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50th Anniversary

TECH Celebrates 50 Years of Providing Services in Reno County

June 13, 2023

Last Thursday evening, TECH held an open house at the Adult Life Skills building to celebrate their 50th Anniversary with the Hutchinson community. Over 125 people made their way through the recently remodeled ALS building, taking time to look through photos and memorabilia from the past 50 years of the agency’s history.

The evening also included videos of well-wishes from past and current TECH staff, TECH families, and community supporters and even a few old clips of Maurice Cummings, TECH’s first President and CEO. Guests were also able to shop TECH Artwork and participate in a community art project that was hosted by Kara Brown and Sam Carriker, both TECH Art Coaches. The highlight of the evening was a brief moment of remarks by Kevin Hess, TECH’s current President/CEO, Brenda Maxey, the former President/CEO of TECH, as well as Melva Cummings and Carolyn Spexarth, the wife and daughter of the late Maurice Cummings.

Remembering Maurice

Carolyn recalled growing up and helping in the TECH Work Center. She said, “the biggest lesson in all of that is that he was just giving people dignity. He’d say ‘We need to work. Everyone needs to work and contribute. Everyone has a part to play in this world.’ That’s a lesson that our whole family learned from him.” She also talked a lot about Maurice’s dedication to advocating for people with disabilities and how passionate he was about providing opportunities to the people served by TECH. She said, “he’d get really ‘righteous anger’ when people weren’t given the dignity they needed and they were shoved aside. He thought everyone needed to be heard, seen, known, and loved and wanted to give those opportunities to our family and to the community.”

She went on to recall the experience Maurice and the staff at TECH faced when proposing the very first group TECH Group home.¬† “He would attend city wide council meetings and were met with resistance by the neighbors and he finally won them over. The neighbors were scared the group home would devalue their property and within the first few months of the TECH house being completed, they came to realize that the TECH clients were the best neighbors.”

Carolyn and Melva shared numerous memories from the early days of TECH when Maurice was leading the organization. Carolyn said, “I’m just really grateful that people believed in my dad’s vision for this (TECH). He hired the right people at the right time for the right job. He was a visionary. He was a worker but he was a visionary more than a manager. He had a gift of encouragement.” She closed with saying, “Thank you for your support – than you to the staff. I know this is not always an easy job but you are here to make this a better place. People are flourishing beyond just survival and it’s beautiful to see.”

Melva said “he’s looking down at us right now.”

 

Advocating for People with Disabilities

Brenda Maxey was the President and CEO of TECH after Maurice retired in 1998 up until last summer. Maxey spoke to the crowd at the 50th Anniversary Celebration about the importance of TECH’s work in advocacy. “I remember riding with Maurice to Topeka for one of his many day trips to the Capitol, where we spent our time speaking with legislators about important issues that affected the people served by TECH and all people with disabilities. That work was so important as it paved the way for opportunities that may not have otherwise been available to individuals served by TECH,” says Maxey.

She recalled many stories from her days with the agency, including a fond memory of several TECH families and people served by TECH going to the Capitol in Topeka on “Push Day” to share stories about themselves or their loved one and how the decisions made by legislators have an impact on opportunities available to them. “One person in particular that joined us, Donald Wilson, shared his story with everyone we met. For those of you that don’t know Donald, his story is remarkable. Prior to joining TECH, Donald lived in institutions and growing up, he and his family had accepted that’s what his life was destined to be. After TECH opened in 1973, doors were opened for individuals such as Donald. He moved into a group home with TECH and flourished,” says Maxey. She continued saying, “One of the moments I will never forget was Donald giving testimony to a legislative committee about his life with TECH and what a positive impact it made on him.”

Maxey’s message was clear to guests – “It’s up to all of us in this room to continue advocating and being a voice for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our community so they have the same opportunities that you and I are afforded.”

 

Looking to the Future

Kevin Hess, the current President and CEO of TECH recalled how the agency has evolved over the years. Hess¬†acknowledged that the world was different 50 years ago for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “The opportunities beyond graduation from high school were limited and institutions were commonplace. At that time, independent living seemed like a far fetched concept to many.” While there have been changes to the services and programs offered by TECH throughout the years, the dedication of the staff and support of the community has remained steady. “TECH has been able to pave the way for individuals with disabilities to have choices, opportunities, and a voice for their future,” said Hess.

He closed with a message of gratitude towards the TECH staff that have helped bring the agency to where it is today as well as the support of our community for the work that we are doing. “All of this wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and passion of TECH team members over the past 50 years,” said Hess, acknowledging individuals in the room that were employees of the organization.

At the end of the evening, Hess invited Kelli Bringle to lead the group in singing “Happy Birthday” to TECH!

 

About TECH

Based in Hutchinson, Kansas, TECH provides services and programs to help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Reno County to live the fullest lives possible. Additionally, we provide service coordination to families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our founders believed individuals with disabilities deserve opportunities and support to achieve their potential. Since our founding, TECH has helped such individuals live the fullest lives possible. To learn more, visit www.TECHinc.org.