WCDC Executive Director To Retire June 30

WCDC Executive Director To Retire June 30
Executive Director Jack Ferry, left, and clients Aaron Hoskins and Donta Smith are pictured at the facility last week. Ferry will step down at the end of June after more than a decade at Worcester County Developmental Center. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

NEWARK – After more than a decade leading the Worcester County Developmental Center, Executive Director Jack Ferry will step down at the end of this month.

Ferry, who started at the Newark facility in 2008, will retire June 30. While he’ll miss his daily interactions with developmental center clients, Ferry believes he’s leaving the agency at a good time.

“It’s the right time,” he said. “We’ve never been stronger.”

Ferry said he was working in a similar facility in Pennsylvania when he became aware of the opportunity to join the Worcester County Developmental Center (WCDC) as it rebuilt following the 2007 fire that destroyed the original center. With a summer house in Ocean Pines and family in the area, Ferry said he was eager to help WCDC—which serves clients with intellectual disabilities—move forward.

“It was a challenge,” he said. “They were in temporary housing at the time. We did as much as we could.”

When the new building opened, the nonprofit had the space to offer a variety of new employment programs for clients. It featured a full-service laundry and kitchen for catering. There was also space for the assembly of equipment, another job that clients enjoyed.

“What set us apart was the variety of jobs we had,” he said.

While new federal guidelines ended the facility-based employment programs in 2016, Ferry and his staff of 144 remained committed to helping WCDC clients find a way to stay busy.

“There are jobs out there but not as many our clients could do,” he said, adding that many struggled with communication.

WCDC leadership decided to transition the facility to more of a center for the arts once the facility-based employment stopped. Ferry said art was a way the clients could keep busy and express themselves regardless of their communication skills.

The success of the center’s clients, first with the employment program and now with the art program, is what makes Ferry proud as he looks back on his years at WCDC. He said he’s glad he was able to assist in the creation of the two programs, as they’ve allowed clients to thrive.

“Whatever it is they like to do, we try to make their dreams come true,” Ferry said.

Ferry, who’s always eager to talk about WCDC and its initiatives with community groups, said working with the clients was his favorite part of leading the developmental center.

“It’s such a joy working with them,” he said.

If he runs into someone having a bad day, he often encourages them to stop by the center.

“Spend five minutes with our clients and your whole attitude has changed,” he said. “It’s just so exciting when you see how they’re learning and growing. I tell staff all the time, it’s not easy but it is the most rewarding job. There’s not a lot of jobs where you can make somebody’s life better every day.”

Ferry added that WCDC was strongly supported by the Worcester County community, something that made his job easier.

“People are very generous in supporting our mission, and they go out of their way to make our clients feel welcome,” he said.

While Ferry will miss WCDC staff and clients, he says he’s stepping down at just the right time, as the agency marks its 50th anniversary later this year.

“The agency is in fantastic shape,” he said. “It’s time to let some new ideas come in.”