When you think of innovation, who comes to mind? Thomas Edison? Steve Jobs? Albert Einstein? For us, it’s Sheri Wiltse, our Chief Program Officer.

Sheri has been inspiring innovation at Community Living since September 1984 when she started as a “Special Education Teacher,” a position comparable to a Coordinator in today’s Support Services for Adults program. After a couple of years, Community Living was quickly expanding its reach and she wanted to be involved in its growth. “I made sure I was involved in any discussions about growth in the agency and offered my suggestions as warranted,” she said. “I also participated in committees outside my job duties and attending events and meetings as appropriate.”

She worked her way up, applying for some existing positions or creating her own when there was a need. She worked as the Assistant Director of Developmental Services, Director of Developmental Services, Director of Employment and Developmental Services, and then found a need for Community Living to add on an important piece—a Human Resources Department. “We didn’t really have an HR Department, so I created one,” she said. “It started with just me, then I hired a recruiter and admin support.” Sheri served as the Director of Human Resources for six years before transitioning into her current role of Chief Program Officer, then called Program Administrator, in 1998.

“At the end of the day, I really feel like this is what I’m supposed to do.”

Although there are hard days, Sheri says her love for the work keeps her coming back. “There are days when I just don’t know what to do next or days that are so frustrating I question what I’m doing,” she says. “But at the end of the day, I really feel like this is what I’m supposed to do.”

Her advice for current employees matches her own experience. “Get involved.  Pay attention to agency happenings.  Offer ideas.  Talk to everyone.  Attend board meetings.  Join teams.  Attend fundraising and staff development events.  But most importantly, if you want to move up and be a bigger part of Community Living, get involved.”

While COVID-19 has presented more than its fair share of challenges over the past year, it’s also offered Community Living staff the chance to be more innovative than ever before. We’re incredibly proud of the ways our employees have risen to the challenge to find new ways to support, stay in touch with, and serve our participants. Afterall, like Albert Einstein, the great innovator himself once said “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Update: In May 2022, it was announced that Sheri Wiltse was named Community Living’s incoming President and CEO following Barb Griffith’s retirement in December 2022.

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