23 Shoppes & Ven­dors!

The Star Democrat - - LOCAL - Hcombs@kibay­times.com


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.

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