplished so much toward what I call a movement. It’s a movement we are all a part of: supporting people with disabilities and disabling conditions to gain and keep all the rights, opportunities and self-direction that enable people to choose where they want to live, work and play.
“In my early years with the agency, that movement came in the form of deinstitutionalization. TRC was at the forefront of deinstitutionalization during the 1980s. Through opening four Intermediate Care Facilities and numerous supervised community residences, and expanding the Day Habilitation Program, TRC played a role in the closure of three state institutions: J.N. Adam, West Seneca, and Willowbrook. It was very exciting to be here during those times, and I feel fortunate to have played a part in it. It is a part of our legacy we should be proud of and always remember.
“A lot of the good things that happened afterward extended from those days: expansion of clinical services, opening of primary care and dental clinics, recreation programs, expansion of programs to assist people to work, etc. The development of services by The Resource Center was also driven by the needs of the community, as in the case of providing mental health services.
“My message to all The Resource Center staff is that the movement is ongoing; the work isn’t nearly done. The things that need to be accomplished going forward may actually be more difficult because the road is not a clearly defined as it once was, but the work is no less critical or impactful.
“Personally, The Resource Center was a godsend for me. I graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a bachelor’s degree in special education but had decided by then that I didn’t want to teach special education. The Resource Center provided me with the opportunity to make a living doing what I truly loved doing: working with individuals who need supports, working with the staff who provide direct supports, and later in my career working with staff in support departments. My experiences from all the places I worked is that The Resource Center could not be what it has been and what it is today without the character of the people who pushed it forward.”
He added, “I was always fortunate to be a part of a team of staff that worked well together, supported each other, and was driven by the mission. It was an honor to work with so many hard-working, unselfish, and dedicated staff. I will always cherish working with all the different people I worked with and got to know. It was especially gratifying when a team of staff — through planning, discipline and hard work — accomplished an initiative that truly improved the lives of people receiving services.
“I will always feel a part of The Resource Center, and going forward TRC will continue to be in my heart and in my thoughts. I will try to remember to say a prayer each day for the people The Resource Center supports, the people who provide the direct supports, the people who staff the support departments, and the management and administration. We need all of you working together to meet the critical needs that exist in our community and to keep the movement going forward.”
Among the commendations Mark received over the years, he was the Clinical Services Department’s Employee of the Month in September 1981; he was honored for a job well done as Acting Day Program Manager in 1985; he received special recognition in 1992 for his financial management of the ICF Program; and he received special recognition in 1999 for how he handles stressful situations.
We thank Mark for his service to The Resource Center and the people we support, and we wish him a long, happy and healthy retirement.