BUFFALO, N.Y. — People Inc. is an agency that touches the lives of thousands of seniors and people living with disabilities in Western New York. Its leader, Rhonda Frederick, has been president and CEO since 2014, but has been with the agency for four decades, and has changed countless lives for the better along the way.
"I fell into this. I have to be absolutely honest," Frederick admits.
The first time she walked through the doors of a People Inc. facility was when she landed her first job there out of college in 1980.
"It wasn't as if I had a passion for this at this point. I got a job in a group home. I came here and absolutely fell in love," said Frederick.
And more than 40 years later, Rhonda is now CEO of the agency that helps people with developmental disabilities and seniors find independence and acceptance.
Before being named CEO in 2014, Frederick was COO of People Inc., managing the $143 million operating budget and its 3,400 employees. According to her biography, "she also oversaw all residential, day services, service coordination, in-home supports, senior services and health-related services and had administrative oversight of quality improvement, government relations, program development and legal."
But what is most meaningful to Frederick?
"We've been able to help people find jobs, to find meaningful activities during the day, to experience all life's pleasure," she said.
For Bill Collins' daughter Elena, the pleasure comes from just being able to live on her own with other girls in a People Inc. apartment.
"I don't know what we would do without People, Inc. because she's happy and she has her own life," said Collins, a People Inc. board member.
Jill Turchiarelli has her own life, too.
"I've been here for 24 years and love every minute of it," she said.
Turchiarelli doesn't just receive services from People Inc., she also works there as a receptionist.
"There's not a lot of people out there that employ people with disabilities, and we like everybody else need to have an opportunity, equal opportunity, to be able to show what we can do," she said.
Jill thanks Rhonda and her leadership for giving her the chance to live a happy and fulfilling life.
Frederick also serves as president of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY). She is the Board Chair for Person Centered Services (PCS) and currently serves on the boards of Episcopal Church Home and Affiliates, Inc., Hilbert College, New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSIDD), Special Olympics NY, Amherst Meals on Wheels and Accountable Health Community Inc. She also sits on the Board of Regents for Canisius College and the Executive Committee of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.
One of Rhonda's other passions is serving on the steering committee for WNY iCan Bike.
To nominate someone to be featured in the "Selfless Among Us" series, email Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com.
To see others featured in the "Selfless Among Us" series, click the videos below: