“It’s not about being the first to do something, but being the first to do it well” …And he did! Lon Springer, a modest gentleman, contributed to Summer House’s success over the years and the individuals whom he worked with and those who continue to carry the torch benefited from his directorship. We recently sat down with Lon, who retired from Summer House in 2006, and asked about his experience as Summer House’s first Executive Director.
“People who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love.” –
Interview with Lon Springer
How did you hear about Summer House, and what made you want to apply?
“I had been working as a Youth Minister-Counselor part-time and was looking for full-time work. There was an ad in the newspaper for a counselor position, and there was something about the ad’s wording that caught my eye. I believe it had to do with teaching, and I had been a teacher in West Virginia and had really enjoyed that.”
What stood out most during your interview at Summer House?
“I immediately liked the people.”
How long did you work at Summer House? Was the Director position the only role that you held during your time at Summer House?
“I worked at Summer House for a total of 30 years. I retired after 27 and then returned for three more to help with a transition period.”
“I started as an Advocate in the Residential Home. Then the bookkeeper position opened and after that and as we expanded, there was a need for a “Director of Operations”.
Who provided our training for your role as Executive Director?
“There wasn’t really a lot of training…we were just kind of learning as we went. I would meet regularly with Pat Monley who was the President of the Board at the time.”
What excited you about the social services field, and what goals did you have for yourself in this field of work?
“I’ve never had any goals for myself about anything. Lol! I really liked that the job was local because I had two little kids at the time and I really liked that the job was about helping people.”
What was your first task as Executive Director?
What are some of the contributions that you helped facilitate during your time at Summer House?
“Summer House began as a 4-plex and grew from there, so there were many remodels and plans and so many people who contributed to helping with those additions and changes. I guess I was known as kind of a “penny pincher,” and our first budget was only $60k, so we had to find a way to stay within that.”
What challenges did you have to face as Executive Director?
“Budgeting and finances were always a challenge, funding has always been difficult. Closing the Children’s Home was very hard, and people were upset about that, but we just we never able to fill the vacancies and eventually had to decide to close.
As the programs expanded, I took on the trainings and orientations for new staff, and finding time for everything was sometimes a challenge.”
What is your fondest memory at Summer House?
“By far the people… there were so many really quality people that came through. And seeing them go on to do different things after getting a start at Summer House was really neat. The integrity of the people involved always trying to do the right thing. I remember one time we got some discretionary money from the County for a project, and we didn’t end up using it all, so Pat and Tom took it back. The people at the County couldn’t believe that they were returning what hadn’t been used.
The residents and all of the things that happened over the years. Lots of different personalities and good memories of the clients.”
What advice or words of wisdom do you have for the current Summer House team?
“Pay attention to traditions and the reason that Summer House started and how it started. It’s always been about the clients and making things better for people with disabilities.”
As John F. Kennedy said, “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” Summer House is forever grateful for all of Lon’s hard work, dedication and support. Through his many years of service, his talents and efforts have helped the Summer House organization blossom and it now supports over 80 clients in Yolo County. Though Lon is now retired, he happily makes himself available when questions arise regarding historical information and enjoys checking in. Summer House would like to express their sincere admiration for Lon and everything he has contributed.