Richard A. Loewenstein
Rick Loewenstein, CEO of JARC, an Oakland County agency that provides residential and support services to people with developmental disabilities and their families, hopes to someday see the social service sector valued as much as other sectors for its provision of jobs, fiscal savvy, and ability to engage the community.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
JARC CEO Richard A. Loewenstein:
To me, being a leader is modeling the way for others, encouraging others to reach and know it’s ok to fail, and being there to pick someone up when they do fail. I also believe a leader finds opportunities in the marketplace and engages his or her team in exploring them.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream for kids is that they have the strong foundation of confidence and courage so they may reach beyond their comfort My dream for kids is that they have the strong foundation of confidence and courage so they may reach beyond their comfort zones and into the world of challenges and opportunities.
zones and into the world of challenges and opportunities. I also wish that every kid had the opportunity to go to college and earn a degree.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
The one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan is to educate our legislators, job seekers, and the general public that the social sector is much like any other sector in Michigan. It provides employment to thousands and thousands of people, is generally community based (great for building community), and engages in activities at a fraction of the cost of the government. So in a word: education.
How do you know you’re making progress?
I know I’m making progress when change begins to occur, momentum shifts, and when I look back, it looks different than when I started.
For example, in 2010 JARC was asked to serve people with developmental disabilities who are deaf. Without any funding or structured program in place we began by hiring staff that were fluent in American Sign Language, and began training them in serving people with developmental disabilities. Today we serve 10 people in that program and have more than 25 staff, most of whom are deaf. In fact, JARC may be one of the largest employers of deaf people in the state. Have we made progress? Absolutely, and there is much more opportunity ahead. Has the momentum shifted? Without a doubt. Our entire organization has embraced deaf culture, and we continue find ways to enrich the lives of the people we serve.
JARC may be one of the largest employers of deaf people in the state. Have we made progress? Absolutely, and there is much more opportunity ahead. What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of leading a very talented, caring, smart, fun, funny, committed, passionate, and dedicated team of people who provide outstanding services to people with disabilities every day of the year. Working with people with these attributes creates a positive, fun work environment that encourages people’s creativity. I’m also proud, in my role as CEO, to have been instrumental in working through a smooth transition from the previous CEO, an iconic leader who led JARC for 30 years – and, at one of the worst economic times in our nation’s history.
What originally drew you to your current profession, since you made a shift from the private sector to the nonprofit sector?
I have now been in the nonprofit sector as long as the private sector. What drew me to my current position was the opportunity to lead an outstanding organization through a significant leadership change. The bonus: working with an outstanding staff to enrich lives and erase barriers for people with disabilities.