23 Shoppes & Vendors!
By HANNAH COMBS
GRASONVILLE — Janet Akers, assistant director at Chesterwye, announced her retirement after serving the organization for more than 40 years.
Chesterwye provides residential and day program services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“The Lord blesses us with many, many gifts,” Akers said, “and His gift to me was being able to give to those who have intellectual disabilities.”
Akers said she has grown up with many of the adults who lived or participated in programs at Chesterwye throughout the years. Presently, the youngest member of their community is 22 years old and the oldest 84, Akers said.
Akers first came to Chesterwye as a volunteer at the urging of Chesterwye founder Bobby Ann Nash, when the organization was still located in Stevensville. Soon thereafter, in September 1975, she was hired as an instructional aide by then-Executive Director Mary Lou Boyd. Chesterwye had been open only a few years, since 1967.
As Chesterwye grew and expanded, Akers took on more and more responsibilities and was promoted numerous times, holding the following positions: instructor, work crew assistant, work crew supervisor, vocational coordinator, day supervisor and her current position as assistant director. She also served as acting executive director on three occasions.
According to Director of Development Lois Miller, Akers’ many accomplishments and contributions to the people of Chesterwye have gained her recognition by the community. In 2003 she was named “Maryland’s Most Beautiful” by Queen Anne’s County, and in 2012 she received the “Pillar of Character Community Award” from Queen Anne’s County Character Counts.
Akers officially retired on Nov. 3, after serving 42 years and two months with the 51-year-old nonprofit, Miller said.
Longtime board member (since 1979) Wheeler Baker said Akers has been a tremendous asset to Chesterwye and leader among the staff.
“What really makes her special is that she sets an example for all the employees,” Baker said.
On the occasions that Akers stepped in to fill the temporary vacancy of director, Baker said she willingly took on the role, even though she didn’t want an administrative role, she would much rather be working with people and the clients, he said.
Akers always wanted the best for Chesterwye’s clients, and to make sure they got what they needed, Baker said, and she is a bulldog when it comes to fundraising. “In fact, if she tries to get out of fundraising (for the annual dinner and auction), I will personally haunt her,” Baker said.
Akers said she will continue to be a part of the fundraising, but she is also looking forward to spending more time with her husband of 35 years, William, her daughters and son-in-laws: Captain (U.S. Army) Jessica and Michael Cornell of Queenstown, and Julie and Wayne Darling, and granddaughters Elizabeth, Brianne and Carolyn of Centreville.
A lifelong resident of Queen Anne’s County, Akers is the daughter of Elizabeth and James Melvin. She is a graduate of Queen Anne’s County High School and attended Chesapeake College. Her brothers, Wayne and Jim Melvin, are residents of Grasonville, and her sister Judy Edelheit lives in Price.
Akers plans for retirement will keep her busy. While she is retiring from her full-time job at Chesterwye, she plans to continue working parttime job at Fisherman’s Inn and Crab Deck, where she is a familiar face to diners since 1972. Her plans also include providing day care for her granddaughters.
Akers shared that some of her fondest memories include guests she hosted in her home. Right now there are 34 individuals in Chesterwye’s residential program in a total of nine homes, but on occasion when the homes were full Akers would open her home. Her home is licensed for individual family care, she said.
One man, Niles Skaggs, had lived in the community with his parents, but when they aged and were no longer able to care for him, Akers welcomed him into her home. He lived with her for 18 years.